Everyone has that one friend who after any movie simply feels the overwhelming need to say “the book was better” even though no one wants to hear it or cares.
Well I’m that friend so lets talk about movies and how they stack up to their source material.
Basically: Dune is a book by Frank Herbert from 1965 that takes place ~4000 years in the future. It follows the journey of Paul Atreides as his great house takes over governance of the planet Arrakis (aka: Dune) which is the only source of a spice which lets you see the future as well as some other stuff.
It’s a really dense novel, not at all suited for adaptation and not at all friendly to non-scifi readers. But they did it anyway! And the movie was cursed from the beginning. In 1971 the movie rights were bought by Arthur P. Phillips, but he died before production could begin. Then Jean-Pual Gibon got a hold of it in 1974 and I would love to visit this alternative universe because he got music from Pink Floyd and Magma, McJagger was gonna star along with Orson Wells and SALVADOR DALI. With set design from H.R Gieger. So why didn’t this movie happen? Well it kinda turned into a 10+ hour movie epic so they ran out of funding.
Then what happened? Well then an Italian producer named Dino De Laurentiis got the rights and he was working with Ridley Scott (yeah H.R Gieger and Ridley Scott both worked on this movie, it’s a thing) and Frank Herbert himself, but then Scott was way too busy making Blade Runner so that one fell through too
SO THEN WHAT HAPPENED? David Lynch got his hands on it (the dude who made Eraser Head then later, Twin Peaks) and somehow he managed to get a movie together. The original draft was over 4 hours long. Lynch got that down to just over 3, but remember this was the 80s so at this point in time people expected movies to be 2 hours. So it got cut to 2 hours 10 minutes for the theater cut.
The movie stars Kyle MacLachlan in his first movie appearance, Patrick Stewart, and STING. Yes Sting, the singer from The Police. There’s a scene where he’s only wearing a speedo. It’s not a big deal.
So how does it stack up?
uhhhh. Not good y’all. I don’t know how you could get this far in and think this movie was destined for greatness? I mentioned this right at the top, the book is not at all sutied for adaptation. It’s a masterpeice of science fiction, it’s incredibly in-depth, packed with nuance and politics steeped in layers and layers of fiction. It’s not something which could ever be adapted except in a huge HBO 8 season high budget TV show.
I watched this movie with my girlfriend. We had both just finished reading the book. Even equipped with the fresh knowledge of what this movie is based on, we had absolutely no idea what was happening. This movie is a spectacle if nothing else. A monument to nonsense. There’s a giant space baby in the first act which seems like an important plot point but it’s not. One of my favourite parts of this movie is the opening monologue where the princess is giving us all the exposition star wars style. She talks and talks and talks, then fades away… then comes back like “and another thing!” and keeps talking. It cracks me up.
Book: 100% read it if you like science fiction, this is a masterpiece of literature.
movie: 100% watch it if you like being very confused, but otherwise I do not recommend. It’s not even funny bad, it’s just bad. But if you do watch it, watch for the first ever use of mocap CGI! And look for H.R Geiger’s influence on the set design! And look at the manually edited eye colour change in act 2! Watch for the sandworm made from condoms! And the outfit which Patrick Steward calls the most comfortable thing he’s ever worn! I know I’m not selling the whole “Don’t watch it” thing here, let me try again: Don’t watch this movie, but if you do, read the trivia section on IMDB while you do.