Frank Herbert's Dune (2000)

"Terrible"

Frank Herbert's Dune (2000) Review


It seems that David Lynch's adaptation of Frank Herbert's epic science fiction novel Dune (1984) wasn't enough to convince people that this classic works far better on the page. At least that box office fiasco packs in some interesting Lynchian perversions. Besides, how can you go wrong with a cast that includes Patrick Stewart, Max von Sydow, and Alicia Witt as a bald, pint-sized, knife-wielding child? Let me tell you something, buddy -- you can't top that! Maybe it ain't Herbert's vision of Dune, but it's fun at parties.

So someone in the Sci-Fi Channel marketing department thought that they'd be able to create the definitive version of the novel, making much ballyhoo over it in the press. "This is the way Frank Herbert intended it!" Yes, yes, I'm sure he was precisely thinking of static, made-for-television sets lifted from Star Trek: The Next Generation, bathed in nauseating greens, oranges, and fire engine reds.

Instead of Lynchian puppets and latex gore, we're treated to phony bluescreens, computer generated B-movie effects, and a series of unrealistic matte paintings (at least, they looked like matte paintings -- the press kit says they filmed in Prague and Tunisia!) And what's up with those gauche costumes, a cross between Japanese kimonos and Ronald McDonald. Something is clearly wrong here.

An attempt to summarize Herbert's richly layered plot would prove confounding, what with his fastidious attention to detail. We'll stick with the Cliff's Notes version: Spice is the key to time travel, so ruthless barons and emperors across the galaxy negotiate to get their greedy stinking hands on as much of it as possible. He who controls the spice controls the universe.

With his eye on the prize, stalwart Duke Leto Atreities (William Hurt, given top billing but whacked pretty quick) picks up stakes from his homeland and moves to the desert planet known as Dune. Comfortably settled into his new digs, he proceeds to mine for the spice and teach his brash young son Paul (Alec Newman) about the birds and the bees. Bizarre omens forebode that Duke Leto will be slain, and that young Paul will be groomed as the prophesied Messiah to lead the Fremen (rogue desert warriors) to salvation and freedom?

Slobbering Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Ian McNeice), sleek Emperor Shaddam IV (Giancarlo Giannini, Hannibal) and other diabolical forces work intricate plots against the good guys. A traitor, an assassination attempt, and an ambush all figure into play before Paul and his pouting cosmopolitan mother (Saskia Reeves) are cast out into the wild. Will Paul be groomed by the Fremen tribes to fight in a ritualized kung-fu fight with Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen (Matt Keeslar, The Last Days of Disco)? He damned well better, lads, because this is a six-hour epic!

All of the shoddy production elements would be forgiven if there was a halfway decent cast holding this house of cards together. Hurt wanders through early scenes mumbling his lines, coasting on what I hope was a fat paycheck. He at least exudes regal presence, whereas Newman's Paul Atreities (played with authority by Kyle MacLachlan in Lynch's version) is less a boy prince than a refugee from a boy band.

The women are a gaggle of weak-willed geese, with Julie Cox especially bratty as the emperor's daughter. Her "flirting" scenes with Paul will not only disgust fans of Herbert's book (for which their relationship is purely a matter of social convenience and political tact), but will also turn off anyone who happened to be taking this malarkey seriously. When did the sci-fi space opera turn into Teen Beat?

I hate to keep returning to the Lynch version, but it was really so much better. Even if you didn't catch all the new language or rituals originated by Frank Herbert (for he is the Kwizatz Haderach!), you accepted it as dream logic. Better to be entertained and confused than casually dismissive, which is as much as this new Dune deserves.

But wait, there's more! If you really want to know how they did all those cheesy effects, the two-disc DVD release has a 25 minute documentary about the film tacked on as an extra. Apparently all those explosions are done with propane. Heavy.



Facts and Figures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 1 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: David R. Kappes

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Hidden Figures Movie Review

Hidden Figures Movie Review

This film recounts such a great true story that we don't mind the fact that...

The Founder Movie Review

The Founder Movie Review

This is the story of Ray Kroc, the man who created the concept of McDonald's....

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

Keanu Reeves picks up his supremely efficient hitman immediately where the 2015 original left him:...

Fences Movie Review

Fences Movie Review

After winning Tony Awards on Broadway, Denzel Washington and Viola Davis reteam for a film...

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

A spin-off from 2014's awesome The Lego Movie, this raucously paced action-comedy is proof that...

The Space Between Us Movie Review

The Space Between Us Movie Review

While the premise of this movie makes it look like a sci-fi adventure, the truth...

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

On paper, the idea of a two-hour 40-minute German comedy may not seem very promising,...

Advertisement
Gold Movie Review

Gold Movie Review

Based on a true story, this lively and sometimes outrageous adventure is packed with twists...

Loving Movie Review

Loving Movie Review

While this film tackles a huge issue in the history of race relations in America,...

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

It's been 20 years since we last saw four freewheeling young junkies from Edinburgh spiral...

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Based on an astounding true story, this battlefield drama mixes warm emotion with intense action...

Sing Movie Review

Sing Movie Review

The quality of the animation in this musical comedy may not be up to Pixar...

Jackie Movie Review

Jackie Movie Review

Rather than make a standard biopic about the most famous First Lady in American history,...

Split Movie Review

Split Movie Review

After a few badly received sci-fi blockbusters, M. Night Shyamalan returned to his earthier style...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.