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Customer Review

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A mixed bag, 24 July 2006
This review is from: Dune [DVD] (DVD)
Dune is one of those films which seems to really divide opinion, and having watched it last night I can see why. I first saw it twenty or so years ago and remember really enjoying it, but I only read the book recently and so was curious to see it again in order to compare.

Most tellingly, Dune is a product of its time. To its detriment, the film has the feel of an 80's production and occasional lapses (such as overblown 80's guitar rock during dramatic sequences, or characters striking poses and camera shots which would look in place on prog-rock album covers) are jarring to the modern viewer, and weaken any suspension of disbelief.

Unusually, the changes to the book both strengthen and weaken the story. The plot line is necessarily weakened as a 2-hour run time means that much of Frank Herberts plotting has to be jettisoned, changed or simplified simply for reasons of time and despite (or because of) this the storyline is jumbled and at times difficult to follow.

Where the film improves on the book is in design. Wherever the film differs in design from the authors original description, it is triumphant with an incredibly strong and even alien aesthetic, from the brutal fetishism of the Harkonnen to the completely inhuman Guild. Only the Star Wars universe and the Lord of the Rings films have a comparable consistency of theme in terms of design and things looking like they're part of a culture.

There are other observations to make. It is unthinkable that a modern remake of Dune would not use people of middle-eastern descent as the Fremen rather than the crowd of Hollywood extras we see here and, as much of the tone of the book is arabic, the lack of arabian-informed design also detracts from the film.

In terms of acting, there are few weak links. Standout performances from the disease-ridden, flying Baron Harkonnen (much better visualised than in the book) and his clan are the centre of the film, with trusty acting pillars like Max von Sydow, Jurgen Prochnow and Patrick Stewart rounding out the cast. Kyle McLachlan is a weakness simply because he does not project the conviction of messiah-hood which the character of Muad'Dib needs - but what 21-year old could? The excellent cast does as much as it can to lift the scripting, but that is ultimately where the weaknesses of the film lie. Sadly, I'm not sure it is possible to have made a better film of the book than this - but there is so much complexity in the book which is lost in adaptation than no effort to cram it into 2 hours could ever have been better than a strong, flawed try.
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