DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Dune, Blu-ray (1984/2010)

David Lynch is famous for his very bizarre movies and TV series, but Dune is probably his most bizarre.

Published on May 11, 2010

Dune, Blu-ray (1984/2010)

Dune, Blu-ray (1984/2010)

Director: David Lynch

Starring: Kyle MacLachlan, José Ferrer, Dean Stockwell, Brad Dourif, Sting, Kenneth McMillan, Patrick Stewart, Linda Hunt
Studio: Universal Studios [4/27/10]
Music: Brian Eno, Toto
Video: 2.35:1 anamorphic/enhanced for 16:9 1080p HD
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1, French DTS-HD 2.0
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Extras: Deleted scenes (14 min.), Designing Dune, Dune FX, Dune models and miniatures, Dune wardrobe design, BD Live features, D-Box motion enabled
Length: 2 hours, 17 minutes
Rating: ****½

David Lynch is famous for his very bizarre movies and TV series, but Dune is probably his most bizarre. Viewers will most likely either love it or hate it; personally it’s one of my favorite sci-fi epics, though I’m the first to admit it’s seriously flawed in many areas. It certainly doesn’t rate high in the skilled story-telling area, with a detailed exposition explaining things at the start and voice-overs here and there (though they do help in understandng the convoluted story line). It’s quite amazing that Lynch was able to adapt the classic Dune series of books by Frank Herbert into a single movie. Although Lynch claimed (elsewhere; he’s absent from the extras and there is no commentary track) that he didn’t want to make a sci-fi film at all, what he produced is probably the most sweeping sci-fi epic of them all.

In the extras the producer daughter of Dino De Laurentiis talks about the rumored four-hour version of Dune and it turns out to be only a rumor. There was a longer two hour, 57 minute version put together for TV which Lynch disowned. It was included on the two-disc DVD release of 2006 but is not on this Blu-ray. However, the deleted scenes here flesh out some of the convoluted story details about the culture of the Fremen, the Bene Gesserit sisterhood and the prophecy behind the transformation of the hero/Messiah.

One reviewer compared the story line to a melange of Henry IV and the movie Tremors. There is plenty of political intrigue and religious prophecies in a universe way way in the future – but with a bizarre mix of ancient costumes and gadgets with futuristic devices. It reminds me of Terry Gilliam’s odd mix of old and new technology in his Brazil. The royal family of the planet Calaban, the Atreides, is invited by the emperor to move to and rule the desert planet Arrakis, also known as Dune. They’re the good guys, except for a traitor in their midst. On the planet Guidi Prime are the Harkonens – they’re the bad guys, and boy, are they bad!  They brutally attack the Atreides at the direction of the Emperor to take back control of the mining on Dune of the most valuable mineral in the universe – spice – which has something to do with the giant worms which abound in the desert. (Is the spice – also known as melange – actually worm poop?  Don’t ask me; I didn’t read the books after I saw the long list of terminology you had to learn first.) Eating spice has made the “navigators” into fantastic creatures who are able to “fold” space so that ships can travel from planet to planet without moving. (I said in an earlier review you didn’t get to see the navigators actually folding space, but there is a rather crude scene attempting to show that.)

The emperor and the navigators want the Atreides leader’s son Paul dead because they have learned thru the sisterhood of witches (of which Paul’s mother is one) that he will eventually lead a rebellion on Arrakis against the Empire as the “Chosen One.”  This is exactly what Paul Usul Muad’Dib does. The final battle involves the use of sound as a weapon, plus Paul’s drinking of The Water of Life (worm bile) which gives him a connection with the giant worms so that they join in the fight against the bad guys. (The idea of the wildlife joining in to aid the good guys was also used in Avatar.)

Some of the scenes, especially involving the Harkonens, are truly grotesque, but if you know David Lynch, that’s to be expected. Some of the special effects look a bit dated now, but Lynch’s creation of the Dune world – down to the last detail of minute designs and objects – is quite amazing and unique. There was a Sci-Fi Channel production of both Dune and Children of Dune starring William Hurt – reviewed here – and it made many of the story elements clearer, but Lynch’s images are far and away more striking and memorable.

I’ve enjoyed Dune first in the theater, then on laserdisc, and later on DVD, but it is with Blu-ray that one finally can appreciate the often dazzling images in the home, complete with the involvement of lossless 5.1 surround sound. I’m sure the D-Box programming is very active what with all those gigantic worms burrowing around, as well as the explosions and firefights. The sound of the "thumpers" gave my little subwoofer quite a workout as it is. It’s unfortunate the extra space on the Blu-ray wasn’t used to offer the extended TV version or commentary by Lynch, but this is still a great sci-fi experience. If 2001, Blade Runner and 12 Monkeys are among your sci-fi favorites and you haven’t seen Dune, you’re missing out. The rest of you best go away.

– John Sunier

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