By Adam Frank
So a good friend wanted to watch the movie version of Dune a couple of weeks ago. After sitting for two hours with my jawing hanging at my knees I remembered. Yes... I saw this once. I read this once. How could such a terrible thing have happened?
The book, written by Frank Herbert, is a science fiction classic. Actually, calling it a science fiction classic is like calling Beowulf a monster-fighting classic. The term just doesn't do justice. Dune is one of those rare stories were an author used the motifs of science fiction to ask broad questions about how human societies organize themselves through myth, religion and technology. My dad gave me the book when I was 16. I read it and its sequels (which got progressively worse) many times.
The movie by David Lynch is, as one critic called it, "an unintelligible gross out". With such a talented director and a host of good actors - including Max von Sydow - how could such a miserable failure come to pass. The initial art direction looked great - as if someone had recognized what Frank Herbert was shooting for in setting his story 10,000 years in the future. But then...ugh. The story devolves into a mess of voice-overs and plot devices that are impossible to follow. Even the special effects look like a bunch of high school kids worked them out in a garage. This was after Star Wars after all. No excuse for that kind of stupidity. My son pronounced the final verdict "Its like a bad powerpoint overview of the book."
The good thing is the terrible film did sent me back to the extraordinary original book. It is every bit as thoughtful and thought provoking as I remember it.
(I know there was a SciFi miniseries in 1990s which I missed. Is it worth it? I also see a remake is coming soon. Should we be excited?)