Dune (1984)

I’m watching the David Lynch version of Dune for the first time. It’s a painful experience; I’m a big fan of Frank Herbert’s Dune Chronicles, and this film does not nearly depict the universe I imagine. The movie doesn’t have nearly the subtlety that the book does, but that’s not really possible so we’ll ignore that point for now. What bothers me most is that the characters are all wrong: Casting, acting, costuming and makeup, the works.

If you don’t want to hear me complain, stop now.

Why is everyone in drab colors? This may be the future, but it’s a faux-medieval future and this is a story about royalty. There’s no reason for everyone to be wearing navy uniforms and slate jumpsuits.

The Atreides all look foppish and weak. Leto should be unusually tall, with a sharp, aquiline nose, high cheekbones, and broad shoulders – a king, military leader and warrior himself whose top advisors are warriors. I always pictured him something like a younger Grand Moff Tarkin. Patrick Stewart would make a better Leto, but instead he’s stuck playing Gurney Halleck, “troubadour warrior,” as an angry military stiff. Duncan Idaho, swordsmaster, didn’t stand out much either. He may be loyal to the Atreides, but the man has a history as a mercenary; he should probably look uncomfortable in uniform.

The Harkonnens aren’t too far off – they are men of outrageous and disturbing appetites. However, they are also supposed to be responsible for some pretty brilliant plotting and scheming. I don’t see how these fools, that bluster and strut like villains from any number of children’s movies could plan anything. Why does Pietr De Vries look like the mad hatter? He may be a drug addict, but really, those eyebrows.

The Bene Gesserit all look and act insane. They’re bald, subservient, telepathic women. They’re supposed to be incredibly powerful and confident, capable of using seducing anyone, deadly in unarmed combat, always aware of the big picture and living to very old age because they have control over their internal chemistry. They come in two flavors; the majority as a cross between Lara Croft and Maleficent, and the occasional old crone like an angry Valerie (how I pictured Gaius Helen Mohiam). At least they dressed in black.

Why are all the Fremen white? They live on a desert planet. They should look middle-eastern or south Asian, or at least native American. They ought to act extremely confident – arrogant, even. They own this planet, and would not be so easily impressed by a royal brat who wouldn’t last a day in the open desert. These men are supposed to be more fearsome than the emperor’s private army, but when Paul is teaching them they look like a bunch of armchair quarterbacks.

At least they got the worms right.


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