DUNE Blu-ray Review

     April 26, 2010

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There’s talk of a remake of Dune. That would be the third go at the material, after David Lynch’s fascinating 1984 version, and Syfy’s mini-series. Maybe this goes forward, maybe it doesn’t, but I find it hard to believe any version could top Lynch’s flawed opus. The premise of this space opera is this: Kyle MacLachlan stars as Paul Atreides, a young prince prophesized to change the galaxy. His family is involved in a political struggle with everyone trying to control “the spice” on the desert planet Arrakis. Just from that you can tell there are lots of worlds and ideas that make this one a bit of a head scratch, but once you get past all that, it’s a lush visual fantasy. My review of the Blu-ray of Dune after the jump.

stingdune.jpgOkay, so there’s Paul and his family, who are sent to run Arrakis by the Emperor Shaddam IV (Jose Ferrer). But the Emperor hasn’t sent them there to succeed, instead he plans to destroy the Atreides family by trapping and killing them on the planet. Opposing the Atreides is also the brutal house Harkonen, run by the Baron (Kenneth McMillian) and his drooling, evil nephews (Sting, Paul Smith). After being on the planet briefly, their defenses are sabotaged, and Paul’s father Duke Leto (Jurgen Prochnow) is captured aand killed, but Paul and his mother Jessica (Francesca Annis) escape, and come in with the Fremans, the indigenous people of Arrakis. Paul quickly becomes their leader, and – after a religious ceremony – gains supernatural powers, and then uses the Fremans to fight the Harkonens until he gets the attention of the universe.

I think I was twenty when the film finally made any sense to me. It helps to read the book, and then also putting into the context of what Hebert was doing, which is not particularly subtle. Arrakis = middle east. The Spice – which allows for intergalactic transport – is fuel. And Lynch does his best to include all that he can (including Duncan Idaho), yet still tell a mostly coherent narrative about the chosen one. People looking for the next Star Wars were incredibly disappointed. As a film, with all its pieces, it’s kind of failure, because it’s so impenetrable.

But what a failure! David Lynch never had this sort of scale again, and it’s the look of the film that hooked me. From the greens in House Harkonen, to the layout of the Emperor’s lair, there’s a visual scale and design here that is unparalleled even in the Star Wars universe. There’s also a murderer’s row of talent, including Brad Dourif, Linda Hunt, Freddie Jones, Richard Jordan (as Idaho), Virgina Madsen, Everett MacGill, Jack Nance, Dean Stockwell, Max Von Sydow and Alicia Witt. Oh, and Sean Young. Plus, it’s one of the rare films that the more you watch it the more you get it and get out of it. They’ll never make another one like this again, so if you love Lynch, time has only made the film stronger.

Universal’s Blu-ray presents the film in widescreen (2.35:1) and in DTS-HD 5.1. Always a gorgeous film, this is the best home video presentation of the film yet, and the transfer is breathtaking. It’s always been a great film to look at, but now the details are just that much more noticeable. The previous DVD release included the television/Alan Smithee cut of the film, and that has not been included here, nor the additional scenes used in that cut. Instead the supplements from that version have been replicated, so if you have a fondness for the longer version, it’s best to hold on to that release. Extras include deleted scenes (17 min.), and four featurettes: “Designing Dune” (9 min.), “Dune FX” (6 min.), “Dune Models and Miniatures” (7 min.) and “Dune Wardrobe Design” (5 min.) other than producer Raffaella De Laurentiis, the only people they could get to talk about this were people like the effects guys, so there’s no Lynch or actor participation. The film was a clusterfuck, but it grows in reputation – even as a cult item – as the years go by.

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