Frank Herbert is considered by some to be one of the greatest Science Fiction writers of all time. His most famous piece of work has to be the critically acclaimed, ‘Dune’. The book has been adapted multiple times into film and TV series, each improving upon the last, although the subjective quality of the adaptations are debatable. The original adaptation of the book though, was the 1984 movie ‘Dune’, now available on Netflix, considered to be the best adaptation of the ‘Dune’ Novel.
Similarly considered a classic science fiction movie, ‘Dune’ is a story that revolves around a galactic empire, consisting of multiple families with their own hierarchy and contribution to the economy of the Universe. The story of ‘Dune’ centers around a planet which holds the source that drives the entire economy for this universe, a planet that produces a certain spice which fuels all life and function for certain elements of the universe. Factions control all guidance for the ruling houses, which live on different planets, with different political agendas of their own.
Admittedly, the story is immensely complicated. So much so that the opening scene of the movie involves an almost 10 minute narration introducing the audience to all these characters, and setting up the dealings of this world. The narration continues through the film at certain points, and even goes a step further to provide brief inner monologue dialogues for almost every character at one point or another. All of the exposition pays off through out the movie as the story is just as complex and requires the explanations in the beginning of the film. ‘Dune’ is now, one of the most classic films ever, that actually features some of the most memorable faces in Hollywood, albeit at a lot younger stage in their careers.
Before They Were Famous
The main protagonist of ‘Dune’ is the son of one of the families, Paul, played by Kyle MacLachlin, more famously known for this work on ‘Twin Peaks’. Coincidentally, the director of ‘Dune’ is also the writer / director of ‘Twin Peaks’, which also happens to be experiencing a revival next year, also on Netflix. MacLachlin, more recently seen on the Marvel show ‘Agents Of SHIELD’, plays the prophesized messiah of the universe, one who will bring about change in the established status quo.
Known forever as either Captain Jean Luc Picard from ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’, or Professor Xavier from the ‘X-Men’ franchise, Patrick Stewart plays the trainer to Paul. Stewart’s presence in ‘Dune’ lends to some very nostalgic moments of seeing the actor before he became a household name. Singer Sting also nabbed a role in ‘Dune’ as a nephew (Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen) of one of the families, and mostly the physical antagonist that Paul has to overcome in the end of the movie. With very brief dialogue, the singer gives an intimidating, albeit small performance.
Why Dune Works
Before shared Cinematic Universes existed within the film industry, audiences had to rely on rich stories with well thought out settings and backdrops that had enough to, not only tell the story of the film, but grab audience’s imagination in everything before and after the story that was told on-screen. ‘Dune’s success is directly tied into the filmmakers’ ability to do just that. Before director Peter Jackson successfully adapted the universe of Tolkien’s ‘Lord Of The Rings’ on screen, David Lynch managed the same feat by adapting Frank Herbert’s ‘Dune’.
The entire Universe of ‘Dune’ is so eloquently articulated in the movie, through narration, and the characters’ own exposition, that the backdrop felt developed enough that the story went beyond what the audience experienced within the film’s runtime. The world-building done in the film, properly relays to audiences the severity of the stakes set up within the conflict. The need for change in the status quo is adequately explained. Therefore the need for Paul to be the messiah is that much more dramatic.
The strong character driven performances of ‘Dune’ also make it an impactful film. As mentioned earlier, the actors involved were, or ended up being very strong influencers within Hollywood, and their takes on the literary characters helped the film success in its iconic status. While it would’ve been very easy for this world and the actors’ depictions of these characters to look cheesy or over the top, everyone reigns in their performances to provide seriously dramatic roles, especially in a story that speaks of spice harvesting and giant worms. Conclusion Even though ‘Dune’ has been remade, and spawned a sequel as well, the success of the original film is undisputed in its ability to stay the truest to Frank Herbert’s novel. Adaptations and liberties have been taken with the source material for the film; however, when compared to the reboot in 2000 on the Sci Fi channel, David Lynch’s version of ‘Dune’ can be seen as the one that keeps more of the spirit and essence of the book alive.