It seemed both the right thing to do, and yet somewhat rubbing salt into the wounds, but on returning home from watching the brilliant documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune, I felt compelled to stick on David Lynch’s incredibly flawed 1984 version of the film that finally did make it to the big screen. While nothing from Jodorowsky’s vision made it into Lynch’s version, he nevertheless gives the film a unique and unsettling look. However, in the interim since the failed production and this one, Alien, Flash Gordon and most importantly, George Lucas’ original Star Wars trilogy had now happened, and Dune was inevitably compared to those monstrously successful films. Where it was meant to be innovative and inspirational, the film now feels derivative and indebted to those earlier films.
It’s not all bad. There are some great costumes and sets on display, and Lynch’s realisation of the villainous Harkonnen – especially Kevin McMillan’s puss and boil covered Baron – will haunt you for a long time afterwards, but Lynch also fought a losing battle with his producers and final cut was taken away from him in the hopes of making a commercially viable space epic. The second half of the film suffers incredibly, devolving from an intergalactic power play into a misjudged battle on the surface of the desert planet, with Kyle MacLachlan’s Paul Atreides riding a giant sand worm as if it were a surf board or oversized rodeo bull. There is no doubt Dune is a failure, but one with plenty of nuggets of genius still on full display.