Frank Herbert’s 1965 sci-fi novel Dune will get a new movie adaptation—this one helmed by Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Blade Runner 2049)—later this month. But earlier than Ars Technica critiques the movie, there’s the matter of its predecessor: 1984’s Dune, made by a then up-and-coming filmmaker named David Lynch.
Detractors name Lynch’s saga—a story of two noble house households 8,000 years in the future, combating over the most precious useful resource in the universe amidst sandworms the measurement of plane carriers—incomprehensible, stilted, and ridiculous. It misplaced piles of cash. Yet followers, particularly in recent times, have reclaimed Lynch’s movie as a powerful folly, a piece of holy, wonderful insanity.
So which group am I in? Both. Am I about to explain Dune as “so bad it’s good”? No, that is a loser take for cowards.
I as soon as half-heard a radio interview with somebody speculating that the then-current inventive second was not “so bad it’s good,” and it wasn’t “ironic” both—it was really “awesome.” (I did not catch who he was, so if any of this sounds acquainted, hit me up in the feedback.) Art can communicate to you whereas at the identical time being absurd. The relatable can generally be reached solely by going by way of the ridiculous. The two could be inseparable, like the gravitational pull between a fuel large and its moon—or Riggs and Murtaugh.
The instance the radio interviewee gave was of Evel Knievel, the ’70s daredevil who wore a cape and jumped filth bikes over rows of buses. Absurd? Heavens, sure. A feat of motorcycling and physicality? Absolutely. But past that, we will relate to Knievel’s want to realize transcendence at such a, let’s assume, area of interest ability. We may additionally marvel at our personal potential to be impressed by one thing which needs to be objectively ineffective however is as a substitute really superior.
I like Dune as a result of it feels simply as alien as one thing set 80 centuries in the future ought to. (To put that span of time in context, keep in mind that 8,000 years in the previous would nonetheless be 3,500 years earlier than the Great Pyramids have been constructed.) To create this sense, Lynch blurs the novel’s plot and characters right into a Spaceballs “ludicrous speed” lightshow.
Dune is the dream you could have after studying a ebook about the distant future whereas listening to a 90-minute prog-rock album. Also, you might have finished a pile of blow earlier than falling asleep, as a result of Sting is strutting round in Batman’s speedo.
Characters drift out and in, and their identities and relationships are unclear. A bear-sized scrotal mutant can transfer spaceships with drug-induced mind-magic. Soldiers convey drums to a knife struggle. Plot threads are left untied. Brad Dourif has breathtaking eyebrows. Cast members ship their interior ideas through whispered, close-to-the-mic voiceovers worthy of an ASMR YouTube channel. The pacing is leisurely, virtually hypnotic. You’re right here for the wild sights, the rococo spaceships, the high-collared uniforms, and conversations so formal they border on liturgical. Just sit again and allow them to wash over you.
In different phrases, this not precisely how Universal Studios meant to spend $40 million in Eighties cash.