Dune (1984)

Rating: ***
Producer: Dino De Laurentiis
Director: David Lynch
Music: Toto
Cast: Kyle MacLachlan, Patrick Stewart, Sting, Sean Young, Jurgen Prochnow, Max Von Sydow, Freddie Jones, Jose Ferrer, Virginia Madsen, Linda Hunt

Two houses are pitted against each other in a political power struggle to control the exploitation of natural resources on planet Arrakis. The emperor's nefarious scheme to destroy both House Atreides and House Harkonnen backfires due to the young Paul Atreides (Kyle MacLachlan), who is a forbidden male child that isn't supposed to exist. The people of Arrakis foretell of his coming as the messiah who will overthrow the emperor, free Arrakis, and challenge the matriarchy. With the help of his mother's teachings, Paul survives numerous attempts on his life and lives among the Fremen of Arrakis, first as a refugee and then as their military and spiritual leader. Knowing that whoever controls the spice controls the universe, he harnesses the power of the indigenous sandworms and leads the Fremen into battle against both the emperor and House Harkonnen, toppling the galactic power structure in the process.

It's an admirable attempt to adapt Frank Herbert's novel to the big screen, but like the book, it's long, boring, tedious, convoluted, and overly confusing. While the sets and costumes are colorful and elaborate, the visual effects are weak and unconvincing, which detracts from the story. It looks too much like "Flash Gordon" (also produced by Dino De Laurentiis), which lends the film an inappropriate sense of campiness. The pacing is sluggish and the story is primarily dialog driven, both by what is actually said and the internal monologues of the characters. It's a well-made and mostly good looking film with a strong and capable cast, but its Shakespearean palace intrigue and strong religious themes fail to be entertaining. One highlight worth noting is the music score by Toto, which seems like an insane choice for a science fiction film, and yet it fits remarkably well. While the already poor visual effects haven't aged well, the rest of the production is still solid, which offers a refreshing alternative to a genre that is dominated by CGI and virtual sets.