Book vs. Movie: Dune (1984)

Hello, my darling readers!
To kick off a month full of book vs. movie and TV show reviews we’re going to talk about Dune. Well, first we talk about the 1984 adaptation before we move on the new adaptation later this week!

The Plot (as found on Rotten Tomatoes):

In the year 10191, a spice called melange is the most valuable substance known in the universe, and its only source is the desert planet Arrakis. A royal decree awards Arrakis to Duke Leto Atreides and ousts his bitter enemies, the Harkonnens. However, when the Harkonnens violently seize back their fiefdom, it is up to Paul (Kyle MacLachlan), Leto’s son, to lead the Fremen, the natives of Arrakis, in a battle for control of the planet and its spice. Based on Frank Herbert’s epic novel.

Book vs. Movie:

I am a bit torn on the book. First of all, it took me a month to read. If I really like a book, I usually gobble it up within a few days at the most. The thing is, I wanted to like Dune but I just had a hard time getting into it. I already identified one problem that definitely contributed to that. See, I read this on my e-reader. However, the novel comes with a rather substantial appendix. An appendix that is necessary, considering how many new terms the author came up with. But going through the story on an e-reader meant that I didn’t flick back and forth as that’s just annoying, so the appendix was pretty much lost on me, which also means that I was a bit lost reading the book. That means, if you want to read Dune, get yourself an actual copy instead of a digital version, it’ll make the reading experience a lot more enjoyable.

The story is split in three parts with the first essentially being a very long prologue. Herbert spends a decent amount on the world-building and situating the reader in the story. Although it was necessary, I still wanted it to be shorter so we could get on with the story. Considering that technically I desperately needed all the explanation I could get since I didn’t check out the appendix, this is a bit of contradiction, but here we are.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Herbert’s story. I enjoyed his world and his characters but I just wanted him to get on with everything a bit faster. That’s true for the entire book and not just the first part.

The third part is situated after a quite substantial time jump which I found quite irritating. At first I wasn’t sure what had happened. You know, it could have just been a vision Paul was having, so it took me a chapter or two to figure out where we are timewise. I’m not quite sure whether I want the third part to be in the same book with parts 1 and 2. To have it as its own part it may be too short but somehow in my brain I felt a disconnect.

As for the 1984 adaptation, don’t watch it. Unless you want to laugh. I usually love everything David Lynch makes, but this was an absolute disaster. The set design, the costumes, the writing, the *acting choices*. I just can’t. Honestly, if I were to make a bad sci-fi parody movie, this is what it would look like.

It doesn’t help at all that the writing is rather clunky at times and the story very convoluted. There is so much going on, honestly, if I hadn’t read the book beforehand, I wouldn’t have been able to make heads or tails of it. There was just way too much story crammed into one movie with not enough time or depth to actually become invested in anything.

I mentioned before that the world created for this story is insanely expansive and has so much history going on. I knew it would be almost impossible to squeeze that into just one film, so I’m not surprised it didn’t work out here.

Kyle MacLachlan’s acting is little heart out in Dune, but overall many of the acting performances were also very lackluster. Like, wtf was the Emperor? That might have been one of the most unmotivated acting performances I have ever seen. Sorry. Some characters just came across as *so fucking annoying*, I’m not sure whether that was just due to the acting, the script, or both.

On top of that the special effects in 1984 were simply nowhere near being able to do what this story needed. I’m sure they tried their best but most of it looked a tad shitty. I’m sorry to say that because obviously many people worked very hard on this, and it’s not a flaw in their work but rather a lack of available methods and technology. I can imagine how visually stunning an adaptation of Dune could be but in 1984 it just was not possible.

Oh boy, if there ever was an adaptation you can skip, it is this one. There are many things wrong with it, but let’s just agree that 1984 wasn’t the time to make a sci-fi movie like this. While the book intrigued me, it was a little laborious to read and I’m not sure I’d want to read the other novels as well. I am, however, very intrigued to see how the new adaptation turned out, as I can picture Dune playing out on the big screen marvelously!

Did you prefer the book or the movie? Let me know in the comments!

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2 thoughts on “Book vs. Movie: Dune (1984)

  1. David Lynch’s version is not very good though I do admire its ambition and what it tried to do. It’s a shame that Lynch wasn’t given enough resources or do more with the adaptation. Plus, he didn’t have final cut as the production was supervised by Dino de Laurentiis who did at least give Lynch complete control on Blue Velvet. I would suggest watching Jodorowsky’s Dune as that is just an entertaining documentary on what Alejandro Jodorowsky tried to do as his ideas were too insane for Hollywood to deal with.


  2. Pingback: Wrapping it up for May! | The Punk Theory

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