David Lynch’s Dune is bafflingly incomprehensible on a number of levels. First and foremost, (and I should say that I haven’t actually read Herbert’s Dune), it’s instantly apparent that, if Dune is even adaptable, it’s not as a movie. This is a staggeringly dense sci-fi experience that, at nearly two and a half hours, still feels as if it’s barely scratching the surface of the story that is meant to be conveyed. Even in its best moments, I felt like Dune was merely summarizing broad story points of a much larger, more detailed story that couldn’t quite be condensed.
It’s also baffling to me that anyone would think that David Lynch, of all people, was the right person to direct this. Of course, I have an extra 30+ years of filmography to base this opinion off of, as compared to a David Lynch coming off of just two films, but David Lynch is a noted surrealist who is best known for the dreamlike quality of his films and television shows. To think that he, of all people, would be the right person to adapt a sci-fi epic feels startlingly off-base on a number of levels – it’s simply hard to imagine a David Lynch project that would be able to attract the wide blockbuster audiences that an expensive sci-fi epic like Dune might demand.
Executionally, some of the special effects in this film really just look bad by any standard, even for the era. Although the costume designs and visual work for the setting and world are pretty fantastic and imaginative, it’s hard to get past the roadblock created by the rudimentary effects work.
It’s fascinating to consider that this is not only the original Kyle Maclachlan / David Lynch collaboration but Maclachlan’s first film role, period. Certainly, Maclachlan has proven to be something of a muse for Lynch’s unique style, but he’s also proven to be a surprisingly versatile actor, something of an American treasure. It’s hard to imagine a complete unknown fronting a major blockbuster release in this way in the modern era – even Daisy Ridley, prior to her role on Star Wars: The Force Awakens, had a number of television appearances.
Denis Villeneuve has been attached to a new adaptation of Dune for a while, and it’s currently unclear if that’s actually going to be his next project (he’s also attached to a couple other things). Though I do think that Dune seems like a project due to be tackled again, given its cult following, and the opportunity to do it with modern visual effects capabilities, I do wonder if perhaps this might be a property best suited for the Game of Thrones treatment on HBO or Netflix.