Spoiler alert! The following contains light spoilers for the new “Dune” so beware if you want to go in cold.
At the risk of angering the sisterhood of the Bene Gesserit and at least two or three giant sandworms, the original 1984 “Dune” film is a more entertaining watch than the new “Dune.”
Hear me out: I’m not on a nutty spice trip like Kyle MacLachlan in that first film three decades ago. Director Denis Villeneuve’s latest adaptation of the Frank Herbert sci-fi classic arrives asone of the most anticipated movies of 2021 with awesome visuals. David Lynch, who directed the ’84 version, has called his film “a total failure.” Which is a little harsh.
Both films center on Paul Atreides (McLachlan in ’84, Timothée Chalamet in ’21), a young man from the noble House Atreides who relocates with his family to the desert planet Arrakis, where spice – a natural resource that can give humans extraordinary abilities and also makes interstellar travel possible – is mined. There’s a huge conflict between the heroes and the villainous House Harkonnen, as Paul finds himself allied with the Fremen, the indigenous people of Arrakis.
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Villeneuve’s “Dune” is a hugely ambitious work that touches on religion, gender dynamics and colonialism; Lynch’s “Dune” is crazypants and kind of a campy hoot. But here’s what makes the OG flick a spicier bit of fun:
The 1984 ‘Dune’ is actually a complete movie
The new “Dune” only adapts roughly the first half of the book, and ends with Paul meeting the Fremen woman Chani (Zendaya) he’s been dreaming about before arriving inArrakis. (We’re all waiting to see if a sequel actually comes to fruition.) No one would accuse the old “Dune” of being super-faithful to the source material, as it excises a lot of bigger themes in favor of the action-packed stuff and major moments, but with less of a run time (old one: two hours, 17 minutes; new one: two hours, 35 minutes), Lynch’s film does have a definite beginning, middle and end.
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The OG film knows you need an explainer
Herbert’s novel is dense in terms of world building – and it was a huge influence on George Lucas’ original “Star Wars.” Villeneuve’s film creates a visually arresting landscape, though tends to gradually explain the who’s who and the goings-on. Lynch took a more direct approach: Virginia Madsen (who plays the daughter of the emperor of the Known Universe) shows up early to explain everything the audience needs to know, from the cosmic setting and various factions to why spice is a thing. (Also, the ’80s “Dune” had an actual emperor – played with conniving bluster by Jose Ferrer – whereas he’s just talked about in the new film.)
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