Picks and Pans Review: Dune
This ambitious, $42 million film version of Frank Herbert's perennial sci-fi best-seller (first published in 1965) must be something of a shock to previewers who labeled it a holiday disaster. For a long (137 minutes), occasionally dull and often incomprehensible movie, Dune is shaping up as a box-office leader. The success is deserved. Despite its flaws (shared with the book), Dune is the most visually stunning movie fantasy in a long time. Writer-director David (The Elephant Man) Lynch has realized Herbert's vision of life on four planets, circa 10191, with a palpable accuracy. The heroes are stalwart, the villains hissable, the monsters creepy, the atmosphere decadent and decayed. Don't expect a Star Wars joyride here. Dune is a determinedly dark vision, hardly appropriate for the kiddie matinee crowd. What Lynch does not achieve, sadly, is cohesiveness. The story, weighed down by symbolic references to the Bible, Jung, the Holocaust and the kitchen sink, requires a scorecard for strangers to the book. But Lynch has been fortunate with his actors. Newcomer Kyle MacLachlan does wonders with the impossibly difficult role of Paul Atreides, the young messiah who must wrest the planet Dune from the evil Harkonnen family and stop the production of a hallucinogenic spice that allows its users to glimpse the future. While MacLachlan wrestles with the mystical mumbo jumbo, the villains have fun. Kenneth (Ragtime) McMillan, his face festooned with boils, has a field day as the sadistic Baron Harkonnen. And rock star Sting (of the Police), as the Baron's bad-boy nephew, has a scene-stealing sexual arrogance that is mesmerizing. The film is rich in cameos, from Linda Hunt's housekeeper to Jose Ferrer's Emperor of the Universe. These performances and Lynch's superb camera eye make Dune an outrageous and original entertainment. (PG-13)
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