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David Lynch’s third feature film is his 1984 adaptation of Frank Herbert’s science fiction classic Dune. Herbert’s Dune is widely hailed as a masterpiece, while Lynch’s Dune has a much more mixed reputation, tending toward the negative. When I first saw Lynch’s Dune, I was deeply disappointed. Herbert’s novel had left a powerful and vivid impression on me, and Lynch’s vision was not my vision. It took a good ten years for Herbert’s novel to relinquish its grip on my imagination, allowing me to appreciate Lynch’s Dune, which I now regard as a worthy adaptation of the novel and a truly great but not unflawed film.

Lynch’s Dune was a critical and commercial flop. Lynch’s lack of creative control over the project left a deep bitterness, which is why there will probably never be a director’s cut, even though Universal has offered Lynch the opportunity. But Dune was still very good for Lynch’s career. It was his first big-budget film, and his director’s fee allowed him to hire his own staff which played an important role in supporting all of his subsequent creative efforts. Moreover, Lynch’s deal with Dino De Laurentiis was to do two movies: Dune, under De Laurentiis’ control, and a second one, under Lynch’s creative control, which became Blue Velvet, the quintessential David Lynch film. Even the failure of Dune was probably good for Lynch in the end, for had it become a big-budget sci-fi blockbuster, Lynch might have been sucked into creating more conventional Hollywood fare at the expense of his own unique vision. Indeed, before the failure of Dune, Lynch was scheduled to direct two sequels, Dune Messiah and Children of Dune.

As a rule, science fiction is progressivist whereas fantasy literature is reactionary. Frank Herbert’s Dune saga—which eventually sprawled into six volumes—is the notable exception to this rule, for Dune is one of the most reactionary works of the human imagination. Herbert believed that feudalism, not liberal democracy, was the social system best adapted to mankind’s ascent to the stars. Feudalism was a decentralized system adapted to a society in which population centers were widely separated and in which transportation was costly and slow. Such conditions no longer exist on earth, but they certainly would pertain between inhabited planets scattered throughout the galaxy. The exploration and settling of the universe is a project requiring immensely long time horizons, which are characteristic of medieval institutions—dynasties, holy orders, guilds—but absent in liberal democracies, in which few people plan past the next election cycle.

Herbert also imagined other ways in which advanced technology would lead to the recurrence of archaic values and ways of life. For instance, in the distant back story of Dune, mankind had been enslaved by its own creations, artificial intelligence and robots. But the machines were overthrown in a massive religiously-inspired revolt known as the Butlerian Jihad, which created a syncretic religion combining elements of Christianity and Islam, as well as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism.

Artificial intelligence was banned, forcing mankind to develop its own mental and spiritual powers. For example, “mentats” used highly developed mnemonic and calculative techniques to become “human computers.” Genetic engineering was also banned, forcing mankind to adopt selective breeding projects—spanning millennia—to improve the human race.

Herbert mentions three hierarchical, initiatic orders: the Bene Gesserit sisterhood, which practiced eugenics; the Spacing Guild, which developed prescient navigators for space travel; and the Bene Tleilax, which trained mentats, created clones, and developed the arts of mimicry to an unimaginable heights or depths. (“Bene Gesserit” is a Latin motto that can be interpreted as “well born”—i.e., “eugenic.” It might also be meant to bring the Jesuit order to mind.)

In addition to psychic powers, mnemonic tricks, and eugenics, the Bene Gesserit and Bene Tleilax also used the techniques of “prana-bindu yoga” to develop superpowers or siddhis. For instance, in Dune, the Bene Gesserit practiced the “weirding way” of battle, a form of martial arts. They perfected “the voice,” the power to make their commands irresistible. They also developed minute conscious control of the body’s involuntary and voluntary muscle systems alike. They even had the power to reflectively analyze and control the body’s chemical processes. To normal people, of course, it all seemed like magic, hence the Bene Gesserit were widely disdained as “witches.”

Not only did Herbert envision technology—and its rejection—bringing back sorcery, he imagined how it might bring back swordplay as well. Atomic weapons had been banned, with planetary destruction as the penalty for breaking the pact. Laser-like weapons had been neutralized by the invention of shields. When lasers contacted shields, the result was an immense explosion that would kill both parties. Shields also neutralized projectile weapons like guns. But a slow blade can penetrate a personal shield. Thus high technology has returned us to a world of hand-to-hand combat with swords and daggers.

Herbert’s Dune universe is thus an example of what French New Right thinker Guillaume Faye called “archeofuturism”: a combination of futuristic technology and archaic values, social forms, and practices. One could say the same about Star Wars, of course, but George Lucas was simply riffing—or ripping—off Herbert, from the galactic empire to initiatic knightly orders, down to desert planets and even spice mining, although without Herbert’s deep thinking about how such things could all hang together.

Now this is just the merest sketch of the world that Herbert conjures up in Dune, and it is an enormous challenge to recreate this world—and a story within it that sprawls over more than 400 densely printed pages—into a movie of manageable length. But Lynch does a superb job.

A beginning, we are told in the opening narration, is a delicate time. The novel begins with an old witch, the Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam of the Bene Gesserit, arriving at castle Caladan to test 15-year-old Paul Atreides, the son of the reigning duke Leto Atreides. Stripped of any mention of space travel, of course, this could be a scene from a fantasy novel. It would be an interesting cinematic bait and switch to see just how deep one could go into the story before revealing that it is science fiction set in the distant future.

Lynch’s dramatization of this scene is one of the best sequences of the film, but it is not how he begins. First, there is a narration by the princess Irulan, whose words actually begin the book, for the chapters usually begin with epigraphs drawn from her own books on the story Herbert is telling. Irulan establishes straightaway that this is a science fiction movie. The time is the distant future, where the known universe is ruled by the Emperor Shaddam IV, her father. In this time—Irulan almost says “in this period”—the most precious substance in the universe is the spice mélange, which extends life, expands consciousness, and is vital to the spacing guild which knits the empire together. The sole source of the spice is the planet Arrakis, also known as Dune, which is the home of the Fremen, an oppressed and marginalized desert-dwelling people who believe in the prophecy of a messiah or mahdi who will lead them to freedom.

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The setting of Dune of course brings to mind the deserts of the Middle East. The Fremen are Arabs. The spice is oil. Arrakis sounds like Arabia + Iraq. Shaddam even sounds like Saddam Hussein, who wasn’t a force when the book was written. The distant and corrupt empire could be Byzantium at the time of the rise of Islam or the Ottoman empire at the beginning of the 20th century. Moreover, the story of Paul Atreides stirring up a Fremen revolt against the Imperium has parallels that are worth a closer look to the story of T. E. Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia.

The Fremen have many Arabic loan-words and Islam-derived beliefs. They practice circumcision. But, rather disturbingly, Herbert envisions these as part of the general fabric of the galactic empire and its syncretic religion. Indeed, in the final two novels, Heretics of Dune and Chapterhouse Dune, Herbert reveals that the Bene Tleilax practice an esoteric form of Islam, taking Muslim misogyny to truly monstrous extremes. But the Bene Gesserit are well-versed in Islamic lore too, although they merely regard it as a topic of study and a tool of statecraft.

After Irulan’s narration and the opening credits, another narrator summarizes “A Secret Report within the Guild,” concerning a plot that might jeopardize spice production, which establishes that Arrakis is the source of the spice, Caladan is the home of the Atreides, Giedi Prime is the home of the Harkonnen, and Kaitain is the capital of the known universe. Frankly, this narration strikes me as clumsy. Can you name another science fiction movie that utilizes it? The names of planets can simply be introduced in passing, as part of the dialogue, or overlaid on the screen (as Lynch later does anyway with Caladan and Giedi Prime). Both narrations are undramatic ways to establish in advance information that Herbert himself introduced quite successfully in the story itself, and Lynch should have just been confident enough of Herbert’s skill and his own to do the same thing.

The first actual scene of the movie is one of the most iconic: the audience of Shaddam IV with a third stage Guild navigator. This scene is entirely Lynch’s invention, although it was inspired by a very different audience with a Guild navigator in Herbert’s sequel, Dune Messiah. Visually, the scene is both sumptuous and surreal, although the Guild navigator seems rather fake and mechanical.

My favorite touch is the departure of the Guild navigator’s locomotive-like tank, which, like a great metallic slug, leaves behind a trail of orange spice slime, some of which is perfunctorily hoovered up by his retainers, who shuffle along dressed in shapeless black boiler suits hiding who knows what mutations. Before they depart, the retainers look back at the Emperor from the doorway, the lintel of which bears the words “Law is the Ultimate Science,” and we hear what sounds like an electronic raspberry before they turn and follow the tank.

In terms of the plot, the audience scene gives the Emperor the opportunity to explain his plot, which is also a good part of the film’s plot. The Emperor feels threatened by the popularity and growing military power of the Atreides of Caladan. To destroy them, the Emperor has ordered them to take control of Arrakis, a prize rich enough to lure them off the security of their home world and onto alien soil, where they will be vulnerable to an attack from their hereditary enemies, the Harkonnens, the former rulers of Arrakis, who will enjoy the secret aid of the emperor’s elite Sardaukar troops.

Ironically, the Emperor is sending the Atreides into the one place in the universe where the harsh environmental conditions have created a fighting force capable of defeating the Sardaukar—namely the Fremen, who, unknown to the Imperium, exist in vast numbers and have effective control of Arrakis and with it the spice, the most precious commodity in the universe.

The Fremen have been quiet under Harkonnen rule, stealthily pursuing a project of terraforming Arrakis into a more livable world. The Harkonnens are basically merchant princes. They measure power in terms of wealth and treat Arrakis simply as a colony to be exploited. They regard soldiers simply as mercenary muscle, Pinkertons to keep the workers in line. Thus they have overlooked the Fremen and have no idea of their numbers and military potential.

One of the themes of the novel, which did not make it into the final cut of the film, is that the leader of the Harkonnens, Baron Vladimir, for all of his Byzantine plotting, is really rather thick, because he is blind to the whole realm of warrior virtue and how it is cultivated. He is entirely a creature of his appetites, which are monstrous. He has grown so fat that he has to be buoyed by suspensors to move around. He is the embodiment of the bourgeois ethos of hedonism and preferring dishonor to death. Lynch’s characterization intensifies these traits almost to the point of parody. Lynch’s Baron—played by Kenneth MacMillan with unfortunate traces of a New York accent—is not only fat, but also covered with hideous suppurating sores. His doctor is always near, to keep his carcass alive for further pleasures.

The Emperor and his close confidant Count Fenring suspect that the Baron wishes to use Arrakis to create fighting men, because that is what they would do. The Emperor simply refuses to believe that the Baron has overlooked the superb fighting skills of the Fremen. But such matters simply did not occur to him.

The Atreides, however, are very different. They are a martial elite, tracing their descent from the ancient house of Atreus. They measure power in terms of the size, the power, and especially the loyalty of the military forces they command. The Atreides are renowned for their ability to inspire loyalty from their men by giving it to their men. They are masters at the delicate art of creating camaraderie and brotherhood within a hierarchical, military order. The Harkonnen’s soldiers will kill for money. The Atreides and the Fremen and the Sardaukar will die for honor. All the Fremen need for them to rise up against the Imperium are a catalyst and a leader—both of which are provided by the Emperor’s plot.

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Another important element established in the audience scene is that in the Dune cosmos, the leading institutions of society—the ruling houses, the Bene Gesserit, and the Spacing Guild—have worked together for a very long time while keeping immense secrets of great importance from one another. Only the Emperor is allowed to see the Guild navigator. The ruling houses, moreover, are kept in the dark about the ultimate aims of the Bene Gesserit, even though they accept their sisters as wives, concubines, and mothers of their heirs. Indeed, in all six Dune books, Herbert never really tells us what the Bene Gesserit’s goal is, beyond serving humanity. To maintain such levels of secrecy in vast organizations carrying out plans that span thousands of years presupposes remarkable levels of both idealism and discipline.

The guild navigator tells the Emperor that they want young Paul Atreides, the ducal heir, killed. This too is not in the book, but it gives a motive for Reverend Mother Mohiam’s visit, which begins the book. It is an unnecessary move. Herbert’s beginning was fine as it is. But Lynch wished to present the Guild as the ultimate wire-pullers, whereas for Herbert they are just one player.

But there are three more scenes before we actually get to the test. The first is cleverly compounded out of three separate scenes in the novel. It introduces Paul as well as three Atreides retainers: the mentat Thufir Hawat (Freddie Jones), Doctor Wellington Yueh (Dean Stockwell), and sword master Gurney Halleck (Patrick Stewart). All three characters are wonderfully realized. Paul is played by Kyle McLaughlin, one of Lynch’s favorite actors (Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks), who in truth is a bit old to depict the fifteen-year-old of the novel. But Herbert had a disturbing pattern of creating sexually precocious teens and even pre-teens, which simply cannot be portrayed on screen, necessitating casting older actors.

Paul is introduced studying what today look like large, clunky computer tablets. This sequence is perhaps the clumsiest in the film. As Paul reviews the relative positions of Caladan, Giedi Prime, and Arrakis (all unnecessary given the Secret Report), little voices insert bits of background information. For instance, we are told that Bene Tleilax is where mentats come from, that they are human computers, and one can know them by their red-stained lips. We are also told that Baron Harkonnen has vowed to destroy House Atreides and steal the ducal signet ring for himself.

Was Lynch unable to work this information into the script in a more natural way? And why include the detail about the signet ring at all? This is not Lord of the Rings. There is no magic in Leto’s signet. If we really needed to know about mentats, why not include the scene where it is revealed that Jessica and Thufir have been training Paul to be a mentat, without him even knowing it? This bit of information is actually quite relevant to the development of Paul’s character as the story unfolds.

Another oddity in this sequence is the introduction of the “weirding modules,” which is also a Lynch invention. In the novel, the weirding way of battle is a Bene Gesserit martial art. It is a yogic superpower. In Lynch’s hands, it becomes a weird looking hand-held device that turns sound into a killing force. It seems likely that Lynch introduced this concept simply to pander to sci-fi fans who expect laser guns, which Herbert took pains to replace with swords and daggers. (Moreover, the Sardaukar use lasers in the final battle scene anyway.)

It would have been far more faithful to Herbert to depict the weirding way in the manner of Chinese wuxia movies like Hero and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which have just as much audience appeal as laser battles anyway. This is essentially how it was treated in the Sci-Fi network productions of Dune and Children of Dune. Frankly, such an approach would have made Lynch’s climactic battle scene far more interesting. Let’s hope Denis Villeneuve is taking notes.

Then, after two brief scenes, the first introducing Duncan Idaho (Richard Jordan), the second introducing Paul’s father, Duke Leto (Jürgen Prochnow), we finally get to the test. Lynch’s handling of this scene is truly virtuosic. His script masterfully distills everything essential from Herbert’s text, and the settings, casting, and performances are all first rate.

Irish actress Sian Phillips (Livia in I, Claudius) is a superb Reverend Mother, capturing every facet of Herbert’s character: her steely ruthlessness and fanaticism in the pursuit of her ideals as well as her very personal attachments, disappointments, and hopes—and even such bizarre and disconcerting details as her metal teeth.

Francesca Annis plays Paul’s mother Jessica, a Bene Gesserit sister who broke her vow to the order to bear only daughters to the Atreides, bearing Paul instead. Annis looks exactly like Herbert’s description of Jessica: tall, willowy, beautiful, with reddish brown hair and an aristocratic bearing that makes everyone think she is high born, when in fact she was the illegitimate child of a Bene Gesserit of unknown rank, and her father’s identity was kept secret from her. (Which is just as well, because he turned out to be Vladimir Harkonnen.) A sign of the great care that went into casting is that Kyle McLaughlin actually looks like he could be the son of Francesca Annis and Jürgen Prochnow.

So why are the Guild and the Bene Gesserit interested in young Paul Atreides? For 90 generations, the Bene Gesserit have been running a selective breeding program, blending the best bloodlines of the empire, both aristocratic and common (introduced through Bene Gesserit wives and concubines), to produce a superman, whom they call the Kwitsatz Haderach, the “shortening of the way,” the one who can be many places at once.

The Bene Gesserit have perfected a way of tapping into and passing on the memories of their maternal ancestors and fellow sisters. This presupposes that memory is somehow stored in a realm outside the individual mind that can be tapped into by different minds—akin to the Theosophical idea of the “akashic records” encoded in the ethereal realm. This is also the presupposition of the idea introduced in Dune Messiah that a clone (or “ghola”) can recover the memories of the past physical incarnations of its genotype.

But the Bene Gesserit cannot access male ancestral memories. The Kwisatz Haderach, however, will be able to do so, in addition to female memories.

The Bene Gesserit, however, are not interested simply in mastering the past. They also wish to see into the future. Like the Guild’s navigators, they gain prescience by consuming the spice. The Bene Gesserit clearly expect the Kwisatz Haderach to share in this power as well, since the Reverend Mother asks Paul quite pointedly if he has prescient dreams.

Thus the Kwisatz Haderach will be a Janus figure, both surveying the collective memory of mankind and peering into the future. Such knowledge would bring enormous power, to the Kwisatz Haderach himself, and to the sisterhood that controlled him.

After the test scene Lynch takes us to the Harkonnen planet Giedi Prime. Lynch’s depiction of Giedi Prime is his own invention. It is a hideous industrial hellscape, built over bubbling black filth that is a nod to the “matmos” of another sci-fi flop, Barbarella, also produced by De Laurentiis. Black smoke belches from the mouth of a huge, fat face, perhaps a nod to H. R. Giger’s design for the Harkonnen keep for Alejandro Jodorowski’s abortive Dune adaptation. Unlike the novel, Lynch’s Baron does not live in sybaritic splendor. His palace looks like a factory or a slaughterhouse, a maze of roofless green-tiled rooms lost inside a vast industrial box. (Herbert actually incorporates Lynch’s depiction of Giedi Prime into Heretics of Dune.)

When we enter the baron’s presence, we first hear a humming, then the bubbling of the matmos, then a sickening slurping sound. The baron’s grossly fat body lolls on a chair while is doctor sucks gunk out of the sores on his face, aided by retainers whose ears have been sewn shut and whose vision is restricted by hideous goggles. The Harkonnens stamp their tyranny into the very flesh of their servants. Indeed, every Harkonnen subject has a “heart plug” installed that allow him to be murdered with no more effort than flipping a switch.

The scene also introduces the twisted mentat Piter De Vries, played by Brad “Wormtongue” Dourif, as well as the Baron’s nephews Feyd (Sting) and Rabban (Paul Smith). Jack Nance plays the Baron’s henchman Nefud. After Piter pedantically explains the plan to destroy the Atreides to Feyd and Rabban, the Baron—half devil, half child—exultantly activates his suspensors, shooting into the air like a whirring blimp while laughing manically. Then he descends, painted toenails delicately en pointe, pausing a moment to bathe in the matmos drizzling down from the glowglobes in his audience chamber, then pounces on a terrified twink, pulling his heart plug and bathing in his blood. It is a bit much for most people. But one has to give Lynch credit. I can’t think of a grosser and more loathsome villain in all of cinema.

The Atreides departure for Arrakis is a highly imaginative sequence. The costumes and accoutrements of the Atreides bring to mind the British Empire in the early 20th century, right down to their pug. (When Gurney Halleck charges into battle against the Harkonnens, he carries the pug with him. In the final scene of the movie, the little dog reappears, having somehow survived the Harkonnen attack and subsequent years of guerilla warfare in the desert.)

The Guild spaceship, with its ornate entrance and mysterious, Gigeresque innards, is intriguing. Lynch’s machine and ship designs in Dune do not look like extrapolations on present day technology. They are not sleek and “space age,” but weirdly clumsy and clunky, covered with tubes, pipes, wheels, and spikes that look archaic, not futuristic. (Some of them are apparently dwarf-powered.) It is frankly impossible to envision how they might work, which adds to their uncanniness.

A historian of design needs to explore the question of whether we are witnessing the birth of the Steampunk aesthetic in Lynch’s Dune. It makes sense, because immediately before Dune, Lynch directed The Elephant Man, which is set in Victorian London. There are even some design continuities between The Elephant Man and Dune, for instance the gas wall sconces in The Elephant Man have equivalents in the Emperor’s throne room. The worst aspect of Lynch’s design is dressing the Sardaukar troops in shapeless hazmat suits.

Many people complain about the spaceship effects in Dune, and on DVD and Blu-ray, they do look bad. But I have seen Dune in the theater, and they look just fine on the big screen. George Lucas, of course, could have done better, but that’s the only thing he could have improved.

The sequence in which the Guild navigator “folds space” is bizarre, but how would you depict it? First, it should be noted the “folding space” is another Lynch invention. Herbert only ascribes the power of prescience to the Guild navigators. Second, Lynch’s depictions of the navigation sequence and Paul’s visions are based on Herbert’s descriptions. In the novel, after Paul takes the water of life and is finally transformed into the Kwisatz Haderach, Jessica leads Paul into the place where Reverend Mothers—women—are terrified to go, “a region where a wind blew and sparks glared, where rings of light expanded and contracted, where rows of tumescent white shapes flowed over and under and around the lights, driven by darkness and a wind out of nowhere.”

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Once the Atreides are on Arrakis, two scenes stand out for their faithful and inspired adaptation of the novel: the spice harvesting sequence and the attempt to assassinate Paul with a hunter-seeker. The spice harvesting sequence introduces the imperial planetologist, Dr. Liet Kynes, a natural aristocrat and the true leader of the Fremen (superbly realized Max von Sydow). It also gives us our first glimpse of the sandworms of Arrakis, Lynch’s trifold design for which follows Herbert’s description of the sandworm mouth as opening like the petals of a flower. Finally, it establishes an important aspect of the character of Duke Leto: he values loyalty more than money, and the loyalty goes both ways, to his men and from them. In the interests of economy, Lady Fenring’s conservatory, a long dinner party, various short military conferences, and a subplot about Hawat’s suspicions of Jessica are omitted. A conversation between Jessica and the Shadout Mapes (Linda Hamilton) was filmed but cut.

Dr. Yueh’s betrayal, the Harkonnen attack, the death of Leto, and Paul and Jessica’s escape are all quite faithful to the book and realized in a compelling and often quirky manner. (I especially enjoyed Piter’s strange hand gestures in his conversation with Nefud.) But in the interest of time, Lynch abridges Paul and Jessica’s flight. The capture of Hawat and the deaths of Duncan Idaho and Dr. Kynes are also abridged, to no great loss.

Lynch’s treatment of the second part of Dune, Paul and Jessica’s adventures with the Fremen, however, is highly abridged. It turns out that Lynch had actually filmed a number of scenes that were later cut. First, there is Paul’s duel to the death with the Fremen Jamis, which leads to the scene where he is given the name Usul and chooses the name Paul Muad’dib. Then there is the deathstill scene, removing the water from Jamis’ body, which leads to the scene where Paul and Jessica are shown a vast Fremen water cache. There are also scenes where Chani learns of the death of her father, Dr. Kynes, and the Fremen drown a tiny sandworm to produce the water of life.

These scenes really should be restored in a director’s cut. They would allow the Fremen world to breathe a bit and disclose some of its wonders. Theater running times are no longer an issue, and every fan of the novel and Lynch film would rejoice.

Apparently, Lynch entirely omitted the subplots on Giedi Prime that run through parts two and three of the novel.

Everett McGill, who also appeared in Twin Peaks and The Straight Story, plays Stilgar, the Fremen leader. Oddly, McGill manages to make his voice sound like a dubbed Italian film from the 1960s. Sean Young plays Chani.

Aesthetically, the second half of Dune is the least satisfying. Lynch’s depiction of the deserts and mountains of Arrakis, as well as the underground lairs of the Fremen, are frankly ugly and often unpleasantly dark and murky, often verging on the unintelligible. They fail miserably at capturing the sublime splendor of the desert in Herbert’s descriptions. One wishes that Lynch had watched Lawrence of Arabia before shooting Dune, or simply visited the high deserts of Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico for some inspiration. Let’s hope that Denis Villeneuve does not neglect the opportunity to include some dazzling nature photography in his forthcoming adaptation. It is a cheap and easy way to dazzle moviegoers.

The third and final part of Dune depicts Paul and the Fremen’s defeat of Shaddam and the Harkonnens and Paul’s installation as the new Emperor. Generally, Lynch’s adaptation is quite faithful. There are some engagingly quirky and bizarre touches, such as the Sardaukar generals, a racially diverse collection of scarecrows and tin woodsmen with metal plates in their heads, or the Emperor’s strange rotating control center, where Shaddam and his generals rain down fire on their attackers as if they are playing a video game. The worst special effects in Dune are in the climactic battle, which has dreadful process shots and bizarrely skewed color contrasts.

The final scene, in which Paul defeats Feyd in hand-to-hand combat, is brilliantly done. Sadly, it was heavily cut. The touching death of Thufir Hawat was removed, which rendered somewhat pointless the scene on Giedi Prime where the captive Thufir had a heart-plug installed and is told that a poison has been introduced into his body in order to make him dependent on the Baron for the antidote. The terms that Paul dictates to Shaddam, including marrying his daughter Irulan, are also cut. Finally, Lynch omitted the strange but moving final words of the novel, in which Jessica reassures Chani that they may bear the rank of concubine, but history will remember them as wives.

Instead, Lynch ends with another of his inventions: a miracle. Paul causes rain to fall on Arrakis. Herbert himself chided Lynch on this ending, claiming that Paul was not actually a messiah. He was just pretending to be one. But in fairness to Lynch, Dune is the story of a superman who is taken as a messiah. If the messiah could not make rain, perhaps the superman could. Furthermore, both the project that bred Paul and the prophecy he fulfilled were set in motion by the Bene Gesserit. The confluence of these schemes on Arrakis might merely be a freak accident, but readers can also be excused for seeing it as some sort of Providence. Herbert himself makes such a reading possible with his genre-bending fusion of science fiction and fantasy tropes.

Irulan’s narration also speaks of how Fremen prophecy predicted Paul Muad’dib’s ascension would bring peace and love to the galaxy. This comes off as bitterly ironic to the readers of the novel, because there Paul knows better. His prescient vision shows only civil war and untold suffering as the Fremen spill off-world and subdue the cosmos in a new jihad.

There is no reason why Lynch could not keep his ending and restore Herbert’s and the other deleted bits of the final scene in a director’s cut.

What lessons should Denis Villeneuve learn from the successes and failures of Lynch’s Dune? First and foremost: if Herbert’s novel was good enough to enthrall millions of readers over more than fifty years, a faithful film adaptation will be good enough to produce a classic beloved by millions of viewers. Second, t

he simplest lesson is to incorporate nature photography for the desert scenes. Nature is more beautiful than anything that can be created with CGI or on soundstages. Third, a more complex lesson is not to over-explain. Lynch’s greatest mistake was not to follow Herbert’s example of merely intimating the back stories while unfolding the main story. Of course this technique filled the readers’ minds with questions. But that is one of the reasons we just kept reading. There’s nothing wrong with mystery, after all.

The main cause of Lynch’s tendency to over-explain was lack of faith in the novel and in the audience. It is hard to tell how much of this was Lynch’s own mistake and how much was a result of pressure from De Laurentiis. We can infer that the latter played a large role from watching the extended version of Dune that De Laurentiis produced for television after the movie’s theatrical failure. Lynch insisted that it not bear his name.

This production contains a great deal of footage that Lynch cut, as well as even more back narration, using extremely ugly drawings. The clear intention was to make Dune intelligible to complete morons, the kind of people who could not see a simple cut between locations and infer that someone had traveled between them.

Viewing this abomination is a painful experience. Many good scenes were dropped and should be restored to a director’s cut. But also a great deal of fat was trimmed, particularly in the audience scene, where every single cut removed even more over-explaining—adding back in some of the atmosphere of mystery and wonder that made Herbert’s Dune a classic. If only Lynch had gone further. Lynch’s Dune is not a classic like the original novel, but it remains superior to the Sci-Fi Channel mini-series, which is far less artful, while remaining much more faithful to the book. If Denis Villeneuve manages to combine artfulness and fidelity, he may well surpass them both.

 
• Category: Arts/Letters • Tags: David Lynch, Movies, Science Fiction 
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  1. Thanks for the memories.

  2. jim jones says:

    Artificial Intelligence is such a seductive idea that you could never eliminate it entirely from human culture.

  3. Jim S says:

    Speaking of writers who implicate rather than explicate, Gene Wolfe passed recently. Fortunately he completed his magnum opus–even if he dissipated some of the mist with his final volume of the New Sun tale.

    I regard it as tragedy that we’ll never learn where the no-ship landed after the flight from Chapterhouse (let’s not speak of the works published posthumously by Herbert’s son).

    • Agree: fish
  4. Jim S says:

    The precursor to Dune was Herbert’s own Destination: Void, from which Dune takes its themes of human potential and of godhood. Destination: Void’s sequels are enjoyable themselves, but they’re more Ransom than Herbert. I imagine it’s not easy for a filmmaker to get at these themes by staying within the bounds of Dune itself.

  5. It was expecting too much of Lynch to try to put Herbert’s book/s onto film. Dune is not The Lord of the Rings (and Jackson got 3 movies to tell that story, which is a pretty primitive story – although a good one).

    The film left me a bit cold, although I was predisposed to like it because (1) It’s Dune FFS; (2) I had long admired Francesca Annis since her role in Polanski’s Macbeth.

    The single-film format imposed constraints on which bits of the story got told; to someone of my persuasion there was not enough on the fedaykin, nor on the Halleck/Idaho parts of the arc.

    Herbert’s Mentats are also disappointing (in the book itself): they make obvious errors – i.e., errors where the thing that makes it an error is clear at the first reading (no need for ‘back-casting’), Being a person who thinks strategically for a living would require a lot better results… making obvious errors would see the guild fall into disrepute really quickly.

    An actual guild of Mentats should exist as an actual thing. I’ve been saying that since I first read Dune as a child.

    Problem is, it would attract the same sort of fuckwit as Mensa attracts. So Mentats are solitary creatures.

    PS… if anyone could turn Stephen Donaldson’s The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, Unbeliever into a set of movies, it’s Lynch. That would be fucking killer, yo.

    • Replies: @SunBakedSuburb
  6. El Dato says:

    Lots to read, but a quick grep brings up no mention of the Jews of Dune!

    • Replies: @Andrei Martyanov
  7. Someone please perform a word count on this essay. I think it’s longer than the book.

    • Replies: @El Dato
  8. Svigor says:

    Herbert believed that feudalism, not liberal democracy, was the social system best adapted to mankind’s ascent to the stars. Feudalism was a decentralized system adapted to a society in which population centers were widely separated and in which transportation was costly and slow. Such conditions no longer exist on earth, but they certainly would pertain between inhabited planets scattered throughout the galaxy. The exploration and settling of the universe is a project requiring immensely long time horizons, which are characteristic of medieval institutions—dynasties, holy orders, guilds—but absent in liberal democracies, in which few people plan past the next election cycle.

    Hmm, maybe I’ll have to read Dune. I’ve always been put off by all the Semitic overtones in the movies, the names dropped by fans, etc.

    Because Herbert is correct; humanity will be feudal, in a very real sense, as it spreads across the galaxy. Feudal in an overall sense, and not because feudalism will work best, but because it’ll be the only thing that works at all. The largest civilizations will span a few star systems, at most. Beyond that, the time scale of interstellar travel will be far too long to support anything larger. There will be no galaxy-spanning civilization. There will be no civilization even close to that size. On the contrary, the galaxy will be a giant, “feudal” cloud of tiny (compared to the galaxy-spanning civilizations of Star Wars and Star Trek) civilizations.

    Locally, of course, at the scale of star systems, or clusters of closely-packed star systems, feudalism will not necessarily be any more viable than any other system.

    • Replies: @SunBakedSuburb
    , @TKK
  9. El Dato says:
    @jim jones

    Like iron tools (which possibly brought on the Late Bronze Age Collapse), once it exists, it won’t go anywhere. But its use may be restricted on religious ground. (And what we currently need is a restriction of Facebook and Twitter on religious grounds, really)

  10. It took a good ten years for Herbert’s novel to relinquish its grip on my imagination, allowing me to appreciate Lynch’s Dune, which I now regard as a worthy adaptation of the novel and a truly great but not unflawed film.

    Same here. Lynch simply did not understand what that great novel was about – a man who pretends to be a god – and introducing gee-wizz weaponry to let Paul triumph in the final battle, negates everything Paul and Jessica achieved with the Fremens.

    That said, the movie is WAY above average for a scifi flick, especially the set designs are out-of-this-world-awesome, very much as you imagine it from the book, and, except for Sting, all characters are brilliantly cast. With a few amendments to the script, this could’ve been a great movie, rather than a good one.

    • Replies: @SunBakedSuburb
  11. El Dato says:

    Lynch’s biggest fuckups:

    1) Right in the opening scene we see the hapless Emperor clearly scared shitless and under the thumb of a Guild Navigator. This makes scant sense, very confusing (this fact is not brought up later again) and also is not in accordance with the Book. Shaddam IV had the reins of the sprawling system in hand, certainly uneasily and only via power plays, but he would have lots of pressure points of the CHOAM in his deck of cars.

    2) The rainy end is completely nonsensical. Rain on Dune is death of the whole biosphere, spice disappearance and the dissolution of the Empire. Unless Paul has had a special missive from IX that they will sell strong-AI navigation modules in a few hours, and distribute them with a cooperating CHOAM running on its last spice stores. Oh yeah, a lot of old geezers who depend on the spice to extend their life span will also be unhappy.

    And finally, a mess-up by Herbert something which kinds, sorta worked in the 60s but not today: launching Arrakis Observation Satellites is expensive and apparently under Guild Control. The local governor can’t get them up and see what’s going on in the South (yet there are Han-Solo style smugglers taking off and landing with goods; they are probably hitching a ride on Guildships like mites?). Well, in 2019, launching an Earth Observation Satellite is dirt cheap and can be done using as single-stage Rockot ICBM (among others). Launch it, Rabban! MWAHAHA!

  12. The Fremen are Arabs

    the superb fighting skills of the Fremen

    LOL

    • Replies: @fish
    , @Half-Jap
    , @awry
  13. I enjoy Dune. And every time I pass it by I consider re-watching it again and again — hence, why I say I enjoy it. I was a science fiction nut in my youth. Though I considered tales such as the Dune Trilogy to far gone into mysticism for me.

    Laughing. And I suppose that is a fault to comprehending the film and what are likely to be sequels, if not by Director Lynch then by some else.

  14. Cortes says:

    Here’s where my ability to suspend disbelief failed…

    “Irish actress Sian Phillips”

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siân_Phillips

    • Replies: @Trevor Lynch
  15. Twinkie says:

    Herbert himself chided Lynch on this ending, claiming that Paul was not actually a messiah. He was just pretending to be one.

    A point which Herbert reinforces in the second book, when he describes Arrakis and the Fremen as being afflicted with a hero.

    When I was a teenager, I absolutely, positively adored Dune – for the same reason why I loved The Lantern Bearers and The Count of Monte Cristo – they are stories of heroic revenge and redemption.

    As I became older, though, I began to grasp and appreciate Herbert’s phrase about a hero, and the revolution he brings, as an affliction – something that alters, controls, and dooms people.

    • Replies: @SunBakedSuburb
  16. Jgcf says:

    The sleeper must awaken

  17. Anon[570] • Disclaimer says:

    My memories of Dune are that the novel is a boring slog, the movie is worse, and the fans are weirdos.

    “I was raping Frank Herbert, but with love.” – Alejandro Jodorowsky

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alejandro_Jodorowsky

  18. RobRich says: • Website

    Excellent review. More!

  19. Alfred says:
    @jim jones

    Artificial Intelligence is such a seductive idea that you could never eliminate it entirely from human culture.

    True. And the people most easily seduced by it are those who have never ever written a line of code.

    • Replies: @El Dato
    , @Svigor
  20. Kirt says:

    Dune is one of my favorite movies despite the flaws. Trevor Lynch is outstanding in analyzing both the good and not-so-good aspects of David Lynch’s work. Now Villeneuve will know what to do and what to avoid.

    • Agree: Andrei Martyanov
    • Replies: @Andrei Martyanov
  21. @Cortes

    Ooops. Will fix that in the director’s cut.

    • LOL: atlantis_dweller
    • Replies: @atlantis_dweller
  22. @El Dato

    Lots to read, but a quick grep brings up no mention of the Jews of Dune!

    Granted that Fremen derived from Zensunni wanderers and, for some odd reason, sang their burial songs in Russian.

    • Replies: @El Dato
  23. @Kirt

    Now Villeneuve will know what to do and what to avoid.

    He already stated that his major influence is Lynch’s Dune. I do not watch Lynch’s Dune (I have both versions–2 hour and 3 hr. 15 min., disowned by Lynch ) anymore for story–it is a mental-visual experience, I wish Lynch elaborated even more on Dune’s visuals.

    • Replies: @Random Smartaleck
  24. Logan says:

    One of the themes of the novel, which did not make it into the final cut of the film, is that the leader of the Harkonnens, Baron Vladimir, for all of his Byzantine plotting, is really rather thick, because he is blind to the whole realm of warrior virtue and how it is cultivated. He is entirely a creature of his appetites, which are monstrous.

    In the book his main appetite appears to be homosexual pedophilic rape. Left out of the movie for early PC reasons, I assume.

  25. @Logan

    No. it is actually in the movie.

    • Replies: @El Dato
    , @Logan
  26. At his worst, Lynch is easily recognized as the predecessor of Tim Burton. And Dune was Lynch’s Batman, a film that is so painfully 80s that it’s barely even enjoyable as kitschy nostalgia. It was a wreck then and a joke now. Picking apart its corpse seems like a poor use of time; you might as well deconstruct Krull or Willow.

    • Replies: @Dave Bowman
  27. @Trevor Lynch

    an unimaginable heights or depths

    More to amend, in the director’s cut.

  28. Undoubtedly, the film was helped by the very strong supporting cast – from Dean Stockwell to Sian Phillips to Max von Sydow et al. Even Sting was effective in his role.
    I don’t think that a present day film adaptation would be as good – in part because they wouldn’t be able to afford that quality of cast.
    It seems to be a feature of the era ( 1970s, 1980s ) that they were able to do so. One thinks of Flash Gordon ( 1980 ), also produced by Dino De Laurentiis. Not in the same class as Dune, but the strong cast still make it highly watchable.

  29. @Logan

    Harkonnen’s lust for his young nephew ( played by Sting ) is very strongly insinuated in the film.

  30. Che Guava says:

    Svigor, I recommend at least the first three of the novels. As for overly Semitic content, in the novels, it is only in the later novels that Herbert introduces Jews as such into the narrative.

    However, the Bene Tleilax are clearly intended to represent Jews, before Herbert inserts later and dull tales.

    If proof is derived.Herbert had the Bene Tleilaxu make golems.

    In the TV series (which as Trevor says, the plot is closer to the novel), the Fremen are clearly reresented as some kind of analogy with Jews (which Trevor denies).

    Most of the actors as Fremen in the television take have Jewish accents.

    • Replies: @El Dato
  31. I agree that the 1984 movie wasn’t especially faithful to Herbert’s novel, but I thought it a worthwhile movie. Flawed? Sure. So are Herbert’s novels. So is pretty much every creative work.

    The tech? Pure steampunk. So, if there wasn’t steampunk before the film, then that’s where it started.

    Minority opinion: Sting was a brilliant choice for Feyd-Rautha. He did an excellent job of it, too.

  32. the audience of Shaddam IV with a third stage Guild navigator. This scene is entirely Lynch’s invention, although it was inspired by a very different audience with a Guild navigator in Herbert’s sequel, Dune Messiah. Visually, the scene is both sumptuous and surreal, although the Guild navigator seems rather fake and mechanical.

    The third stage Guild navigator doesn’t look perfectly spontaneous and at ease while being… audited by Shaddam IV: so unlikely.

    These scenes really should be restored in a director’s cut. They would allow the Fremen world to breathe a bit and disclose some of its wonders. Theater running times are no longer an issue, and every fan of the novel and Lynch film would rejoice.

    Is running times the only reason behind this violence falling upon every motion picture of worth — the scene cutting? I think it is also that the publishers, attuned to the average watcher’s mindset as they are by their very trade, fear the “this was boring/slow” effect and ensuing negative publicity, with the revenue-loss it ends up bringing on.

  33. @Verymuchalive

    I agree on what you remarked, including the in part. The second adaptation is basically never as good as the first one — first adaptations themselves being seldom good.

  34. fish says:
    @jim jones

    Maybe a little more work on “Natural Intelligence” first……

  35. fish says:
    @Hippopotamusdrome

    The Fremen are Arabs

    the superb fighting skills of the Fremen

    LOL

    C’mon……they’ve had 10,000 years to practice.

  36. theMann says:

    One hardly knows where to start……..

    The main difference between Uwe Boll and David Lynch is that you can at least have fun watching an Uwe Boll film. The common characteristics of Lynch’s films are:

    1.Ugly
    2.Mean spirited
    3. Incoherent messes.

    And man o man does Dune fit all three of those characteristics to a T. I actually had the privilege of seeing Dune at very upscale theater, and by the midway point even the Ushers were laughing out loud and throwing popcorn at the screen. And the film has extremely not improved with age. A bad film can be a lovable mess (Chandni Chowk to China being the ultimate example), but Dune is just a painful mess. And gigantically illustrative of directorial incompetency.

    And worst of all, the film made me waste ANOTHER 15 minutes of my life commenting on it, because I just couldn’t let it go reading the other comments

    • Replies: @SunBakedSuburb
  37. Alfa158 says:
    @Jim S

    Sad to hear. Wolfe was the leading practitioner of speculative fiction as great literature. I have re-read his New Sun series several times and my appreciation grows every time.
    I don’t know if anyone in cinema has the genius to do tribute to those books; maybe Andrei Tarkovsky could have pulled it off. In any event getting an audience who would have appreciated the result, and would have been large to make the series viable would have been unlikely.

  38. … George Lucas was simply riffing—or ripping—off Herbert, from the galactic empire to initiatic knightly orders, down to desert planets and even spice mining …

    Lucas is rightly known as a rip-off artist. Whatever he didn’t get from Herbert, he stole from Akira Kurosawa’s Hidden Fortress:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hidden_Fortress#Influence

    At least he acknowledged his debt to Kurosawa. Did he ever do the same for Frank Herbert?

  39. Lynch might be the greatest movie director ever after Kubrick. Dune might be the greatest science fiction novel ever. In hindsight it is obvious the combination is ridiculous. If only we could have had the Jodorowsky Dune. 🙁

    • Replies: @Asagirian
    , @SunBakedSuburb
  40. willem1 says:

    This movie is one of my all-time favorites. I saw it when it first came out, and now own the DVD.

    “A conversation between Jessica and the Shadout Mapes (Linda Hamilton) was filmed but cut.”

    The Shadout Mapes was played by Linda Hunt, not Linda Hamilton.

    • Replies: @Trevor Lynch
  41. El Dato says:
    @Meretricious

    You are sorely lacking in Mentat powers!

    • Replies: @Meretricious
  42. El Dato says:
    @Digital Samizdat

    Well, Star Wars is Samurai … in SPAAAACE. But the borrowing from Hidden Fortress is not that extensive.

    Actually, note that Frank Herbert’s Dune went to market at the same time as Cordwainer Smith’s Norstrilia. Both are apparently thematically very similar, although I haven’t read Norstrilia just some of the Instrumentality short stories which are overall pretty good:

    http://cordwainer-smith.com/blog/norstrilia-and-dune.html

    Both Herbert and Linebarger (i.e. “Cordwainer Smith”) were very familiar with the whole of golden-age SF; both were very interested in psychological theory and psychotherapy; both had strong interests in religion, in international [translated into intergalactic] politics, and in basic philosophical questions about what makes an individual (of any physical form) human. So it’s not surprising that they wrote novels with certain striking similarities at about the same time.

    • Replies: @Random Smartaleck
  43. El Dato says:
    @Anon

    Jodorowsky and Lynch are two freudian black holes, orbiting a common gravity centre.

  44. El Dato says:
    @Andrei Martyanov

    No, there is actually Jews in the fifth volume. A tribe apart, and static over 100’000 years.

  45. El Dato says:
    @Che Guava

    However, the Bene Tleilax are clearly intended to represent Jews, before Herbert inserts later and dull tales.

    If proof is derived.Herbert had the Bene Tleilaxu make golems.

    (*Embarrassed laughter*)

    I never saw that.

    They are also the biotech counterpart to the mechanotech IXians. What’s up with that?

  46. Lurker says:
    @Digital Samizdat

    Lets not forget Isaac Asimov either, the Foundation series and E.E. Smith’s Lensmen. Without those, big chunks of Star Wars would be missing.

    • Replies: @Logan
    , @Excal
  47. El Dato says:
    @Alfred

    We absolutely don’t know how to build “AI” but we sure know that “writing lines of code” won’t be a big feature. At best you will write a small virtual machine and the AI will have to develop from there.

    • Replies: @SunBakedSuburb
  48. @willem1

    Yikes. Wishful thinking on my part.

    • Replies: @Hapalong Cassidy
  49. El Dato says:
    @Trevor Lynch

    Not only is it in the movie but why did Lynch go all the way with the convenient murder device. Smallpox Meatloaf alone is enough. That was horrific when I watched it as a kid.

    • Replies: @Kevin O'Keeffe
  50. Logan says:
    @Trevor Lynch

    Been a loonnngg time since I saw it, so I won’t say you’re wrong, but that’s not the way I remember it.

  51. @Jim S

    Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun (1980) ranks with Dune as a classic; a layered and fully-realized world blending science fiction, fantasy, and archeofuturism.

    • Replies: @Random Smartaleck
  52. Svigor says:
    @Alfred

    The assumption that AI necessarily involves code = funny.

  53. “Hope clouds observation.”
    Words to live by.

  54. Logan says:
    @Lurker

    Yikes. Don’t remind me about Foundation.

    Read the trilogy 40 years ago when I was 10 or so. Vastly impressed.

    Recently found a set cheap at a garage sale, and settled in to reacquaint myself with a work of genius.

    50 pages in I looked at the title page to make sure what I was reading. 50 pages I realized that it really was crap.

    Discernment can change a LOT in 40 years. OTOH, there are other authors I read back than I appreciate now more than ever. Twain, Tolkien, Heinlein.

  55. @Svigor

    “Because Herbert is correct; humanity will be feudal, in a very real sense, as it spreads across the galaxy.”

    Most human beings cannot handle freedom and the responsibility of democracy. So a return to feudalism with technological control is likely. But I don’t see humans spreading across the galaxy. Our flesh shells were not made for space travel. This is a good thing for the Milky Way.

    • Agree: atlantis_dweller
  56. Asagirian says: • Website

    Because Lynch has made some remarkable films and because there is a category of films called ‘neglected or misunderstood masterpieces’, I finally gave DUNE a try some years back.

    It is dreadful.

    Lynch is at his best as a plumber and sewage worker of human consciousness. In this, he has something in common with David Cronenberg. He doesn’t get spectacle. He’s a micro-artist, not a macro-one. He’s best at boring through the ‘human condition’ like a hookworm. He needs a microscope, not a telescope.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  57. Asagirian says: • Website
    @simple_pseudonymic_handle

    Dune the movie strikes me as Star Trek on drugs.

    • Replies: @El Dato
  58. @Kratoklastes

    ” … Polanski’s Macbeth.”

    Roman Polanski was the perfect director for Macbeth (1971). I’m a huge fan of his filmography. Too bad he’s a f*cking criminal deviant.

    • Replies: @Kratoklastes
  59. @Felix Krull

    If you’re a fan of the novel Dune, as am I, look forward to Denis Villenueve’s version. He did a masterful job on the Blade Runner sequel. Blade Runner 2049 (2017) is a film that rewards with each viewing.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  60. @El Dato

    Actually, note that Frank Herbert’s Dune went to market at the same time as Cordwainer Smith’s Norstrilia. Both are apparently thematically very similar…

    It’s not merely that they are similar; it’s in fact screamingly obvious that Herbert lifted many of his ideas directly from Smith. Consider that Smith’s universe has::

    – A desert planet (Norstrilia)
    – Populated by a very tough, atavistic people
    – and that everyone wants to control because it
    – Produces the most valuable commodity in the universe, which is
    – stroon/santaclara drug, which
    – provides extended life, and is produced by
    – large exotic creatures (in this case, gigantic mutated sheep).
    – Ornithopters are a favored vehicle, and
    – long-distance spacecraft are guided psychically by specially gifted pilots.

    …and probably more that I can’t recall.

    The timing is in support of a Smith –> Herbert transfer as well, because even though Dune and Norstrila were released close together, many of these ideas were already used by Smith in short stories predating Herbert’s work on Dune.

    • Replies: @El Dato
  61. @Twinkie

    “As I became older, though, I began to grasp and appreciate Herbert’s phrase about a hero, and the revolution he brings, as an affliction — something that alters, controls, and dooms people.”

    The savior delusion. There is no cure for the folly of Man.

  62. @SunBakedSuburb

    Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun (1980) ranks with Dune as a classic; a layered and fully-realized world blending science fiction, fantasy, and archeofuturism.

    Though not at the same level as New Sun, his The Fifth Head of Cerberus is also quite good. I’ve read it several times now and still manage to find new interconnections between the 3 novellas that make it up.

  63. j2 says:

    “Artificial intelligence was banned, forcing mankind to develop its own mental and spiritual powers. For example, “mentats” used highly developed mnemonic and calculative techniques to become “human computers.” Genetic engineering was also banned, forcing mankind to adopt selective breeding projects—spanning millennia—to improve the human race.”

    I was just thinking about Dyne when reading two Yuval Noah Harari’s books. He seems to be a total totalitarian and likes to explain how Artificial Intelligence and Genetic Engineering will finally create what Communists did not manage, a full Orwellian surveillance society where people have no free will, no, the majority are totally useless, and this in some 50 years or less. As there is some basis that such a surveillance class society with an elite and the trash will be created, I thought of this Dyne solution. Forbidding certain technologies, like AI and GE, with the intended goal of some version of New Age of Mad Max or Dyne type. Kind of stopping or slowing down technical development with a system that does not need it. But I do not know, they are not better. Dyne was strange.

  64. Sam J. says:

    I didn’t care for Lynch’s Dune movie too much. A few great moments but they were brief. In fairness I don’t see how anyone could wrap the whole book up in one movie.

    Setting the stories universe, leaving Caladan and arriving at Arrakis could be one full movie easily.

    The books I devoured. I found Dune in a used paperback bookstore. Read at one sitting then found the next two books and read them in the next two days. After the third book to me it sort of petered out but the first three were excellent. I ended up reading all the books that Herbert had written with much enjoyment.

  65. @Jim S

    …even if he dissipated some of the mist with his final volume of the New Sun tale.

    Do you mean The Urth of the New Sun? Yeah, I could have done without that one myself.

  66. @theMann

    David Lynch is one of the few film directors that can be considered artists. His work attracts polarized opinions.

    • Agree: TKK
    • Replies: @Dave Bowman
  67. @Andrei Martyanov

    [Lynch’s Dune] is a mental-visual experience, I wish Lynch elaborated even more on Dune’s visuals.

    Absolutely. The appeal of Lynch’s Dune is all about aesthetics.

  68. @Digital Samizdat

    I would be surprised if George Lucas read Dune. The Star Wars franchise is a combination of the 1930s Flash Gordon serials and children’s fantasy stories. I grew up watching the films, but they hold no appeal to my (supposedly) adult mind.

  69. @simple_pseudonymic_handle

    ” If only we could have had the Jodorowsky Dune.”

    I would love to see H.R. Giger’s Call of Cthulu.

  70. @El Dato

    Who will write the AI’s Bible?

  71. I was a consummate fan of the great science fiction that was available in the 1960s and later. I read all of the great authors but it would be a while before I would ever try “Dune”.

    I eventually did and was very disappointed with the writing. I found the constant and incessant dialogue that attempted to explain every facet of the societies in the story to be over done and long winded. By the time I got half way through the book I had had it.

    I don’t understand how Herbert was seen as master writer considering that no character in a story would ever talk the way his did in “Dune”.

    Unlike most, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie by David Lynch and the more recent remake that debuted on the SyFy Channel a number of years ago.

    • Replies: @TKK
    , @Anonymous
  72. Jmaie says:

    Went to the theater with a friend who hadn’t read the book. Spent the whole goddamn movie explaining the back story details. The stupid whispering did NOT help – it only confused the uninitiated and wasn’t needed by those who knew the story.

    The OP grew to regard the movie as a “worthy adaptation.” Can’t say the same – the movie sucked then and still does – and now suffers the additional burden of comparison with phenomenally better special effects.

  73. captflee says:

    Write on, young man! I have quite enjoyed your efforts to date.

    In other news, I just drove past a bunch of location trucks clustered around the apartment building featured in Blue Velvet, so the cessation of state tax breaks for the film industry, while certainly dispatching some work to states more willing to bend over, has not yet killed the film industry in NC.

  74. @El Dato

    Is the movie worth watching or not? In 100 words or less I mean.

    Hmm. Now I’ve read the post by Jmaie just above. Thanks Jmaie!

    • Replies: @Priss Factor
    , @TKK
  75. Anonymous[317] • Disclaimer says:
    @SunBakedSuburb

    I, look forward to Denis Villenueve’s version. He did a masterful job on the Blade Runner sequel.

    That’s not true.

    • Replies: @SunBakedSuburb
  76. @Meretricious

    Is the movie worth watching or not? In 100 words or less I mean.

    Ebert and Siskel are right on this:

  77. TKK says:
    @Svigor

    Semantic overtones?

    Exhibit A- just managed to put the Jew obsession in a review of Dune.

    Wow.

    Give it a rest. If you or one of your lot had any valid points, they are lost in your daily diatribes. Diluted and dismissed as the ravings of the obsessed.

    • Replies: @Hippopotamusdrome
  78. Rich says:

    I read the first three Dune novels in high school, then read a couple of the sequels while overseas with the US Army. What turned me off to Herbert’s voice was when I realized his anti-Christian, and therefore, anti-White bias. Although in no way a devout Christian, I was raised a Roman Catholic and was kind of turned off by the quasi-religion Herbert created, but took it in stride as a futuristic sci-fi invention. But then, of course, the Jews survive intact. Herbert, being a Jew, is allowed to favor his people, but at that point, the novels became novels just for his people, not mine.
    Lynch’s movie wasn’t that good. If, as some have said, he’s one of America’s greatest directors, we’re lacking in greatness.

    • Replies: @AaronB
    , @El Dato
  79. TKK says:
    @Meretricious

    In bed with the flu or need to seriously zone out, dozing ? Yes.

    Eager for meaty sci fi glory? No.

    Start with Alien and work up to Prometheus and Covenant. Alien and Aliens still do not seem dated.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  80. TKK says:
    @Steve Naidamast

    I find the same way with Faulkner.

    Non linear story telling is a pain in the a**. Same with dream sequences and flashbacks.

  81. Anon[383] • Disclaimer says: • Website

    David Ansen was one of the few people who liked the movie.

    Kael, a big Lynch fan, didn’t much care for Dune.

    http://www.geocities.ws/paulinekaelreviews/d5.html

    https://scrapsfromtheloft.com/2017/12/13/the-elephant-man-1980-review-by-pauline-kael/

    http://scrapsfromtheloft.com/2017/09/16/blue-velvet-review-pauline-kael/

    Nausicaa is also based on a long series(manga), but the movie version works.

    AKIRA is also based on a hefty series of manga, and it’s a mess but works stylistically, at least in part.

    DUNE just never gets off the ground.

  82. Anonymous[317] • Disclaimer says:
    @Steve Naidamast

    no character in a story would ever talk the way his did

    You mean the Kwisatz Haderach from the Great House Atreides on the planet Arrakis doesn’t sound like Joe the Plumber?

  83. The first Dune book is superb. Tried but could not continue the rest. The movie seemed pretty good. The only moment I did not like was when Vladimir was bathing in his slave blood. Overall I think Harconnen could be shown a bit less degenerate. Regarding feudalism taking people to stars. Herbert could wish. The only thing that will possibly take humanity to stars is communism. Capitalism is too consumption profit biased. Resources and minds should be concentrated and humanity must look beyond simple material stuff to get there.

    • Replies: @G. Poulin
  84. Anonymous[317] • Disclaimer says:
    @TKK

    work up to Prometheus and Covenant

    What’s wrong with you?

    • Replies: @SunBakedSuburb
  85. one of the few times where it’s time for a remake.

    some parts of it were so well done for 1984. and other parts were a total bust. due to how hard it is to convert a big book into a movie and all the narration and exposition dune seems to require. limits to effects available in 1984 were a third problem, but almost all the physical effects were really good, and might be worse in a remake.

    this time though, make it two 2 hour movies instead of one long clumsy movie.

  86. AaronB says:
    @Rich

    Why do you say Herbert is a Jew?

    Frank Patrick Herbert Sr. and Eileen McCarthy – his parents. Not Jewish names.

    • Replies: @Lin
  87. Nick T says:

    The Lynch movie is not really a science fiction film, its about the hero’s journey. The point of the rain was Paul creating a miracle. When Lynch shows tides in Paul’s eyes, it represents that he has learned how to make what he sees in his mind’s eye reality, that he has become the “superbeing” he was created to be, because he has finally embraced his abilities.

  88. Lin says:
    @AaronB

    “Frank Patrick Herbert Sr. and Eileen McCarthy – his parents. Not Jewish names.”
    BTW, Frank Herbert was a cousin of Joseph McCarthy, the guy with an ‘era’ named after him
    Herbert was very anti-communist; He probably disliked what people call ‘liberal’ future and longed for pre-communist political system
    The Fremen was modelled after the Israelis in exodus and Zealots.
    Paul Atreidis could be a sci-fi version of T.E. Lawrence(of arabia)
    A lot of Arabic/Islamic images were thrown in because the spice was likened to petroleum in industrial age.
    ….
    Charlotte Rampling will play Reverend Mother Mohiam in the remake. She is in her 70s now but still post nude in movies; not sure if she would demonstrate ‘vaginal pulsing’, a speciality of Bene Gesserit.
    ……
    Ever watch ‘The Night Porter’ starring Dirk Bogarde and Charlotte Rampling ?

  89. @Anon

    Excellent, insightful commentary. Exactement a point.

  90. Jim Given says:

    Mr. Lynch, you write:
    As a rule, science fiction is progressivist whereas fantasy literature is reactionary. Frank Herbert’s Dune saga—which eventually sprawled into six volumes—is the notable exception to this rule, for Dune is one of the most reactionary works of the human imagination

    An interesting, provocative maxim. But Dune is science fantasy. So I think it’s not a counter-example at all. Dune is psychological or spiritual science fiction. I like to use the terms “hard sci-fi” and “soft sci-fi” for sci-fi involving the hard sciences, and soft sciences, respectively. Soft sci-fi? Cordwainer Smith. Ray Bradbury. Much of Philip K Dick. But these authors are an odd blend of science fiction and science fantasy; also of reactionary and progressivist impulses. This is a sketch of a complex picture-

  91. Excal says:
    @Lurker

    And Foundation was basically an attempt to do an SF take on Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Asimov made no secret of that — “a little bit of cribbin’ from the works of Edward Gibbon”, as he liked to put it.

    I’m OK with Mr Lucas on this point (not on everything, certainly). The difference between a lazy rip-off and artistic cribbing is easy to spot.

  92. Excal says:

    I have read none of the Dune novels, but I have seen this movie, once. I quite enjoyed it, and I while I certainly found flaws, it was difficult for me to understand the rancor and derision directed toward it.

    I later realised that almost no-one who has read the Dune novels with interest seems to speak well of this movie, while those who enjoy it have typically, like me, never read the books.

    As other comments have pointed out, if you don’t bother yourself overmuch with the mechanics of the tale as told, you’ll be much more likely to enjoy it. I suppose someone who has not read the books would find this much easier.

  93. @Logan

    In the movie, the Baron orgasms while pulling the heart plug from the young catamite. It is a brilliantly done if disturbing scene which movingly illustrates his unchecked power and murderous hedonism.

  94. @SunBakedSuburb

    Because of the way I’m wired, movie renditions of important works generally leave me cold – Polanski’s Macbeth was the exception that proves the rule. Perfect casting, perfect cinematography – and it helped that the story itself is the archetypal tragedy.

    It’s my “go to” example of how a genuine masterpiece is obvious the second you see it (i.e., it doesn’t rely on being told it’s a masterpiece by some ‘expert’)… and of how rare masterpieces are: this is the only cinema masterpiece I’ve ever seen, and I reckon I’ve seen every movie that’s considered a masterpiece.

    Funnily enough, in the year I saw the Polanski version I was permitted to do my own ‘topic’ for my English assignment… a paper about how completely at odds Shakespeare’s Macbeth was, compared to the actual history of the time. Duncan was a shit king; Macbeth ruled for 40 years; etc… and how Shakespeare was basically sucking up to James I/VI (who had published “Daemonology”).

    To this day, when I think “Macbeth” my mental image is of Jon Finch in the role.

  95. Half-Jap says:
    @Hippopotamusdrome

    ikr?
    Although it’s rather difficult to imagine the Vikings, Samurais, Mongol horde, etc, to be in a desert setting… though the Mongols did annihilate the Islamic M.E.

  96. @Anonymous

    “What’s wrong with you?”

    I don’t get the negativity towards Prometheus (2012) and Alien Covenant (2017). They succeed as dark enchantments; dazzling monster movies.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  97. @Verymuchalive

    It sounds like they’ve already got a stellar supporting cast with the new adaptation: Josh Brolin, Jason Momoa, Javier Bardem, Oscar Isaac, and Stellan Skarsgard (as Gurney, Duncan, Stilgar, Duke Leto, and Baron Vladimir respectively).

    • Replies: @Che Guava
  98. @Trevor Lynch

    Also, it’s Kyle MacLachlan, not McLaughlin. No relation to the famous Canadian animal rights activist (and occasional singer) Sarah.

  99. awry says:
    @Hippopotamusdrome

    The Arabs conquered half of the old world through jihad, so they probably weren’t bad warriors back then. They are not well suited to modern warfare though, see “Why Arabs lose wars” for a succint summary why. Those shortcomings were either not present in the days of Arab Muslim conquests or weren’t relevant then. The original Muslim conquerors were similar to the Fremen in Dune.

  100. Anonymous[174] • Disclaimer says:
    @SunBakedSuburb

    Alien: Covenant was just trash but Prometheus has the most retarded script in the history of cinema. Every single character, including the robot and the giant, behaved stupidly. (((Damon Lindelof))) is one of the best/worst examples of undeserving jews working Hollywood.

  101. Che Guava says:

    Interesting point. I haven’t read the original three for some years, but actually enjoyed one or two of Frank Herbert”s later sequels. God-Emperor isn’t too bad. Wasn’t Ix (nine, with meaning forgntten) invaded and destroyed or disempowered in one of F. Herbert’s books?

    I poisoned my brain re. Dune by a brief phase of reading the execrable works of Brian Herbert and Kevin Whatever (Anderson, IIRC).

    For a real Dune fanatic, this site, jacurutu.com, may be of interest. Read only for me, four or five years ago, it has some interesting things (for example, I only knew of the planned and the never realised Jodorwsky version from reading posts and comments there).

  102. Che Guava says:
    @Hapalong Cassidy

    Oscar Isaac (I have no idea of who he is or what he looks like, the surname says it all) as Duke Leto is an atrocity.

  103. Anon[372] • Disclaimer says: • Website

    I had a strange experience with Lynchism last year.

    When TWIN PEAKS came out, I completely ignored it. First Lynch movie I saw was BLUE VELVET that didn’t quite do it for me. I was more amused than fascinated. It was later upon watching a midnight showing of ERASERHEAD that I realized that Lynch could be formidable. (I still don’t like BLUE VELVET though appreciate it more now.) His other masterpiece is MULHOLLAND DR.

    Anyway, I finally decided to see TWIN PEAKS last year but had no idea Lynch made Pt 2(the Return) recently. I took out THE RETURN from the library thinking it was the original. And it was weird because all the actors seemed so old. I knew TP came out in the late 80s, so I was baffled as to why the actors looked so wrinkled, why the special effects were so good(very CGI like), and etc. I saw the first few episodes this way, scratching my head, wondering what the hell is going on. It was like I was in some time loop. Finally, I did a bit of search and realized I was actually watching pt 2. It is overlong but has some great passages and is among Lynch’s most impressive achievements.

    I did try to see the original TP afterwards but couldn’t get into it. Besides, it seems much of the original was written and finished by someone else.

    Not long ago, Rob Ager came up with a list of his fav sci-fi films, among which was an OUTER-LIMITS episode written by Harlan Ellison called “Demon with a Glass Hand”. (Ellison was Jewish and DEMON is a very Jewishy story about a people trying to survive apocalypse against all odds. Just like Jews need to become ‘portable’ to survive displacement and loss of property, humanity finds an ingenious way to survive in the story. If people cannot survive in their current manifestation, their essence must be reduced to an essential formula, like a seed, that can grow into a tree once again when conditions are favorable once again.)

    I’d never seen OUTER LIMITS before, and it seems to have more far-out than TWILIGHT ZONE. It seems Lynch was affected by the TV shows of that era in a strange way. He didn’t merely see the images but the rays comprising the images and wondered at the hidden source and meaning. TV was like mass collective telepathy.
    In a way, the rise of TV turned all of humanity into one mass consciousness in an almost literal way. Everyone now saw the same images, follow the same stories, feel the same emotions, and etc and all under the control of the central command, the nerve-center of the system. Individuals went from atoms to neurons. Prior to TV, there was far less of a collective mindset. People read different newspapers and at different times. As their sense of community was primarily local than national or global because local affairs of news, gossip, and rumor shaped one’s sense of belonging. But with the TV in every home, people began to identify with archetypes created and shaped by Hollywood and NY Media. Of course, Cinema had a huge influence, but not all places had theaters and not all showed the same movies. And one had go to the theater. It wasn’t with you at all times like the TV in the home. Radio was like proto-TV, but there is something far more hypnotic about sound and image than sound alone. With radio, people heard the same voices and words, but each person formed his own images based on those words. Thus, people retained some degree of autonomy as ‘co-creators’ of narrative data. But with TV, everyone was spellbound by the same images. Since their minds were no longer activated to process words and form them into images, they became more passive and sheeplike under hypnosis. So-called hipsters are really hypsters. It seems Lynch has infrared vision in seeing more in the image than most of us did. And TWIN PEAKS is like one long avant-garde version of OUTER LIMITS, a kind of Bunuel meets American TV.

    • Replies: @MEH 0910
    , @SunBakedSuburb
  104. G. Poulin says:
    @Sergey Krieger

    Yeah, but their fucking moon rocket blew up on the launch pad. I wouldn’t trust the commies to get me to fucking Omsk.

    • Replies: @El Dato
    , @Sergey Krieger
  105. MEH 0910 says:
    @Anon

    I did try to see the original TP afterwards but couldn’t get into it. Besides, it seems much of the original was written and finished by someone else.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Frost

    Mark Frost (born November 25, 1953) is an American novelist, screenwriter, director and film producer, best known as a writer for the television series Hill Street Blues and as the co-creator of the television series Twin Peaks.

  106. El Dato says:
    @G. Poulin

    That’s when an organization that is supposed to perform engineering is based on a strict command hierarchy model where nonsensical orders from above must be obeyed in defiance of physical/cognitive/technical laws and/or face-saving is an important activity.

    I get the impression that more and more “engineering” outfits work according to this dysfunctional model.

  107. El Dato says:
    @Rich

    Although in no way a devout Christian, I was raised a Roman Catholic and was kind of turned off by the quasi-religion Herbert created,

    Herbert correctly described a Religion as a tool to control the masses for the benefit of a few or create social cohesion against adversity. A tool which will continue to lie dormant for a long time until it can be picked up by the next adventurer.

    There is nothing absolute in religion. It’s just an ensemble of self-contradictory memes. There is no quasi-religion either.

    Look at the World, three abrahamic religions? Really? Zero of that shit would be best. But then again, even if those were forgotten forever, they would recreate themselves from mental fragments.

    Herbert, being a Jew, is allowed to favor his people,

    Herbert ain’t jewish.

  108. El Dato says:
    @Asagirian

    The Star Trek with the Enterprise from the Evil Universe!

  109. @G. Poulin

    Count your own blown up shuttles moron. With people inside.

  110. Anon[189] • Disclaimer says: • Website

    Jay Dyer on DUNE

    • Replies: @Talha
  111. @Anon

    My memories of Dune are that the novel is a boring slog, the movie is worse, and the fans are weirdos

    You and me both, friend.

    Give that man a coconut.

  112. @Sollipsist

    It was a wreck then and a joke now.

    Harsh.

    But sadly, absolutely accurate.

  113. @MEH 0910

    lol

    Put it on ebay. My guess is you’ll be very rich.

  114. I normally have a lot of time for films – and film reviews. Mr Lynch’s writings here almost always amuse, entertain and educate me.

    BUT… this is a film (and review) too far for me – for more reasons than I have time or energy to discuss.

    Suffice to say – 5700 words (5700 ? Really ? ) of rambling, non-linear re-telling of a rambling, non-linear film – which was universally reviewed and acknowledged at time of original release to be an utterly mangled, unintelligible, heavy-handed, mis-judged, laughable abortion of a film, with a disastrous script, and a self-obsessed Director whose only interest was in his own personal “vision”, as opposed to any focussed explanation or interpretation of the novel itself. And like many here, I have known very few film buffs who, familiar with the novel, thought it was a successful adaptation. Nothing I have ploughed through here has changed any part of my mind, or my feelings about it.

    So each to their own. I won’t take any trouble to read any further. But if you really are planning to publish further about it, for Christ’s sake, at least make the following basic correction:

    Kyle MACLACHLAN.

  115. @Anon

    “And Twin Peaks is like one long avant-garde version of Outer Limits, a kind of Bunuel meets American TV.”

    Interesting comment. The original, early 1960s version of Outer Limits contained some great science fiction stories and concepts. I’m a Lynch fan but find Twin Peaks, which does have its moments and mood, to be a bit of a slog. I think Lynch’s vision works best in the feature film format. And we’re in agreement: Mulholland Drive (2001) is a masterpiece.

  116. Muggles says:

    Lots of interesting comments here, SF lit can be a weird wormhole for sure. But good for young minds.

    My Dune take was, reading the first three or four of the books, though as noted by others, they tended to get worse and eventually boring.

    As for the film, not like the book (too bad) but had its moments. The one thing that struck me when I first watched the “extended version” of the film is how despite being something like twice as long as the original film, it was very confusing and practically incoherent. No wonder Lynch didn’t want his name on it. I thought perhaps this was simply padded out with scenes cut from the original. Perhaps some. But while I was familiar with the book and first film, I got totally lost in the long version.

    Very odd: twice as long but half as comprehensible. Why do that?

    A lot of SF doesn’t age well (all those clunky computer monitors, which soon will be holographic or something) but if done well with actual plots and human problems being addressed, it can hold up and entertain and expand thinking

    • Agree: Endgame Napoleon
    • Replies: @Dave Bowman
  117. @jim jones

    It is true that the hardest part of any artistic endeavor is knowing what to leave out. This includes AI. The programmer / artists are smart enough to know better. They know they should not create a product that reduces the number of private spaces to near-zero, like facial recognition, a sci-fi nightmare that could be avoided by conservative design principles / laws. The products should be 100% under human control, serving us rather than surveilling us 24/7 in the service of selling soap.

  118. Talha says:
    @Anon

    Great analysis!!! One of the best I’ve heard – thanks for posting!

    Peace.

  119. @Digital Samizdat

    Luke Skywalker shows Han Solo his new mechanical hand while C3PIO looks on. STTESB.

  120. @TKK

    Semitic is also Arabs. In the future, the universe will be ruled by Shaddam Hussein of Iraqqis.

  121. You did a great job on this piece. Not only did I watch DUNE based on your recommendation, but I wouldn’t have understood it sufficiently without reading this essay. And it was one of the best sci-fi films I have ever seen.

    Loved it! 9/10

  122. @El Dato

    …why did Lynch go all the way with the convenient murder device. Smallpox Meatloaf alone is enough. That was horrific when I watched it as a kid.

    That means the scene was a success. It was supposed to be horrific. That’s scene (in it’s entirety) is one of the ten best ever filmed in the history of cinema (in my opinion).

  123. The TV miniseries is far superior to the movie. Even allowing for the broadcast media in both cases, the miniseries is better. I have both, and the miniseries is far richer and far better acted.

    • Replies: @Trevor Lynch
  124. @Quartermaster

    I disagree, for reasons given in my review (also on this site), from which I quote:

    First, the special effects are abysmal, far inferior to Lynch’s which predate the age of computer animation.

    Second, although some of the interior and exterior sets are imaginative, the costumes are mostly bad, especially the silly headgear.

    Third, something is wrong with the sound. There are patches of the film where the dialogue is unintelligible, and not just because of the exotic accents of some of the Czech actors. The worst offender, actually, is William Hurt as Duke Leto Atreides, who sounds like he is mumbling through wooden teeth. To make matters worse, the DVD set I have does not have subtitles.

    Fourth, the script is wordy, a flaw the stands out in the scenes that have direct equivalents in the Lynch film.

    Fifth, the Fremen’s various gestures and rituals are muddled and clumsy, lacking in the stark simplicity one would expect of such people.

    Sixth, the only decent music sounds like Brian Eno’s “Prophecy” theme from the Lynch film.

    Seventh, I don’t like a lot of the cast. Some of them are ugly and others are terrible actors. Most of the casting and acting is far inferior to the Lynch film, particularly the characters of Duke Leto, Lady Jessica, Reverend Mother Mohiam, Stilgar, Dr. Yueh, Dr. Kynes, Thufir Hawat, Piter de Vries, Mapes, and Chani.

    Alec Newman is actually good as Paul Atreides, but there are precious few scenes where he plays off anyone equal to him. I also liked Julie Cox as Princess Irulan, whose role is expanded from narrator to agent. This bit of tampering did not bother me, since it sets the stage for her more prominent role in the subsequent novels, and some of her lines are taken from characters in the original novel. I also liked Ian McNeice as Baron Harkonnen, whose portrayal is faithful to Herbert, whereas Lynch’s unforgettable Grand-Guignol Baron owes much to his own sick imagination. P. H. Moriarty’s Gurney Halleck is not bad, but he is no improvement on Lynch’s Patrick Stewart. The same is true of Giancarlo Giannini’s Emperor Shaddam IV and Matt Keeslar’s Feyd: not bad, but not better.

    • Replies: @jamie b.
  125. jamie b. says:
    @Trevor Lynch

    …the costumes are mostly bad…

    This seems to be very common for British SciFi.

    Third, something is wrong with the sound.

    This seems to be common for all British TV.

  126. Anonymous[330] • Disclaimer says:

    I used to recite the Mentat mantra while driving in to work a few jobs ago. It seemed appropriate at the time.

  127. Factorize says:

    I have recently begun a highly compulsive reading regimen. I have read through Asimov’s complete Foundation series, just read Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles ( very impressed!), and now I ready to start the Dune trilogy.

    This binge on fiction as a source of fun is highly out of charcater for me. My high school reading of Wuthering Heights has left a life long distaste for reading for pleasure. Might any on the thread have reading suggestions? Adult orientated sci-fi based more on ideas than violence and literary porn is what I am after. Asimov spent a great deal too much time in his novels obsessed about bathroom rituals.

    • Replies: @jamie b.
    , @Anonymous
  128. jamie b. says:
    @Factorize

    Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama.

  129. Anonymous[227] • Disclaimer says:
    @Factorize

    William Gibson’s short stories, “Sprawl” series and “Bridge” series, in that order.

  130. Jim S says:

    Gibson has only gotten better. His recent stuff is worth re-reading. Clarke was an occultist, unfortunately, but his works are still worth reading as long as you keep that in mind.

    Philip K Dick ought to be required reading. His stories zip along and can easily dismissed as pulp, especially as he reuses the same now-quaint lexicon throughout his work, but he was quite the thinker. “Ahead of his time” might apply. The adaptations of his work completely subvert his themes (Trevor, I believe you missed the all-seeing-eye symbology in your Bladerunner review–the opening sequence with the alternating shots of the pyramid and the close-up eyeball are to be taken as one image, but I’ll have to go back and re-read it); The Man in the High Castle particularly is not a story about the Third Reich vs Imperial Japan but a sneaky vehicle to deliver a truthful depiction of our modern world–“the black iron prison” as he called it elsewhere. Actually, I haven’t watched A Scanner Darkly, so I can’t comment on whether that story has been subverted or not. Once you have read Dick’s fiction, go read his later interviews.

    Heinlein is great, but I never grokked his later work, so I might have to revisit him. Stanislaw Lem is up there. For more SF and less philosophy, Larry Niven and Alastair Reynolds, but their later stuff (Reynolds is still writing) can be missed. Iain Banks is terrific for space opera-type reading, though the personality that shines through his prose strikes me as not particularly pleasant.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  131. @Muggles

    SF lit… good for young minds.

    I don’t completely agree. Historically, reading was almost always a good and positive thing – a road to better self-education, a brighter mind and higher abilities for millions of deprived and overlooked people in a failing educational system.

    But we now have an entire generation of feckless, workshy, screen-addicted teen geek cretins and losers who immerse their waking moments in (often violent and blood-soaked) sci-fi “special effects”, and would rather spend years learning (and taking exams in) fucking Klingon, than get their heads out of their naive, know-nothing, spoilt middle-class asses and look at exactly what is happening to their nation and their world. There are many advantages to the speed and ease of high-quality educational screen learning – but there are also plenty more of uncontrolled sci-fi and fantasy’s manifold mental effects on society which today are 100% negative.

  132. Anonymous[318] • Disclaimer says:
    @Jim S

    Gibson has only gotten better. His recent stuff is worth re-reading.

    That’s not my experience but I stopped reading after “Pattern Recognition” (first in “Blue Ant/Bigend” series). He was still very “clever”, occasionally in that book, but the magic, hunger, drive and inspiration was clearly gone. It happens with age and comfort but his previous works will always burn with transcendental meaning:

    Short Stories:
    “Burning Chrome”

    Sprawl Series:
    “Neuromancer”
    “Count Zero”
    “Mona Lisa Overdrive”

    Bridge Series:
    “Virtual Light”
    “Idoru”
    “All Tomorrow’s Parties”

    Are you talking about “Archangel” series? I did not read that.

  133. Factorize says:

    Thank you everyone for the suggestions!
    Could be a while though before I make it to them.
    I am debating whether or not I should read through the full Dune saga first.

    With the Asimov and Bradbury books I have been able to plow through them in a day. The Dune books appear to have a much higher level of complexity and could take a while. I think I will also take a detour to Fahrenheit 451. I was very impressed by Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles. I think his stories were ripped off in every episode in the original Star Trek series. Did they have ever pay him for the use of his ideas? Or did they just say “Oh no, we thought up the same ideas and the same dramatic feel all by ourselves.” Yeah, right. For me it is usually not easy to put the pieces together so exactly, though this seems almost self-apparent.

    Anyone have ideas for sci-fi that explores the implications of polygenic selection. I am fairly notorious on unz for my focus on
    1500 IQ humanoids. For whatever reason science fiction has apparently overlooked the possibility of this technology. Yet here we are now and the paper in Nature Genetics revealing over a thousand SNPs associated with Educational Attainment was published over nine months ago and a new generation of genetically enhanced humans might now be in the maternity wards and sci-fi has not prepared us at all.

    The shorthand for this is: All humans have a great number of common variants associated with IQ. With a large amount of embryo selection anyone could have a child with an IQ over 200. How will we possibly cope? Any sci-fi suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  134. Anonymous[318] • Disclaimer says:
    @Factorize

    I am fairly notorious on unz for my focus on 1500 IQ humanoids.

    True, in my case, but that’s not appealing at this moment – for me, at least.

    1) What would be the difference between a 150 IQ person and a 1500 IQ “person” (fuck me, sideways), in your own words?

    2) What’s your’s IQ, BTW?

  135. Factorize says:

    1). 150 IQ is roughly 3 SD intelligence. This person would have perhaps 300 more net positive IQ SNPs than average.

    1500 IQ is roughly 100 SD intelligence. A person with 1500 IQ would have possibly 10,000 more net positive SNPs than average.

    Phenotypically, some might simply give up with comparisons and describe a person with an IQ over 200 as smart. However, psychometricians likely would be able to create an accurate ranking, especially if they were to have polygenic scores on hand.

    To have at least some insight into what our super-smart world of tomorrow might be like we can draw on the life of John von Neumann. He helped invent the first computer and then immediately recognized that this would inevitably lead to a Singularity Event, the atomic bomb, the hydrogen bomb, infiltrated the CIA with his own cell and then tried to have a first nuclear strike against a non-nuclear Soviet Union. He could read a book and recall it word for word years later. This describes the potential of a 200 IQ person. With current research after a few generations of genetic selection, any parent will be able to have children with this level of ability. The technology is cheap and already available.

    1500 IQ is clearly far beyond what we can even imagine now. Likely it is best to think of the computer analogy. We have some computers that have 100 IQ that operate at 1 Gigahertz with a 1 TB hard drive and 20 GB ram. Other computers have 1000 IQ that operate at 1 Terahertz with a PB hard drive and 20 EB ram.

    This is such an awe no inspiring moment. The Cognitive Singularity Event is starting right now! This is the biggest adventure in the history of the universe. We no longer need to read about science fiction: We can live it!

    2) My IQ? <1000. Hardly matters anymore. We need to prepare ourselves for a wave of nearly infinite psychometric potential. Our universe will soon be saturated with genius.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  136. Anonymous[318] • Disclaimer says:
    @Factorize

    1) My question was: “What would be the difference between a 150 IQ person and a 1500 IQ “person”, in your own words?”

    2) It matters because you have no clue what you’re talking about. You can’t, possibly, “prepare” us for a 1500 IQ world if you’re struggling to grasp 150 IQ concepts. Lay off the weed and the real awe-inspiring targets might shift to the real world. Failing that, reveal yourself as a member of a lizard-species from outer space and please drop a pic of yourself holding a today’s newspaper.

    Anyway, what’s your IQ?

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