May. 23, 2012 - Issue #866: Little Elephants
The drug on the planet Dune, which fuels time-folding intergalactic travel, lengthens life, and "expands consciousness," is melange. The story itself, though, is a curious mélange of environmentalism (a resource war), '60s trippiness, Christianity (a Messiah's prophesied; melange is a spice, like myrrh), Arab references (a Dune priestess talks of a "ji'had") and Zen notions of mental will. Probably the only way anyone could've worked all that, plus the complex power-struggles on four planets, into a proper adaptation was if they'd time-travelled ahead 25 years and had HBO bankroll a Game of Thrones-like miniseries.
What we get, at best, are enthralling shots: some wondrously rococo and Gaudí-like sets; flashes of steampunk (a whirring fight-machine); eerie aerial pans over the desert. At worst, most scenes seem out of a stilted chamber-drama, with backstory-burdened dialogue and stiff lines. A soporific languor often takes hold. Certain moments just come off as kitschy (a poison-gas tooth is an assassination device out of C-grade James Bond). At least the punkish depravity of the Eastern Bloc-like Harkonnens (including Sting, wearing leather and a codpiece) undercuts the movie's super-seriousness. But it's hard to disagree with critic Robin Wood that the scene where Baron Harkonnen (his oozing lesions making him like a dying AIDS patient) bloodsucks a young man is anything less than "obscenely homophobic." The script's emphasis on women as concubines and "no woman-child" able to withstand the pain that Christ-like Paul Atreides (Kyle MacLachlan) endures makes 10191 AD seem pointlessly regressive. But then, that's the movie's problem, too—for every visual that's fantastically captivating, there's a plot point or line of dialogue that time-folds us backward, right out of the action.
Fri, May 25 (11 pm)
Directed by David Lynch
Metro Cinema at The Garneau
Originally released: 1984
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