|08.09.20||Internet|| Arrakis. Dune. Desert Planet.|
Sometimes life seems to give you hints at direction. I stumbled upon this four and a half hour dissertation on YouTube about the 'true' meaning behind Twin Peaks that led to another two hours or so of follow-up from the same uploader. This inevitably led to re-watching several David Lynch interviews and a general urge to re-visit all of his films.
Meanwhile, I was watching another video from a D&D content creator where he used Dune as an example of chaotic versus lawful societies. He also spoke of working on a Dune RPG back in the day and how easily it translated because of how distinct the classes were (Mentat, bene gesserit, fremen, etc.).
Meanwhile, I listened to a podcast where the gang played various robots and cryogenically frozen patriots brought back hundreds of years into the future to sing for a cruise ship full of robot avatars. The characters in that podcast were Pepsi Liberty, Shoots McCracken, 48 (standing for the number of words in a certain Tim McGraw song), and Benny Gene Esserit.
With all this swirling through my head, I remembered hearing about some extended TV cut of the film that aired on SyFy or something where they restored or added a lengthy prologue of exposition and generally expanded the theatrical version in an effort to follow the book or something. A quick google search later, I found a fan edit (in the vein of the Star Wars Despecialized editions) where some superfan had cut together a bunch of different sources to make what he called 'the complete saga:' a version closest to what he thought Lynch's vision was. With Denis Villaneuve's adaptation on the horizon, i thought it would be a good time to revisit this in a new edition to see what I had missed.
It's three hours long. It's weird to say, but I feel like the prologue explains things too much. Maybe it's because i'm a little familiar with the story but i feel like things are said two, three times in a row throughout the prologue.
While the superfan does an admirable job of assembling all these bits and pieces, it still comes off as janky and inconsistent, both in audio and visual presentation and narrative. There are some additions that seem integral and make no sense why they were cut, but others interrupt the narrative flow pretty harshly and probably only serve to show more footage, like watching a movie with the deleted scenes put back in.
One thing I did really like was the length of the film and the novelistic approach of title cards throughout. I paused it at one point and was super glad to see that i still had an hour and a half left. I really felt like I was living in the world.
With all this added stuff, the action doesn't really kick in until halfway through... doesn't really start shooting forward until the third hour and then the flaws in the theatrical cut come through with how condensed the timeline is. A lot of pretty disappointing voice-over from multiple sources tries to explain which random scene you're watching but after the detailed and deliberate pace of the first half, the second feels like it's on fast-forward.
It might sound weird, but I think I might prefer the theatrical cut. The movie is flawed regardless, but at least the theatrical cut is properly mixed and looks great. Plus I'd prefer more mystery and having to read the book in order to know what's going on to a ten-minute exposition dump to start the film. I'm still glad I saw this version though, and I'll probably keep it around for posterity.
Lynch brings up how displeased he was with this project in pretty much every interview he does. It's a bit of a shame though, because many many things about this movie are very good. Much of the costume and production design are exemplary and present a great mid-80s vision of fantasy. The optical and practical effects come off as charming to me now. The score is pretty great, and most of the actors kill it. I'm sure there was a better version in Lynch's mind that Dino De Laurentiis butchered in the name of the budget, but what we have is still entertaining... obviously some people love it enough to edit together their own cuts!
It's also interested how independent so much of the design is from the stuff Jodorowsky had imagined. I think only that metal mouth on the Harkonnen planet would fit in his version of the film.
Anyway, I enjoyed falling back into this world. I do with it was a little better, but what are you gonna do? Maybe this new one... maybe.