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Nerd Bastards Retro Movie Review: Dune

(‘Retro movie review’ is a bi-weekly feature by guest writer Delilah Dawson. D. takes a look back at some of our generations best nerdiest movies and makes us appreciate them all over again.)
And I’m talking about the theatrical version of the original 1984 David Lynch interpretation of Frank Herbert’s classic saga, written in 1965. This is *not* the long version, *not* the super-extra-long version, and *not* the fancy new miniseries they did in 2000.

Are we good there, Dune purists? Okay. Moving on.

Dune begins like Star Wars, with space, except instead of words, we get the princess of the entire known universe, and she says this:


Blah blah blah. The universe is ruled by Padashaw Emperor Shaddam IV, who lives on the planet Caitan. And the Tickle Me Elmo of the universe in year 10-thousand-something is THE SPICE, which MUST FLOW. See, these dudes who evolved over four thousand years into giant brainiac things with vagina mouths and live in tanks use spice to live a long time and bend space and get high.

So here’s a picture of all that, along with some extras from Dark City.


I’ve seen this movie a thousand times, and I’ve read the book, and IT STILL BARELY MAKES SENSE. In fact, there’s such an info dump that they begin by showing the main character, Paul Atreides, doing his homework. And we, the audience, are forced to do his homework with him. It looks like this.


Did you get that? The diagram covers the four major planets, their identifying adjectives, the main pets of the ruling families, how to recognize the denizens, the names of the guys in charge, and a brilliant line about the people who live there that was cut off because I’m working in Paint instead of Photoshop LE and it is HORRIBLE.

Okay. So. Paul is played by David Lynch’s favorite whipping boy, Poor Potato-Headed Kyle McLachlan. He’s pretty young and ever more almost-cute than he was on Sex and the City, not that I watched that, because I AM A GEEK, DAMMIT.

What else is there for the ladies?

Only STING IN A LOINCLOTH.


If anything in 1980’s cinema can rival David Bowie’s crotchlump in Labyrinth, that’s it. Right there.

But I digress. You’re here for the completely crazy story that doesn’t make sense when condensed into 2 hours, much less a movie review.

Four planets. One emperor. Two families, the awesome Atreides and the awful, pustulent, red-haired Harkonnens, of which Sting is the only non-pustulent one. Their leader is Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, and he’s a looker.


See, everybody wants the SPICE, which comes from Arrakis. So the Atreides family goes there. Here’s Paul’s mom and dad, post-coitus.

See, Paul’s mom is a nun/witch, and she has this creepy commanding voice that makes people do what she says. The head nunwitch is using her as breeding stock, but she isn’t pleased with Paul, cuz he’s a dude. She makes him put his hand in a painbox, and if he takes out his hand, she’s going to kill him.

BECAUSE NOBODY MINDS WHEN YOU KILL ROYAL KIDS.

Paul passes, which means he *might* be the messiah. But we’re not sure. So we follow Paul to Arrakis, a sand planet with no water and lots of SPICE and giant worms.

That’s not a worm. That’s a llama. But they look a lot like that, just bigger and more like Sarlacc pits. And we think they might be the source of SPICE, but we’re not sure.

So the Harkonnens kill all the Atreides. Paul and his mom escape and crash land in the sand, where they move in with the native Fremen, who have blue on blue eyes and wear suits that look like Batman crossed with a pillbug to recycle their water.

ALL their water. Yes, they DRINK PEE.


Paul teaches them how to kill using a sound machine called a Weirding Module. They learn that Paul’s Fremen name, Muad’Dib, is a killing word. And they stop spice production by blowing up stuff by saying the word Muad’Dib into their arms.

And Patrick Stewart shows up with a mandolin. Screw Captain Corelli’s Mandolin– I’m all about Captain Picard’s Mandolin.


Another of Paul’s friends has one of the best names in literature: Duncan Idaho. I’m 100% certain he’s played by Robert Urich, but somehow he never is.


And so then Paul’s mom eats some SPICE and has a premature baby who talks only in a freaky voice and completely terrifies me all the time.


More about her later.

So then Paul eats some SPICE and has weirdo visions about moons and water and his girlfriend and creepy brain guys with vagina mouths bending space in tanks full of orange juice and he’s the messiah and he saves everybody and becomes the emperor of the universe.

He also fights Sting while wearing a shield shaped like Tetris blocks.


And Paul Usul Muad’Dib Atreides Messiah wins.

And his creepy little sister turns out to be the perfect being of the crazy nunwitches, who call her the Kwisatz Haderach. And his mom becomes the queen of the nunwiches and has to shave half her head and look like the Spider Queen from Krull.

And then Paul puts on sun god robes, and a thousand naked women throw little pickles at him. I could be confusing that with Real Genius, but it’s something quite similar.


And then everyone in the audience stands up and says WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT? AM I DRUNK? DID YOU SPIKE MY PEPSI? THAT MADE NO SENSE! THAT MADE LESS SENSE THAN BATTLEFIELD EARTH! LET’S GO GET SOME PIZZA AND NEVER DISCUSS IT AGAIN.

And that’s why I love Dune.

For more pundit musings and other various goofy-ness you can check out Delilah’s website unrulyhelpmeet.com. You can also follow her on twitter @DelilahSDawson

Category: Film, reviews

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