Dune is a 1984 science fiction film written and directed by David Lynch, based on the 1965 Frank Herbert novel of the same name. The film stars Kyle MacLachlan as Paul Atreides, and includes an ensemble of well-known American and European actors in supporting roles. It was filmed at the Churubusco Studios in Mexico City and included a soundtrack by the band Toto. The plot concerns a young man foretold as the “Kwisatz Haderach” who will lead the native Fremen of the titular desert planet to victory over the malevolent House Harkonnen.
After the success of the novel, attempts to adapt Dune for a film began as early as 1971. A lengthy process of development hell followed throughout the 1970s, during which time both Arthur P. Jacobs and Alejandro Jodorowsky tried to bring their visions to the screen. In 1981, Lynch was hired as director by executive producer Dino De Laurentiis.
The film was not well-received by critics and performed poorly at the American box office. Upon its release, Lynch distanced himself from the project, stating that pressure from both producers and financiers restrained his artistic control and denied him final cut. At least three different versions of Dune have been released worldwide. In some cuts Lynch’s name is replaced in the credits with the name Alan Smithee, a pseudonym used by directors who wished not to be associated with a film for which they would normally be credited.
In the far future, the known universe is ruled by Padishah Emperor Shaddam Corrino IV (José Ferrer); the most precious substance in his sprawling feudal galactic empire is the spice melange, which extends life, expands consciousness, and is vital to space travel. The Spacing Guild and its prescient Navigators use the spice to “fold space” and safely guide interstellar ships to any part of the universe instantaneously.
Sensing a potential threat to spice production, the Guild sends an emissary to demand an explanation from the Emperor, who confidentially shares his plans to destroy House Atreides. The popularity of Duke Leto Atreides (Jürgen Prochnow) has grown, and he is suspected to be amassing a secret army using sonic weapons called Weirding Modules, making him a threat to the Emperor. Shaddam’s plan is to give the Atreides control of the planet Arrakis, the only source of spice, and to have them ambushed there by their longtime enemies, the Harkonnens. The Navigator commands the Emperor to kill the Duke’s son, Paul Atreides (Kyle MacLachlan), a young man who dreams prophetic visions of his purpose. The order draws the attention of the Bene Gesserit sisterhood, as Paul is tied to their centuries-long breeding program which seeks to produce the superhuman Kwisatz Haderach. Paul is tested by the Bene Gesserit Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam (Siân Phillips). With a deadly gom jabbar at his throat, Paul is forced to place his hand in a box which subjects him to excruciating pain. He passes to Mohiam’s satisfaction.
Meanwhile, on the industrial world of Giedi Prime, the sadistic Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Kenneth McMillan) tells his nephews Glossu Rabban (Paul L. Smith) and Feyd-Rautha (Sting) about his plan to eliminate the Atreides by manipulating someone into betraying the Duke. The Atreides leave Caladan for Arrakis, a barren desert planet plagued by gigantic sandworms and populated by the Fremen, mysterious people who have long held a prophecy that a messiah would come to lead them to freedom. Upon arrival on Arrakis, Leto is informed by one of his right-hand men, Duncan Idaho (Richard Jordan), that the Fremen have been underestimated, as they exist in vast numbers and could prove to be powerful allies. Leto gains the trust of Fremen, but before the Duke can establish an alliance with them, the Harkonnens launch their attack.
While the Atreides had anticipated a trap, they are unable to withstand the attack, supported by the Emperor’s elite troops, the Sardaukar, and aided by a traitor within House Atreides itself, Dr. Wellington Yueh (Dean Stockwell). Captured, Leto dies in a failed attempt to assassinate the Baron Harkonnen using a poison gas capsule planted in his tooth by Dr. Yueh. Leto’s concubine Jessica (Francesca Annis) and his son Paul escape into the deep desert, where they manage to join a band of Fremen. Paul emerges as Muad’Dib, the leader the Fremen have been waiting for. Paul teaches the Fremen to use the Weirding Modules and begins targeting mining production of spice. Within two years, spice production is effectively halted. The Emperor is warned by the Spacing Guild of the situation on Arrakis. The Guild fears that Paul will consume the Water of Life. These fears are revealed to Paul in a prophetic dream; he drinks the Water of Life and enters a coma. Awaking, he is transformed and gains control of the sandworms of Arrakis. He has discovered that water kept in huge caches by the Fremen can be used to destroy the spice. Paul has also seen into space and the future; the Emperor is amassing a huge invasion fleet above Arrakis to regain control of the planet and the spice.
Upon the Emperor’s arrival at Arrakis, he executes Rabban for failing to remedy the spice situation. Paul launches a final attack against the Harkonnens and the Emperor at the capital city of Arrakeen. His Fremen warriors defeat the Emperor’s legions of Sardaukar, while Paul’s sister Alia (Alicia Witt) kills Baron Harkonnen. Paul faces the defeated Emperor and relieves him of power, then engages Feyd-Rautha in a duel to the death. After Paul defeats Feyd, rain falls on Arrakis. Alia declares, “And how can this be? For he is the Kwisatz Haderach!”
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First Published: Feb 1, 2012 – Last Updated: May 3, 2013