To begin with, let’s make sure we have all got this straight: David Lynch doesn’t play by your rules. In the world of cinema, especially the kind of pop art house cinema that Lynch works within, many work extraordinarily hard to be seen as iconoclast, insightful, and cerebral sometimes to the point of obfuscation. Lynch does this effortlessly. He does this so well that even in a film like Dune, a massive commercial sci-fi action enterprise in which he himself claims that he “sold out,” he delivers something more striking and unusual than most artists create in their careers.
The film is a space opera following the political machinations of a large empire whose operations are tied to the production of “spice” on the planet Arrakis. The emperor believes that Duke Leto of House Atreides is becoming too popular and a possible adversary, so he attempts to maneuver a fight between House Atreides and House Harkonnen on Arrakis in which the Harkonnen will win and destroy the Atreides. What the emperor does not know is that Duke Leto’s son Paul may be the mythical Kwisatz Haderach, a savior figure that the religious sisterhood the Bene Gesserit have been trying to create through genetic manipulations between the bloodlines of the universe. Oh, and there are giant awesome sandworms.
It’s hard to believe that Lynch ever even made Dune, a movie with a massive budget that included a production crew of 1,700. Dune was only Lynch’s third feature-length film, following the head-tripping Eraserhead and The Elephant Man. Dune was to be his big commercial breakout. Instead, it was largely regarded as one of the worst films of 1984.
Lynch distanced himself from the film. He now refers to it as his only failure, the film in which he compromised himself and gave up control. The film was produced by Dino de Laurentis, a sometimes controversial film godfather. There are conflicting reports, but the general consensus seems to be that Lynch presented a very rough cut to producers that came in at around four hours. He said he was planning on cutting it down to three hours, but the film was taken over by the producers and they, with some assistance from Lynch, cut it down to two hours and 16 minutes, the length of this new Blu-ray release. There is a three-hour extended edition that Lynch disapproves of even more, as it was compiled out of bits and pieces of leftover material for syndicated television.