Follow TV Tropes


YMMV / Dune (1984)

Go To

  • Angst? What Angst?: In the original book, Muad'Dib is fearful of the prospect of the inevitable jihads in his name, and takes displeasure when seeing one of the Fremen crying his name while killing a foe. In this adaptation, Muad'Dib practically embraces the jihads, and while he notices that his name has become a killing word thanks to the "weirding modules", he doesn't dwell on it at all. Not even for a second. Instead, he just acknowledges it and moves right along with his plan to ride a sandworm.
  • Ass Pull: At least in the 2 hours-version, before the climax there's no prior exposition to state that the Atreides had atomic weapons, or even that atomic weapons exist at all in the Dune setting, which makes the scene where Paul uses atomics to create a shortcut through the mountain right before the attack look like a Deus ex Machina. This is actually an Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole caused by the aforementioned lack of exposition, as the scene is similar in the novel.
  • Awesome Music:
    • Nothing beats the Toto score from the film, especially the thunderous main title, the "Desert Theme", and one of the best orchestral pop songs, "Take My Hand". The climax of the score "Big Battle" and its epic choir + electric guitar riff is also played in many times when the film is referenced in reviews.
    • The memorable Prophecy Theme (the film's main theme) composed by Brian Eno.
    • The television extended cut uses unused music takes and other sources for a catchy theme.
  • Audience-Coloring Adaptation: Despite the movie being a critical dud and a box office failure, it became a Cult Classic and has colored the perception many people have of the Dune universe.
    • Many "look and feel" elements original to the film went down in history as part of the Dune franchise, being often aped by the works that followed, to the point many people don't know they weren't in the original book. Sonic weapons were created for the film, yet they have turned up in subsequent works; telekinesis and telepathy went to appear in the prequels; it's very rare to see the Emperor depicted without a neat little beard these days; and Bene Gesserit are often depicted as bald and/or bizarrely dressed, just like they were here. Frank Herbert himself liked the concept of there being multiple stages of Guild Navigators (the one seen at the beginning of the film was said by the Emperor to be a Third Stage Guild Navigator).
    • The same happened with the Trope Codifier of Real-Time Strategy video games, Dune II, which was inspired by this film's visuals and some plot elements. The remake Dune 2000 went further and had Full Motion Video cutscenes with Expies of the Emperor, Thufir Hawat and Piter de Vries with different names but the same costumes and appearances as in the film (the actor playing De Vries channels Brad Dourif as hard as he can, and he also recites the Mentat Mantra and refers to Harkonnen heart plugs, both of which are film-original), and even a bit of film footage. The cutscenes even have original Fremen and Bene Gesserit characters whose costumes are based on the film. Dune 2000 itself got a quasi-sequel/reboot Emperor: Battle for Dune which continued the trend, with renamed heads of Houses showing up in person and dressed like their film counterparts.
    • The film making the story more black and white compared to the original book has led to the assumption that the series in general is much the same, which has carried over to the above video games (where the Atreides are plainly described and depicted as noble without any shades of grey) and the TV and 2021 movie adaptations, and one really has to delve into the books to learn otherwise.
    • The "blue-within-blue" eyes of the Fremen (an inevitable effect of long-term spice exposure) were portrayed here with a post-process effect that makes their irises appear to glow blue (with the sclerae being paler blue than the irises, likely as an effect of the blue light shining over reflective white), which takes the opposite route from the books (where extreme spice users/addicts like Guild Navigators have eyes so dark blue that they look almost black, and even regular Fremen's eyes look like "black pits" in poor light). Glowing eyes have since become the standard depiction in other adaptations, to the point of the miniseries actually making the blue glow vanish if the eyes were in direct bright light (and sometimes only the irises were blue, with the sclerae remaining white). Most adaptations also tend to simplify things by only giving Fremen blue eyes, and downplaying or ignoring the eye change of other spice-addict characters.
    • To further show the influence of this film, there are noticeable aesthetic similarities between it and the Denis Villeneuve version. Elements like the Sardaukar wearing pressure suits, the Baron undergoing oil baths, and the attires worn by both Harkonnens and Atreides are directly taken from this film.
    • In a subversion, common knowledge claims this film was the first to give the sandworms their signature tripartite jaw, which isn't mentioned in the book, yet this is actually Older Than They Think. The puppets used to portray the worms in the film do have this trait, and so it went certainly to influence all the next adaptations, to the point the design used in the Villeneuve film became divisive precisely because it doesn't have it. However, this did not originate here; the worms were first portrayed as having a triple jaw as soon as the very novel's serial release, when John Schoenherr drew them that way for an array of cover artworks that were endorsed by Herbert himself (see this cover from the Illustrated Edition - published in 1972).
    • The Baron using his gravity suspensors to outright fly which is never suggested in the novel. The 2000 and 2021 adaptations carry this trait over from Lynch's film.
    • Progressive Rock bands and Dune have a long history that predates the first movie. The Jodorowsky version would have used Pink Floyd and Magma for the soundtrack. There have been several conceptual albums based on the book by Richard Pinhas, Dave Matthews (no, not that one), Klaus Shultze, and Iron Maiden, just to name a few. Toto's soundtrack, along with Brian Eno's "Prophecy Theme", has cemented Dune's association with prog rock and Space Rock. As a result, a lot of musical tributes to Dune have emulated the style. Although Hans Zimmer has chosen not to go in that direction for the 2021 adaptation, choosing a more conventional approach.
  • Base-Breaking Character: The film's interpretation of Baron Harkonnen is pretty divisive, with some loving him because of how hilariously over-the-top evil and disgusting he is, and others finding him too cartoonish to take seriously as a primary antagonist.
  • Best Known for the Fanservice: Sting in a speedo is... particularly well remembered.
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: Anything featuring the Harkonnens. Their introductory scene at least provides some characterization: Giedi Prime is polluted, the Baron is a sadistic killer and ephebophile, and he has a score to settle with Leto. The Beast Rabban is a Villainous Glutton. Later scenes are completely divorced from context and, perhaps, sanity itself.
  • Broken Base:
    • The Dune fandom is divided on the film due to its differences from the book, most notably the Adaptational Heroism by playing the messiah themes nigh-utterly straight, the cartoonishly grotesque depiction of the Harkonnens, and the Weirding Module sonic weapons replacing the Weirding Way prana-bindu martial art. It's just as easy to find people who consider the film aberrant by those changes as people who believe it still captures pretty neatly the spirit of the first book (most notably, Herbert himself among those).
      • The Weirding Modules in particular get this. There are fans who are okay with the change, those who think the Weirding Modules are an interesting idea in their own right but could and should exist alongside prana-bindu (which technically does in this film), or those who think the Weirding Modules are an utter betrayal of Herbert's book.
    • Apart from that, fans and reviewers are also divided on exactly how good is the film, specifically whether the film works well enough on its own terms, or whether it's a ambitious noble failure at best, or just an ambitious failure at worst, given the Executive Meddling, the different cuts and Lynch's own disillusionment with it.
    • Fans are unsurprisingly divided about Frank Herbert's Dune and which work did more justice to the novel. The miniseries is universally lauded for staying truer to the book and having a consistent plot that is understandable to newcomers. Nonetheless, some fans of the movie believe that the series lags behind pretty much everything else, which can be partially blamed on its abysmal budget. Reasons mentioned include less than spectacular visual effects, awkward costumes (it's not called "funny hats version" without a reason) and the cast, fine at best and bland at worst, but surely nowhere as endearing as the one of the movie. It's up to debate whether the movie deserves more praise for taking higher risks even if they didn't pay off, or the series deserves more because it didn't try to live up to unrealistic expectations. And finally, say what you want about David Lynch, he's an absolute master of visual cinema and knows how to make striking, unforgettable images.
  • Can't Un-Hear It: Regardless of the film itself, some of its cast choices are considered pretty spot-on. Patrick Stewart as Gurney Halleck, Max von Sydow as Dr. Kynes, Siān Phillips as Reverend Mother Mohiam and Brad Dourif as Piter De Vries to name a few.
  • Crosses the Line Twice: Even if Baron Harkonnen is the most homophobic portrayal of a villain as some historians say, he's so over the top as The Caligula it loops around to just being a Too Funny to Be Evil/Love to Hate Villain.
  • Cult Classic: Like most of Lynch's other works, the film has a lot of fans for its unique aesthetics and take on Dune, which pleased even Herbert himself — even though Lynch himself was not happy with the final product. At the time of release, none other than Harlan Ellison defended the film and predicted it would be Vindicated by History.
  • Designated Villain: The film seems to make the story a bit more black and white than the original book, even going as far as to explicitly have Paul literally turn out to be The Chosen One who can summon rain out of nowhere. We're supposed to be cheering when he overthrows the evil emperor... except that, when you get down to it, the Emperor didn't really do much that could be seen as "evil" unless one has read the book. To one who hasn't, he could come across as someone reluctantly pressed by another extremely powerful group into killing someone, and who only actually leads an armed assault once Paul is doing things that could technically be considered terrorism (and a form of terrorism with disproportionate consequences, in fact). The introduction of the "Weirding Modules" also has a significant effect on the depiction of the Emperor. In the novel he fears Duke Leto mainly for his political popularity with the Landsraad. But in the film he seems to have a more justifiable concern about House Atreides developing a new weapons technology and posing a military threat (even more apparent to fans of the novels who would know that a sonic weapon would not suffer from the same problem as lasguns when used against shields). It doesn't help the Emperor's daughter gives the opening narration herself.
  • Draco in Leather Pants: Sting as Feyd. Oh dear yes.
  • Funny Moments: Paul demonstrating the power of the Weirding Way by breaking a piece of the Fremen's hardest stone in one shot, especially when he asks for a volunteer first.
    Paul: Kick it.
    (Kicks it. No effect.)
    Paul: Hit it.
    (Hits it. Still no effect.)
    Paul: ...Yell at it.
    Fremen Volunteer (shouting): BREAK!!!
    (Everyone laughs, including the volunteer)
  • Harsher in Hindsight: For some viewers, the scene where the Baron molests one of his servants and tears out his heart plug, leaving behind a bloody corpse, can bring to mind the infamous "goosh goosh" scene from Tokyo Tribe.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • Patrick Stewart, who played Gurney Halleck, is famous for portraying Professor X. Then, James McAvoy, who played Leto Atreides II in the 2003 miniseries, portrays the younger version of Charles Xavier.
    • Even funnier, the shields used while he and Paul spar look exactly like the Borg shields from The Next Generation.
    • The stillsuits look exactly like the Borg armor, because again, some of Borg costumes were sourced from leftover stillsuits.
    • Plus, Alice Krige, who played the Borg Queen in Star Trek: First Contact, played Lady Jessica in the 2003 miniseries.
    • Alicia Witt is a natural bronze-redhead like her character Alia, though her hair is barely seen in the film. So as she's aged, it's not hard for fans to imagine her as older Alia and currently Jessica. A bit heartwarming too.
  • Les Yay: A deleted scene between Lady Jessica and Shadout Mapes has strong overtones of this.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    "I WILL KILL HIM!!!"
    "Bring in that floating fat man."
    "We have wormsign the likes of which even God has never seen!"
    "And how can this be? For he IS the Kwisatz Haderach!" (Alternatively: "I AM THE KWISATZ HADERACH!")
    "Mood is a thing for cattle and loveplay, not fighting!"
    "It is by caffeine alone I set my mind in motion. It is by the beans of Java that thoughts acquire speed, the hands acquire shakes, the shakes become a warning. It is by caffeine alone I set my mind in motion." — The Programmer's Mantra
    "Decaf is the mind killer. Decaf is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will caffeinate my blood. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the caffeine has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain." — The Programmer's Mantra II
  • Misaimed Marketing: Coloring and puzzle books for the film, which features graphic violence and murders, lots of folks in latex and tubes up their noses, a pus-faced psychopath who kills his male sex slaves by uncorking their hearts, and of course a gigantic fish mutant (Guild Navigator) with a vagina-like mouth. The coloring book made sure to provide lines on Baron Harkonnen's face so children can choose different colors for his facial pustules.
    Duke Leto and Piter die.
  • Moe: Alia, to the point where many would say it's a problem — she's supposed to be a Creepy Child, but due to stuff like the compressed running time, she just comes off as adorable. Especially in the theatrical cut where she gets the last line: "And how can this be? For he IS the Kwisatz Haderach!"
  • Narm:
    • Irulan fading in and out during her opening narration. "Oh, I forgot to tell you..."note 
    • The "weirding modules". The Fremen fire lasers out of small boxes by making silly sounds with their mouths. "CHAAA-AKSA!"note 
    • Duncan Idaho's death scene. It's set up with slow weapons penetrating personal shields, but he just... stands there.
    • "Bring in that floating fat man! [dramatic pause] The Baron!" Huh? Are there other floating fat men in the Castle we haven't seen yet? (Which would be truly narmy anyway by different reasons.)
    • The Baron's No Kill like Overkill death is very over-the-top and unintentionally hilarious. After Alia poisons him with the Gom Jabbar and rips his heart plugs, the Baron begins screaming while floating and being telekinetically spun on midair. Then, he gets flown out of the Arakeen and eaten by a sandworm.
  • Narm Charm:
    • The compulsory heart plugs on Giedi Prime. Silly but effectively creepy. "Everyone gets one here."
    • Gurney leading a battlecry while cradling the Atreides family pug in his arms.
    • The boxy interpretation of the body shields is both goofy and visually striking compared to the form-fitting ones in later live-action versions.
    • Even if they are a major base-breaker, once one gets past the sheer deviation from the book, the weirding modules are just wacky enough and played completely straight to loop back around to "cool".
  • Retroactive Recognition: Patrick Stewart was unknown in the States in 1984. Now, it's impossible not to wonder what the heck Captain Picard is doing running around the Dune-verse.
  • Special Effects Failure:
    • The extended cut is made of footage that was cut before the final effects work was done so the Fremens' eyes will go from glowing blue to normal between scenes, and sometimes during the same scene.
    • The Video Credits at the end are made up from footage of costume and make-up tests. This results in noticeable rotoscoping artifacts through the sequence, as well as Baron Harkonnen seemingly having lost a bunch of weight (presumably his final costume was padded out a bit more) and Reverend Mother Mohiam's bald cap being much less convincing than the one she wears in the rest of the film.
  • Squick: The depiction of Baron Harkonnen and his heirs. Heartplugs, grease showers, and a dramatization of the whole cat-milking thing...
  • Suspiciously Similar Song: Lynch wanted the music for the scenes on Caladan to be based on the first movement of Dmitri Shostakovich's 11th Symphony.
  • Took the Bad Film Seriously: The film features convincing performances from Kyle MacLachlan, Patrick Stewart, Max von Sydow, Dean Stockwell, Siān Phillips and others, even despite the general wackiness and questionable elements. It's rather telling that in spite of the film's failure, Stockwell's career was revitalized by it, while McLachlan, who had never appeared in a movie before, was not instantly banished from Hollywood forever, making enough of an impression that he would star in several later projects for the director. This is a big part of why the movie's cult fandom enjoy the film for the things it gets right, and not for the things it gets wrong.
  • Unintentionally Sympathetic: While Feyd-Rautha is a terrible person by any stretch of the imagination, some viewers actually had some sympathy for his openly scorning Paul's being described as "the righteous", given how unironic of a Messianic Archetype the film turns Paul into, and how Paul immediately challenges Feyd-Rautha to a duel, which can come across as him trying to get Revenge by Proxy (seeing how Baron Harkkonen had already been killed by Alia) and/or trying to kill Feyd-Rautha for his act of blasphemy. This is a result of the theatrical version losing the scene where Feyd-Rautha tries to use Thufir Hawat as an assassin, causing Thufir to be Driven to Suicide rather than kill Paul; with the scene's inclusion, Feyd-Rautha comes across as far more of a hypocrite, and Paul's challenge feels more like a justifiable reaction to Feyd-Rautha's underhanded attempt on his life, and the consequent death of Thufir.
  • What Do You Mean, It Wasn't Made on Drugs?: Some of the scenes included that weren't in the book serve no purpose beyond being weird.
  • What The Hell, Costuming Department?:
    • The film has a lot of strange costume ideas. Bald Bene Gesserit who wear fishnets? Mentats with Einstein Hair and giant eyebrows? And while, at first glance, the stillsuits might not seem so bad, compare them to the stillsuits from the 2000 miniseries, which nearly cover the entire face. This makes sense, because the whole point of the stillsuits is to collect water that is evaporating from the skin or otherwise exhaled, so it's ideal to cover as much skin as possible and to cover the nose and mouth. Do you really think a mere tiny tube stuck up your nostrils is a better alternative? (The books had both the nose tube and the hoods/masks.)
    • The worst offender for the film has to be the Sardaukar outfits, which are little more than black painted Hazmat suits. At this point, the artistic choices dance between lazy and just plain Dadaist.