Dune Or Fields Of Spice

dune film sting

Films containing famous musicians and rock stars tend to fall into one of three distinct categories: very good, (Flea – Back to the Future II), very bad, (J-Lo – Gigli) or very weird, (Michael Jackson – Moonwalker). Interestingly enough in the case of David Lynch’s Dune, all three labels could be said to apply. Featuring Sting, (or Gordon as his mum calls him), in the role of the malevolent and bloodthirsty Feyd-Rautha, Dune boasts a cosmopolitan all-star cast in this striking adaptation of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi classic.

I could go into extensive detail about the plot of Dune, but it would involve annexing the whole of the Vada website for the next few weeks with hourly updates on the core questions of what’s going on, who’s doing what to who and why are they doing it repeatedly and with such vigour. Initial scripts called for a running time of over ten hours and presumably this still wouldn’t have been enough to delve into the full intricacies, nuances and detail of its source material. A basic summary would be to describe it as Game of Thrones in space, which would be a bit of a disservice, as both the film and the book of Dune predate GOT by a number of years, but you get the idea.

The Dune of the title is an arid desert planet made remarkable only by a unique substance known as “spice’’, a ridiculously potent substance able to prolong life, expand your consciousness and, incredibly enough, allow instantaneous interstellar travel across the universe. Unsurprisingly then, the powers that be in the Dune universe covet this small strip of space highly. Democracy has become obsolete and society has returned to a feudal age with noble houses, guilds and an emperor governing over the masses. Most noteworthy among these noble houses being that of House Atreides and House Harkonnen who are engaged in a long-running War of the Roses style vendetta.

When House Atreides is assigned governorship of Dune and control of spice production by the Emperor it is seen as a great honour and privilege. But behind the scenes various machinations are being conducted with the Emperor aligned with the shadowy Spacing Guild and the Harkonnens who each share in the ultimate goal of destroying the Atreides for different reasons. Paul Atreides (Kyle McLachlan), is the heir apparent to the Atreides duchy and seemingly blessed with mystical powers, finding himself fascinated by the giant sandworms populating the desert planet and its indigenous peoples, the Fremen.

When the Harkonnens launch a surprise attack they manage to rout their sworn foes, killing Paul’s father and sending Paul and his mother fleeing into the desert. They are taken in by the Fremen and because of Paul’s supernatural skills he is elevated to the position of leader. Soon enough, Paul and his band of Fremen are wreaking a deadly vengeance on the Harkonnens, the Emperor, the Spacing Guild and anyone else who dared to cross him. Confucius said that before embarking on a journey of revenge one should dig two graves. Well, that is just nowhere near enough real estate to encapsulate the interplanetary scale devastation and carnage that occurs in Dune.

Sting actually does very little other than cackle inanely, prance lithely about and flaunt his toned torso… so essentially the same performance he gives during one of his concerts. Patrick Stewart also lends a hand getting some practice in as a swashbuckling spaceman in anticipation of playing Jean-Luc Picard later on in his career. Dune is bloated, it’s sprawling, it calls for a skyload of expository dialogue, it’s rambling, it’s full of non sequiturs and plot holes, it’s a space opera smorgasbord that goes wholeheartedly overboard.

Full of the typically dark and baroque imagery you would associate with its auteur director, Dune emerges as a bewildering yet bold attempt to create a rival franchise to the Star Wars saga. Unfortunately its ambition is also its weakness and in the end you feel a little like you’ve undergone training for an as yet unspecified endurance event. And thankfully Sting dies in the end thus ensuring he won’t turn up at Glastonbury and ruin it for everyone.