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Based on Frank Herbert's epic novel, DUNE is visually delightful but choppy, confusing, and overloaded with exposition. Moreover, most of the thematic material that made the novel work--subtexts involving incestuous desire, capitalism vs. environmentalism, and Middle East politics--is
simply missing. The story takes place in the year 10991 on four planets: Giedi Prime, the home of the evil Harkonnens; Kaitain, the home of the malevolent emperor of the universe (Jose Ferrer); Caladan, home of the anointed savior Paul Atreides (Kyle MacLachlan); and Arrakis, the desert planet
best known as Dune. It turns out that Dune is the only planet in the universe that produces "melange," a prized spice (and an addictive drug) that the Harkonnens control and mine for profit and personal use. Mining, however, is no easy task: the planet is infested with gargantuan, hungry
Sandworms. Paul, the skillful and brilliant warrior, sets out to free Dune from Harkonnen hegemony, arriving on the planet and training its subterranean inhabitants in combat techniques. Soon, he has amassed a force which he leads into battle against the treacherous oppressors. Director David
Lynch makes a valiant attempt to do justice to Herbert's plottings, but in the end he is defeated by the story's complexities. Produced at a cost of more than $52 million, the film features some stunning images and wondrous sets, but with only the barest semblance of a story it collapsed at the
box office. Lynch, who had previously directed the cult favorite ERASERHEAD and impressed many with his mainstream effort ELEPHANT MAN, is simply out of his element here.