Dune ★★★½

Watched the three-hour extended version, credited to Alan Smithee (I don't recall, did David Lynch take his name off the original theatrical version too?). Maybe it's the flu talking, but I actually think it might be kind of great. Sure, the sets and costumes and creature design is neat, I think everyone agrees on that, but what sinks the film is its narrative approach. There's so much exposition, including a 20 minute prologue (recited over hand-drawn images) that sets up 4000 years of history before the story ever gets started, and so much of it is repetitive. That's what drove me nuts about the film the first time I saw it: the say everything three times before doing it once approach.

But this repetition is so extreme, in voiceover narration, in dialogue, in the characters' spoken thoughts, that it simply has to be intentional. In a civilization that's lived for thousands of years with prophesy, telepathy and a mind- and universe-altering substance, it's not unreasonable to expect people might get a little stuck in their own heads. The repetitions take on a Homeric quality, an incantation that meshes with the film's ancient epic approach to character (people are types, representative qualities that act) wholly alien to modern science fiction and fantasy, which is bound by more conventionally novelistic notions of psychology (Tolkein does much the same thing in his books, which the films sentimentalize beyond all reason).

Or it could just be really badly written and terribly edited. I don't know, but I suspect Lynch may have been onto something.