Saturday, February 8, 2014

Dune? Dune!

I do a lot of my reading with audiobooks nowadays. They allow me to multitask and they're unabridged which means I have to listen to every word.

I admit at the outset that this is my first time listening to Dune.  I've seen the David Lynch movie multiple times but didn't have the time to sit down and read the book. Until now.

So here's the issue I bring to the book.  Every person I've ever talked to about Dune says that there's so much more in the book that wasn't in the movie.  They get angry that Lynch somehow lobotomized their baby.  And I suppose I can see their point of view. There are certainly elements of the book that were missing in the movie and a few that might have explained the background a little more.  The story goes that Lynch's initial cut was some three hours long and that the studio demanded a shorter cut, which is why he now distances himself from the movie.

Outside of some changes made specifically for the movie and the needs of that medium everything in the movie is in the book. The Atreides are given control of Arrakis, the Harkkonen attack, Paul's father dies, Paul becomes the leader of the native Fremen, the Emperor comes to Dune to set things right and Paul and the Fremen fight a battle to push the Empire from their world.

That is the essential plot of the movie and the book.

Yes, we don't see the Emperor in the book until near the end, but the movie needs him to come in at the beginning and lay down the backstory so the viewer understands the story and the reason for the action.  What the book explains in roughly three chapters, the movie does in about twenty minutes.

Is there more character development in the book? Certainly. That's what books do well.

Does the movie change the Weirding Way, the Atreides fighting style, from a nebulous martial art to something involving sound being transformed in the beams of force?  Yes. And it works for the visual medium of film. I doubt any viewer would have accepted what would have become a Kung-Fu movie if the Weirding Way had been kept as it was in the book.

Don't get me wrong. There are things in the movie that are cheesy and don't hold up. But the core of the plot is there and it works.

If you haven't read Dune I recommend it.  It's a good book. The dialogue is a little stilted and the science part of the science fiction is more along the lines of Jules Verne or H.G. Welles than Clark and Asimov, but it fits solidly in the genre.

If you see the movie, enjoy it. It's a solid film and a lot of fun. If it has any downsides it's the extensive use of in-the-character's-head dialogue sequences. This doesn't occur in the book but became a necessity when the studio decided they wanted a shorter cut of the movie.  No matter the medium, Dune is a dense story and these dialogue sequences were the only way to get information to the viewer in the amount of time available.

And that's the end of my story.

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