Film Review: Dune – Extended Edition (1984)

Release Date: December 3rd, 1984 (Washington DC premiere)
Directed by: David Lynch (credited as Alan Smithee in the Extended Edition)
Written by: David Lynch
Based on: Dune by Frank Herbert
Music by: Toto, Brian Eno
Cast: Francesca Annis, Leonardo Cimino, Brad Dourif, José Ferrer, Linda Hunt, Freddie Jones, Richard Jordan, Kyle MacLachlan, Virginia Madsen, Silvana Mangano, Everett McGill, Kenneth McMillan, Jack Nance, Siân Phillips, Jürgen Prochnow, Paul Smith, Patrick Stewart, Sting, Dean Stockwell, Max von Sydow, Alicia Roanne Witt, Sean Young, David Lynch (cameo, uncredited)

Estudios Churubusco Azteca S.A., Dino De Laurentiis Company, Universal Pictures, 137 Minutes (theatrical), 190 Minutes (Special Edition), 177 Minutes (Extended Cut)

Review:

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will let it pass over me and through me. And when it has passed I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where it has gone, there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” – Paul Atreides

I noticed that I hadn’t reviewed this yet, which surprised me. It’s actually one of my all-time favorite movies, even though most people absolutely do not feel the same way about it.

Granted, I should state that the Extended Edition is one of my all-time favorites, as it fleshes out a lot of story and is more coherent and easier to follow than the original theatrical cut that left those who didn’t read the book, baffled and irritated.

David Lynch, the director, also hates this picture and I find that a bit funny, as I think it’s his second best behind The Elephant Man. In regards to this edition and any of the other versions, he requested his name be removed from the film and it has since been replaced by “Alan Smithee”. Lynch has also refused to do a director’s cut and doesn’t like to talk about this movie in interviews.

Before I saw this longer cut of the film, Dune still had a pretty profound effect on me when I was a kid. While I found it somewhat hard to grasp, the story of a messiah figure rising to challenge the powerful elite in an effort to eradicate their tyranny and corruption still shined through. I definitely got that part of the story and beyond that, fell in love with the look of the film from its truly exotic sets, costumes and cultures. Visually, this is the version of Dune that I still see in my mind when I read any of the books in the series.

The Extended Edition has the same major issue that the theatrical cut did and that’s that this story is kind of hard to follow if one doesn’t know the source material. Although, the Extended Edition isn’t as bad in that regard, as it allows room for more details and character development.

I used to love this film so much that it eventually inspired me to read the Frank Herbert books in his Dune series. Having read the first book and really loving it even more than this film, it kind of opened my mind up to the movie in a bigger way and I saw this as a visual companion piece to the literary novel. But I understand why that probably doesn’t work for most people, who won’t read the first book because it is pretty thick and dense.

Getting back specifically to this film, it still should have been crafted in a way that it could’ve been more palatable for regular moviegoers. I think that this would have been a pretty big deal and a more beloved film had it not come out after the original Star Wars trilogy. People wanted more of that and Dune wasn’t an action heavy space adventure, it was a “thinking” movie and featured concepts that needed more exploration.

I think it’s pretty well directed, honestly, even if Lynch was unhappy with it and the whole experience was miserable for him. It did actually establish his relationships with many actors who would go on to be featured in a lot of his work after this, most notably Twin Peaks.

I also think this is well acted and it was my introduction to Kyle MacLachlan, a guy I’ve loved in everything he’s done, ever since. And beyond MacLachlan, this truly features an all-star cast.

The big issue with this film and adapting Dune in the first place, is that there just isn’t enough room in a single movie to tell this story. I think each of Frank Herbert’s original six novels should be adapted and told over an entire season of a series. It’s really the only way to do it right.

A new Dune adaptation is just a few weeks away from releasing in the United States, though. While the first book is going to be split over two films, I still think that it’s going to be hard to properly adapt it. We shall see and I’ll review that once I’m able to view it.

Rating: 9/10

Film Review: SolarBabies (1986)

Also known as: Solarfighters, Solar Warriors (alternative titles)
Release Date: November 26th, 1986
Directed by: Alan Johnson
Written by: Walon Green, Douglas Anthony Metrov
Music by: Maurice Jarre
Cast: Richard Jordan, Jami Gertz, Jason Patric, Lukas Haas, James Le Gros, Claude Brooks, Peter DeLuise, Peter Kowanko, Adrian Pasdar, Sarah Douglas, Charles Durning, Frank Converse, Terrence Mann, Alexei Sayle, Bruce Payne, Willoguhby Gray

Brooksfilms, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 94 Minutes

Review:

“It’s an odd name for a skateball team, don’t you think? “Solarbabies.” Too soft, not menacing enough. Why do you suppose they chose it?” – Grock, “They don’t seem to need anything more menacing, do they? They always seem to win.” – The Warden

Researching this movie for this review, I discovered that Mel Brooks was the executive producer on this. Somehow I must’ve always missed that. Then again, I hadn’t seen this since the early ’90s when it would pop up on TV from time to time.

I used to really like this movie, despite its overabundance of flaws. Seeing it now, I’d say it’s less palatable than it was when it was more current, however, it’s still got charm and a really likable cast of young people, most of whom would go on to have memorable careers.

The film follows a group of teens and a younger kid that escape from a dystopian juvenile prison. They also befriend an alien orb that exhibits some special powers. The majority of the film deals with these kids being on the run from the fascist military group that is led by Richard Jordan, who I most remember as the obsessed Sandman that hunted Michael York in 1976’s Logan’s Run. I’ve always liked him since that film and seeing him in a similar role, albeit with an army at his disposal, is pretty enjoyable. This also features Sarah Douglas, as a secondary villain.

The special effects are pretty underwhelming, even for the time, but some things did hold up well. I love the matte painting work used for the landscapes and the effects sequence where the teen’s hand dissolves into bone and ash looks really damn cool.

The film’s score is a mixed bag but more on the negative end of the spectrum. It’s mostly just cheesy synth tracks that are repetitive and pounding. There’s a pop track or two, which livens things up but the music drags the film down quite a bit due to just how generic and basic it is.

One thing I do like is that this has a very spaghetti western vibe to it. Since it is mostly filmed in Spain, it really reflects the look of those deserts. It actually fits well within the slew of Spanish and Italian Mad Max ripoffs from the decade. I wouldn’t be surprised if they actually used some of the same props and set pieces from some of those films, due to the similar dystopian atmosphere.

While this has a 4.8 out of 10 on IMDb, it’s a better movie than that. I understand why the general public would look down on it and rate it as below average but it’s got character, it’s got heart and it’s got a rare youthful energy that is missing from similar post-apocalyptic films of the era.

Plus, it’s got Alexei Sayle from The Young Ones in it.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other cheesy ’80s sci-fi movies.

Film Review: Logan’s Run (1976)

Release Date: June 23rd, 1976
Directed by: Michael Anderson
Written by: David Zelag Goodman
Based on: Logan’s Run by William F. Nolan, George Clayton Johnson
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: Michael York, Jenny Agutter, Richard Jordan, Roscoe Lee Browne, Farrah Fawcett, Peter Ustinov

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, United Artists, 118 Minutes

Review:

“[seeing the sun for the first time] What is it?” – Jessica, “I don’t know. Whatever it is, it’s warm.” – Logan

Logan’s Run was one of my favorite movies as a kid. As an adult, I still love going back and watching this every few years. When I first saw it, I was probably about six or seven and by that point, this movie was already a decade old.

However, I loved the style and look of it because it felt similar to the original Battlestar Galactica and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, two TV shows that I watched in syndication almost daily back then. But what made this cooler than those shows is that it was darker, more violent and it had some boobies in it.

This is about a dystopian future dressed up like a utopian future. Once the layers are peeled back a bit, the truth becomes apparent and the illusion of a perfect society comes crumbling down.

The story follows Logan who is a Sandman. His job is to stop Runners. A Runner is a person that doesn’t go to Carousel for “Renewal” and instead, goes on the run, defying the most important law in this society. Basically, when you turn 30, you have to die. But this society believes that by surrendering yourself to this holy event called Carousel, that you will be resurrected and thus, live forever, as long as you continue to repeat the cycle every 30 years.

Logan is sent on a covert mission to infiltrate a group that is resistant to societal laws. He is tasked with finding a place called Sanctuary, where it is believed that over 1000 Runners have escaped to. However, the more Logan learns, the more he feels the need to become a Runner himself and to reach Sanctuary.

The story may sound complicated but it really isn’t. It’s actually interesting and it plays out really well over the course of the story.

Despite the colorful allure of this picture and the world these characters live in, this isn’t too dissimilar from stories like Nineteen Eighty-FourFahrenheit 451 and A Brave New World. The shiny and vivid visuals almost spit in the face of the viewer, as the proceedings and how this world unravels is incredibly dark.

I’m a big fan of what many now call “retro futurism” and this motion picture really is the epitome of retro futurism in that it looks very 1970s, even with its technological advancements. In that regard, it makes the picture cooler than it would have been if it were made in a later decade. In fact, a contemporary remake of this movie would completely miss this visual element that actually enhances the picture due to its otherworldliness. This quality is why I absolutely love old sci-fi movies because it’s just cool to see how past generations envisioned the future through the cultural eyes of their time.

The movie isn’t stupendously acted but both Michael York and Jenny Agutter give this their all and put in very convincing performances. York had charisma and he and Agutter felt natural together. I also really liked Richard Jordan and he pretty much steals the scenes he’s in.

Logan’s Run may feel dated but that doesn’t prevent it from being a cool movie. In fact, it makes it more endearing and a lot more fun to look at than similar films.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: other ’70s sci-fi films: The Omega Man, Soylent GreenThe Black Hole, etc.