Twin Peaks star Kyle MacLachlan took on an interesting challenge last night. He explained Dune in a single Twitter post:
— Kyle MacLachlan (@Kyle_MacLachlan) August 16, 2016
The film version of Dune, directed by David Lynch, was derided at the time of its 1984 release for being obtuse. Some believed the film required that viewers first read Frank Herbert's 1965 novel before watching it. Roger Ebert gave it one star and wrote that that film looked like "a project that was seriously out of control from the start."
Lynch's Dune was born from a long, strange development process. Alejandro Jodorowsky tried to film the book — even if he intended to ignore large portions of the story — in the mid-1970s. His project, which would have included appearances by Mick Jagger, Orson Welles and Salvador Dali as the Emperor of the Universe, fizzled out when he could not get a Hollywood studio to foot the final $5 million he would need to make the film.
It then traded hands to producer Dino DeLaurentiis and director Ridley Scott. Scott would eventually walk away from the project and make Blade Runner instead. DeLaurentiis, meanwhile, hired Lynch to wrangle the film together. As Harlan Ellison put it, he wrote a script that could never be written from a book that is unfilmmable. Ellison was one of the film's few supporters at the time of release, and though the film has a cult following, it's still considered something of a dog.
It has never received a proper reconsideration. Nor has it been welcomed home by Lynch, who refuses to discuss the film at any great length.
Which is unfortunate as the film has aged remarkably well. Sure, it's kind of a fever dream, but the effects Ebert referred to as "shabby" now have a charming handmade feel to them. The performances can be stilted and strange, but the overall effect is a science fiction film from another world. For some, it offers a startling mystery and a glimpse at a universe worth visiting.
And for those still confused by its plot, MacLachlan's emoji-filled Cliff Notes post is a pretty clear distillation.