Dune 1984 vs 2021: Which one is better?

The 1984 film, Dune, based on Frank Herbert’s science fiction novel (Photo: IMDB)
AMMAN — The history of cinema features essentially two types of remakes: Those who, years after the original, limit themselves to exploiting the new opportunities offered by technology but essentially only repurpose what has been done and said before; and those that instead give new life to the plot by exploring previously neglected elements.اضافة اعلان

Denis Villeneuve’s approach to the almost 700 pages of Frank Herbert’s book is proof of the latter. How he tackled Herbert’s 1965 Dune, a science-fiction classic, is both philologically more accurate and cinematically more compelling.

The 1984 film, Dune, based on Frank Herbert’s science fiction novel (Photo: IMDB)

Villeneuve renounces illusory synthesis, which would be inevitably destined to create holes in the screenplay given the complexity of the plot, and instead proposes a first installment of considerable duration but equally remarkable effectiveness.

The project for a remake of Dune started in 2008 but only in 2016, when Legendary Pictures acquired the rights and hired Denis Villeneuve, did it finally take off.

In short, we are looking at a new, ambitious attempt to transpose the science fiction epic born from Frank Herbert’s imagination onto the screen.

Villeneuve, now a habituée of the sci-fi genre (boasting Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 on his CV), and the stellar cast are the two main ingredients in the 60s classic’s return to cinema, already transposed onto screen once before in 1984 by David Lynch (who in his time received conflicting public reviews).

Taking on a project like Dune to the big screen is not easy: The 700 pages written by Frank Herbert, which over the years have become a timeless classic of science fiction, are certainly a task that no director would relish to take on unless they already have an extensive resume and are capable of tackling a challenge of this caliber.

This is not make no mention of diehard fans of Lynch’s iteration of the firm, which proved a powerful rereading of the myth of Dune in a way unique to the genre, and left a definitive mark on the history of cinema.

The two works are very different, despite both being inspired by the same book.

Herbert’s Dune, initiator of the narrative saga, is a work that has totally changed science fiction as we know it, inspiring, among others, George Lucas’ Star Wars . The sci-fi odyssey finds its genesis on the planet Arrakis, rich in the coveted spice melange, disputed between various houses across the universe. The novel explores a variety of themes, from politics and religion to physiology and ecology. It is a project with extremely complex and nuanced content, which has always posed problematic to bring to the big screen.

The first who tried to adapt Dune to cinema was in the 1970s by Alejandro Jodorowsky, a famous Chilean surrealist artist and director who had planned on paper an extremely ambitious film that was never made.

Subsequently, Jodorowsky's legacy was picked up by Lynch, who transposed the initial novel in its entirety, appealing to his sensibility and taking several liberties. Unfortunately, all this has cost him dearly, resulting in a fiasco at the box office and a storm of criticism.

The 1984 film, Dune, based on Frank Herbert’s science fiction novel (Photo: IMDB)

Villeneuve, a Canadian filmmaker also wanted to cinematically bring, his version of Dune, which was released on September 16 in Italian cinemas and premiered in Venice. Let's find out what main differences exist between Lynch's work and that of Villeneuve and if indeed the realization of the latter is superior.

Lynch gives a lot of space to the characters, exploring in his feature film almost all the figures that are present in the original novel. This attention to characterization (which does not always respect the canon of the book). This approach limits some narrative passages, and makes them confusing.

Particularly the dream sequences, a Lynch trademark, were never more disjointed and disconnected.

Villeneuve, unlike his peer, tries to find a balance between setting, narration, and characters, putting everything in a coherent system. This does, unfortunately, result in some characters being vague, narrative changes and twists being clear, and the scenography seeming to be almost a separate element of the script.

Dune 2021 Trailer 

Dune Trailer 1984

Toto and Brian Eno’s music compared to the monumental classicism of Hans Zimmer

The soundtrack of the 1984 Dune, composed by Brian Eno and Toto, unfortunately does not do justice to the layered and full-bodied first novel of the Dune cycle. The soundtracks, although well made, clash with the setting and the story, looking more like an accompaniment to a rock opera than to a philosophical sci-fi epic.

For the latest iteration, Hans Zimmer was chosen instead; one of the most famous and talented composers on the Hollywood scene. Zimmer totally changes register. A lot of attention is paid to the background choirs, which lend gravitas and the right drama to the film, while the general tones of the orchestra instill a monumental classicism that shouts from all its pores the imposing ideological and political clash that is taking place on Arrakis.

The contrast between Lynch's chromatic delirium and Villeneuve's aseptic but imposing philosophy

Lynch's film is very colorful and rich in truly suggestive chromatic shades, giving life to a peculiar and brilliant aesthetic, which stands in contrast with the gloom and atmosphere that Herbert's novel evokes. On the other hand, this meshes well with the dream sequences of the film, which become even more alienating and disturbing — at times hallucinatory.

Villeneuve’s Dune is colossal in all its representations, both in the artificial constructions and in the constructs of nature. Furthermore, the entire artistic and technical sector has a tinge of sterility which, in addition to giving dark and strongly oppressive chromatic solutions, integrates perfectly with the reference universe: A cruel world oppressed by war and clashes between clan’s rivals.

The original novel is manipulated by the two directors in opposite ways
The 1984 Dune reproduces on the big screen the entire first novel of the literary saga, with many alternative solutions perfectly consistent with the director's style, but totally foreign to the world of Arrakis.

Although the whole story has been relayed in full, much of the book's mystery is lost, stifled by some very radical changes, especially in the characterization of the protagonist Paul Atreides (portrayed by Kyle MachLachlan).

On the contrary, the 2021 adaptation transposes only half of Herbert's work more faithfully, evoking the most intimate spirit of the book. Not only does it accomplish this through the general atmosphere, but also by drawing on detail upon detail, aimed at building a meticulous and timely introduction to the reference saga.

Obviously there are differences, but the purest and most traditional soul of the original material has been reproduced with rigor and attention.

Frenzy and quiet

Finally, the rhythm of both films differ. Lynch’s work excessively speeds up the resolution of events to such an extent that, in the second part of the film, the whole narrative is devoid of a clear direction. It almost seems that content consistency has been sacrificed in order to bring the entire first book to the screen.

Villeneuve, on the contrary, has a staid rhythm, such that the story develops gradually. This aspect makes the feature film very demanding in terms of payoff, but it offers viewers a dizzying overall care. Unfortunately, the narrative is affected by this choice; at times too cryptic and vague, because it must be understood as a preparation for the sequel and the saga itself.

There is no doubt that the last Dune is superior to that of Lynch both in terms of narrative and artistic content, even if his adaptation must be read in a specific perspective — not one focused on fidelity, but on Lynch’s reinterpretation.

Where Villeneuve's Dune triumphs as an individual film, it suffers from ambitious design that leaves the audience with many unanswered questions; a problem Lynch solved by concentrating all of Dune’s content into one film.

In conclusion, the two titles are so different that it is particularly complicated to compare them and reach a final judgment.

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