A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Dune is a 1984 adaptation of Frank Herbert's famous science fiction novel of 1965. It is filled with fantasy violence of all types, including torture, gore, fighting, weapons, and some generally scary and disturbing imagery (including the quasi-torture of a cat and a rat and a young girl wielding a knife). The underlying theme is about a "chosen one" who never has to make any decisions for himself, and then simply declares war on his enemies. Characters in the movie are in pursuit of a drug called "Spice," which is shown to be powerful enough to go to war over. Young science fiction fans may want to see this (as well as a five-hour TV miniseries remake from 2000), but the immense novel is compressed to the point that the movie is almost nonsensical, and the visual effects have dated badly. Director David Lynch also tries to put his own personal spin on the material, which will at least make the movie more interesting to Lynch fans.
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What's the story?
In a bizarre futuristic galaxy, the evil House Harkonnen and the good House Atreides are locked in war over the production and distribution of a drug called Spice that enables users to travel vast distances and extend their lives. The spice exists only on one planet, Arrakis, or DUNE. Unfortunately, the planet is also patrolled by monstrous killer worms. The horrible Baron Harkonnen strikes first and kills the beloved Duke Leto, but he doesn't realize that the Duke's son Paul (Kyle MacLachlan) is actually the "chosen one," destined to travel to Arrakis and lead the native Fremen to freedom. He learns some mystical battle tactics, forms an army, and launches an attack on the Harkonnens. But can Paul survive the ultimate test of the "water of life"?
Is it any good?
Dune is mainly interesting as a curio in the career of the brilliant, bizarre director David Lynch (The Elephant Man, Mulholland Drive). Fans may enjoy combing through the movie to find his unique touches, but his detractors will argue that it's just more "weird for weird's sake." Unfortunately, anyone looking for a satisfying and coherent science fiction epic will have to look elsewhere. Lynch compressed the 500-page novel into an awkward 137-minute movie, resulting in an overuse onf terrible, expository dialogue and characters "thinking" out loud to explain their motivations. (A 177-minute version was assembled for television, but Lynch did not approve it and removed his name from it.)
However, fans of "bad" sci-fi movies may get some enjoyment out of the movie's odd visual effects, and the cheesy score by Toto and Brian Eno certainly has some majestic moments. The impressive ensemble cast may also provide some pleasures, including Patrick Stewart, Virginia Madsen as the narrator, Brad Dourif, pop star Sting, Max von Sydow, a very young Alicia Witt, and Jack Nance (the star of Lynch's Eraserhead).
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the idea of being "the chosen one." What does this mean? Does Paul make any decisions of his own? Does he conquer any fears? Does he use his power wisely?
Does the "Spice" in the movie look like a good drug to take, or is it scary? What are the side effects?
How did the violence in the film make you feel? Was it exciting? Was it scary?
Was there anything in the movie that scared you? Why? Did it have to do with pictures or sounds?
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