odds and ends: game of thrones, dune

Anxiously awaiting the new TV season, Ellen and I have abandoned network and cable television and have been gorging ourselves on newly acquired season sets from the library. First up: Game of Thrones.

 With not being HBO subscribers, we are always a year behind everyone else we know in regards to these water cooler programs.

I read A Game of Thrones five years ago; I always associate the book with Ellen’s pregnancy, because it’s the paperback I picked up when she and I did the “new parent” thing of going to the bookstore and buying EVERY GODDAMN PARENTING BOOK EVER WRITTEN in preparation for our new bundle of joy. I remember liking the first book in the series a lot, although I gradually lost interest in them as the story started wading more deeply into magical/fantastical waters.

The HBO production of Game of Thrones was terrific, both as an adaptation and as appointment television. In particular, the producers ably met all the potential casting pitfalls so far. One of the challenges of making a Game of Thrones TV show is that even the characters who seem to have minor roles at first eventually, with the fullness of time, go on to become important player in the titular game. A character like The Hound has something like 10 lines over the course of 10 episodes… but he become far more important in future installments.

Further, I think the casting of Sean Bean as Ned Stark was great. It’s not a flashy role, but getting an alum of The Lord of the Rings series in the lead role for this season was a brainstorm. All the baggage he carries with him from those movies make Ned Stark’s character arc in S.1 all the more surprising to viewers.

Also, Peter Dinklage. C’mon. Awesome.

……………………………….

Final thing I’m going to write about Dune, I swear…

If you’ve been reading over the summer, you may remember I took a run at reading Frank Herbert’s seminal sci-fi classic. I took a slow, leisurely… run. A jog, perhaps. I’m usually a quick reader, but something about Dune slowed me up; even though I was enjoying the book I didn’t get through it with my normal pace.

I enjoyed the book enough to seek out the 1984 movie adaptation, famously directed by David Lynch.

I’ve enjoyed the director’s work in the past – Twin Peaks was a fun ride for awhile, and Mulholland Falls was a flick a lot of my friends and I were crazy about. Lynch has famously disowned Dune and I was interested to see how the picture held up in that light.

Boy, Dune is a fascinatingly bad movie.

As an adaptation of the source material, I was surprised at how much of the story Lynch was able to cram into the film’s two hour and ten minute running time. There was a lot of ground to cover in Herbert’s novel and Lynch (and the screenwriters) did an OK job. The problem was the flick has like NO room to breathe. It zips from plot point to plot point with such speed, it’s hard to give a shit about anything or anyone in the movie.

Ok, that’s ONE problem. There are dozens of others. The first half hour of the movie is clunky exposition, getting the audience up to speed about this strange new world they are most likely encountering for the first time. As a reader of the novel, I could follow along relatively painlessly, but I could see the first fourth of the movie acting like water torture to some. A lot of this exposition is delivered by internal monologue- we hear the thoughts of the characters as the scenes unfold. I have to wonder if this device was planned from the first or inserted later, when people realized how incomprehensible the plot of Dune was to newbies. I have a feeling it’s the latter.

Oh jeez, what else? Kyle MacLachlan is woefully miscast at Paul Atredies. I’m guessing a lot of the performers were picked for their wooden delivery, much in the same manner that George Lucas employed Mark Hamill in Star Wars. Nobody was going to accuse Hamill of upstaging all the sci-fi craziness in the Star Wars movies, but even then he’s a likable, relatable actor and brings that focus to Luke. MacLachlan is remote and hard to empathize with; you could argue that is indeed the point of MacLachlan’s performance… but it’s hard to hang a movie on a role like that. You’re suppose to root for Paul, not think he’s some sort of living stone masonry.

LIke I said, Dune is a bad movie, but it’s also a fascinating one. It’s wonderfully weird to see Lynch trying to shoehorn his interests and style into a movie which, at least on the surface, is supposed to be for children and teenagers. Don’t tell me it’s not- there were action figures and jigsaw puzzles and all sorts of marketing, trying to position Dune as the new Star Wars. Honestly, I can hardly believe it myself. Even in 2012, there are some scenes in this flick which are so intense, so nightmarish, I could hardly handle them… and I’m an adult! I’m thinking of the introduction of Baron Vladimir Harkkonen specifically, a scene so bloody and ghoulish, it likely left many kids hiding under their seats, crying.

…and what was with Sting’s blue codpiece?

I solemnly swear, this is the LAST time I’ll write about Dune for at least a year.

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2 Responses to “odds and ends: game of thrones, dune”

  1. Dune is one of my favorite scifi books, and yeah, the Lynch movie is so terrible that it’s actually good, in an awful way. I do watch the movie when it’s on tv, have lost count of how many times i’ve read the book.

    i saw the first season of GoT on HBO, but then we cancelled our cable, so no more HBO for me. I need to reread all the books again, so I can remember what happens before diving into book 5.

    • Christopher Pearce Says:

      …yeah that’s one of the interesting things about Dune, I probably should have mentioned it. Beyond being awful, the movie is eminently WATCHABLE. Like, guaranteed, if I’m ever channel flipping on a Sunday afternoon and it’s on Starz or SyFy, I will TOTALLY stop and watch it again.

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