David Lynch’s Dune is About to Get a Major Reappraisal

Forty years after the sci-fi epic was derided by critics, it’s getting re-released in theaters.

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Kyle MacLachlan as Paul Atreides in David Lynch's Dune
Warner Bros. Pictures

The wait for Dune: Part Two is nearly, mercifully, over. But before the spice flows in Denis Villeneuve’s long-awaited sequel, fans will have the opportunity to celebrate the 40th anniversary of another Dune film.

In 1984, David Lynch took a swing at adapting Frank Hebert’s dense sci-fi epic. His version of Dune starred his go-to leading man, Kyle MacLachlan, as Paul Atreides, following his ascension as the messiah of Arrakis. As his path crossed with José Ferrer’s Emperor and Sting’s Feyd-Rautha, Dune deviated further from Hebert’s sacred text — and that’s just one of the issues plaguing the film.

Lynch’s Dune is nowhere near as faithful an adaptation as Villenueve’s. It takes liberties that fans have contested and cringed over for years, but they’re not alone. Not even Lynch was all that happy with the film: he tried to remove his name from the project after creative differences with Warner Bros., and has been candid with his regrets ever since. “I always say, Dune is a huge gigantic sadness in my life,” Lynch told IndieWire in 2019. “I did not have final cut on that film. Total creative control, I didn’t have it. The film is not the film I would’ve made had I had that final control. It’s a bit of a sadness.”

That said, Dune ‘84 does have its fans. There are things to like about the film, even if it was something of a nightmare for those involved. It’s just niche enough now to generate some nostalgia, and that seems like more than enough to justify its upcoming return to theaters.

A new generation of Dune fans will have the chance to catch Lynch’s version in theaters.

Warner Bros. Pictures

Fathom Events is hosting a brief theatrical run for Dune’s 40th anniversary. Fans of the film will have just two days to experience its return on February 18 and 19. Sure, that’s a pretty brief window, but it beats streaming the film on Max. And with Villeneuve’s Dune: Part Two still a few months away, catching Lynch’s Dune in theaters is sure to scratch an itch for somebody.

Villeneuve’s take on Dune might have put Herbert’s legendary books back on the map, but there’s a sense that it wouldn’t exist without Lynch’s first attempt. There’s an entire generation of audiences who’d never heard of Dune before Villeneuve teamed up with Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya in his 2021 adaptation. The release of Dune ‘84 will give those fans a chance to experience another version of the film on the big screen. It might not resonate with everyone — and it’s a shame that it represents such a dark time for both Lynch’s and MacLachlan — but there’s still plenty to like about their Dune, as audiences new and old will soon discover.

David Lynch’s Dune returns to select theaters on February 18.

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