The Wild Blue Yonder

Only Werner Herzog would attempt to remake 2001: A Space Odyssey as documentary. Brad Dourif plays an alien stranded on earth; Roswell and microbes are involved somehow, and NASA footage is slyly repurposed to illustrate a space mission to his home planet. Real-life mathematicians explain how to slingshot around planets, and for the exploration of Dourif’s home world, Herzog uses gorgeous imagery from an ice dive. Narrative is kept to a minimum; it’s all just an excuse to show people floating through bizarre black and blue environments–which is something I can watch for hours, especially if it’s after midnight.

The Wild Blue Yonder. Werner Herzog, 2005. ***

[tags]film, 3 stars, werner herzog, nasa, aliens, diving, space, mathematicians, science, brad dourif, blue, light, ice, jellyfish, scifi, documentary[/tags]

Dune: Extended Edition

The arcana that led to this 177 minute recut of David Lynch’s scifi adaptation are somewhat hard to follow, but apparently, nobody’s too happy with it. Lynch took his name off, and the fans are waiting for some sort of mythical four-hour version that was only screened once. I haven’t seen the 137 minute original since it came out, but those 40 minutes couldn’t fix or ruin what’s wrong with this movie. The wood-paneled gothic future production design is pretty sweet, some of the imagery is vintage Lynch, but the special effects are awful and after a decent setup, Dune unravels in the second and third acts.

Frank Herbert fans won’t like hearing this, but part of the problem is the source material. What’s great about Dune is the world building–Herbert’s universe is fascinating, but the story itself, Paul’s hero’s journey, isn’t all that interesting. It’s rendered as a series of tests: a knife fight with Patrick Steward, a witch with a poison dart, a flying poison dart, drinking the water of life, riding a giant sand worm, etc etc, and finally another knife fight with, of all people, Sting. (The sequels are stuffed with great ideas, too, but almost all of the plots are awful.) In Dune, everything after the Duke’s death feels like denouement.

And since I’m still consulting it daily, here’s what Lynch says about Dune in Catching the Big Fish:

When I made Dune, I didn’t have final cut. It was a huge, huge sadness, because I felt I had sold out and the film was a failure at the box office on top of that. If you do what you believe in, and you have a failure, that’s one thing: you can still live with yourself. But if you don’t, it’s dying twice. It’s very, very painful. […] The filmmaker should decide on every single element, every single world, every single sound, every single thing going down that highway through time. Otherwise, it won’t hold together. The film may suck, but at least you made it suck on your own. So to me, Dune was a huge failure. I knew I was getting into trouble when I agreed not to have final cut. I was hoping it would work out, but it didn’t. The end result is not what I wanted, and that’s a sadness.

Dune: Extended Edition. Alan Smithee, 1984. **

[tags]film, david lynch, 2 stars, alan smithee, scifi, frank herbert, dune, final cut, kyle maclachlan, brad dourif, virginia madsen, jurgen prochnow, toto, brian eno, heros journey[/tags]