Frank Herbert's Dune - The Spence Edit Revised

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Having struggled through the original full series, I had a hard time mentally preparing to revisit. That said, the ponderous tones that dragged down the original are gone. While the acting was far from stellar to begin with, the trims are meaningful in developing a communion with Paul and Leto, whom I found immersion-breaking many times per episode. The new music additions add to a more soaring tone than the original series allowed for.

The picture quality, especially on a large screen, is far from enjoyable, but surprises in some places. There are some highlights in the palace that reveal TV-quality set design, a nice artifact of the upscaling. The overall pacing of the movie is watchable in one sitting, even with tween children in tow. Well-done, especially given the challenge of the source material.

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I divided my thoughts here into 3 sections, each progressively longer for the people who prefer to read less and the people who prefer to read more!


Short version: This is my (current) favorite version of Dune on a screen. I watched an earlier version of this than the most recent, and despite what I've heard from Spence about a few blips he has since smoothed over, I thought this was edited perfectly. I noticed no weird transitions or audio dips or anything and I recommend this to anyone who enjoys Dune in any of its forms!



Longer version:

I haven't actually seen the original 1984 version or the 2000 miniseries, but I enjoyed the first half of this edit more than the 2021 version, and everything after was a bonus! (will re-evaluate once part 2 drops but that'll be a couple years) This also should not be taken lightly because I generally cannot stand movies that look/feel old. I acknowledge that I have a lot of Recency-Bias in my movie reviews.

I read the book in the weeks leading up to the 2021 release and I finished it the day before. I watched Dune 2021. I'm not sure why I thought reading the book first was a good idea, because everything I've ever known in life has told me reading the book AFTER the movie is the way to go. So, while honestly didn't really care for the book (been reading Sanderson and Abercrombie lately) I surprisngly liked Dune 2021.....less? More? I'm not sure. It LOOKED amazing, and I love Denis Villenueve, but I was pretty bored because, ironically, it followed the book pretty well, so I felt like I'd almost already watched it (I LOVE BR2049 for the record) Anyway, quality was clearly paramount for Spence, it wasn't until I got to the midpoint (at 1:22:32, where the 2021 movie ends, roughly) and started on my notes, that I remembered I was even watching an edit. (note, the 5 year time-skip happens a bit later, so I suppose 2021 cut those out, or will adjust them or something? Not sure.)



This last version is an informal bulleted-list comparison between the book, this edit, and Dune 2021, and reflects moreso how I felt about the work of the original filmmaker's vs the author's.
However, I haven't seen the original 2000 miniseries, so any props I give to that version over the 2021 version also should be given, in part, to Spence!
(most of these points I left as they were when I wrote them out as notes mid-viewing)

Part 1:

- I don't really care for movies that are/feel old, but I managed to overlook the cheesiness and wonky CGI here for the most part (except for the rabbit lmao)
- The dialogue is cheesy but I didn't think much of the dialogue in 2021 felt organic either, and I was pretty bummed about it
- Honestly this feels much faster paced than 2021 despite also feeling much more dialogue focused (both good things)
- They actually use the word Muad'dib thank god
- They sort of included the dinner scene where Paul ends that man's whole career, so, props for trying
- The Hunter-Seeker bit was less stupid in Spence's version
- There was less exposition dumps in Spence's version (it felt like it anyway)
- There was more emphasis on the importance of water in Spence's version
- Uh they did Duncan Idaho DIRTY in this one but honestly I thought the body shields in 2021 did not function like they were described in the book. I hate his death in 2021 because of this, so I'd put this point as a tie.
- I also don't remember Paul addressing his sister in 2021
- love the tidy whities duel
- 2021's "do you yield" was stupid and forced. This one wasn't perfect but it was much more organic!
- Also, with that being said they managed to include just as many book scenes as Dune 2021 in half the runtime (maybe even MORE scenes?)
- Jessica didn't cry in 2/3 of her scenes in this version so that's a bonus for me *cough* 2021 *cough*
- I've really enjoyed everything. Feels pretty spot-on with the book, give or take

Part 2:

Psych. I decided to disappoint you all the same way that Denis disappointed everyone who hadn't realized it was going to be a 2-parter (I did) Spence's edit played out in a very satisfying way that was pretty faithful to the books in my opinion (bear in mind I didn't really care for the book). Obviously not everything will translate 1:1 but I felt that it worked out pretty well. Also, as Denis hasn't had his chance yet, I'll reserve my final judgment for a few years lol.

(not sure what the significance of the bit where the kill the baby worm in the pool was about though)


Nice work here Spence!

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The original miniseries that inspired this edit has a big place in my heart despite its budget limitations.
Spence's work was a labor of love and the amount of care he put into the details its just amazing. making it faster, tighter and lighter, without losing the soul of the story.
I would really recommend it to anyone who wants to discover Dune in a different way than Lynch's or Villeneuve's versions and for fans of the original books its a must.

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(Updated: December 17, 2021)
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I loved Spense's 2014 edit of the ScfFi Channel mini-series DUNE.

But this. THIS!
THIS IS WHY I STILL WATCH FAN EDITS.
THIS IS ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC!!!

Using the blue prints of his original fan edit, Spense has constructed a better, stronger and more powerful viewing experience.
This time around, there is more emphasis on relationships and allowing the lead characters to breath more. This in turn, creates a more visceral connection to the story for the audience and makes them more willing to embrace the dense mythology and go on the hero's journey.

And yet, for all this increased character development, the fan edit never sacrifices pacing or action. The less than 3 hour runtime flies by and is fully satisfying.

The editing is ambitious and executed with incredible skill. Spense has rearranged the order of scenes, reframed the material, added music, cut over 90 minutes of material and every remaining scene has been tweaked or trimmed. Technically, on the final version I watched, everything looked and sounded perfect.

While I thoroughly the enjoy the Directors Cut of the 2000 mini--series, Spense has expertly recrafted it into an engaging, fast paced, character rich, epic cosmic movie.

As I said at the beginning, I loved Spense's 2014 version, but this new Revised Cut is a MASTERPIECE.

Two Thumbs Way, WAY UP!!!
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Amazing. Spence has worked wonders with what really is a neglected series in Dune lore, but one that tells the story with far more clarity and structure than Lynch, and with less hangups than Villeneuve. I have a special place in my heart for these films as well, as I do the novel, but this one will stand beside them indefinitely.

I hadn’t taken in the miniseries for reasons others neglect it - it’s a TV movie, which in the old days meant “cheap”. And yes, there are scenes Spence does what only can be done. The film has qualities of a well-blocked and rehearsed stage play, which, for some intents, it is (check those rear projection shots!) It has an almost-old fashioned feel that is, however, absolutely charming.

Lynch’s film took a lot of chances. It’s weird to think how much of what we think of the story of Dune we’re inventions of Lynch. Despite my heroic devotion to DL I never liked his Dune - it suffered mostly from his shockingly quaint decision to transfer Herbert’s character editorializing on screen, a decision made all the more surprising due to the fact he remains the supreme “show don’t tell” cinematic master (check Twin Peaks). Spicediver’s alternative redux saved that to a degree, and my love for Lynch’s Dune is really for Spicediver’s. In terms of taking what was an almost-impossible job - salvaging the narrative and story where one was sorely and initially neglected (the first 2/3rds are incredibly sustained, the last 1/3rd given over to a continual series of melting dissolves and very little else - it works in a form = content kind of way.

Villeneuve’s film also has its charms; certainly it has the luxury to tell a more intricate story, standing in Lynch’s shadow. So far, however, it is surprisingly conservative in its approach. If it is trying to avoid terminally weird pitfalls the way Lynch couldn’t help but step into, it is certainly succeeding, but it’s not terribly inventive, either. We’ll see how the second film plays out.

Now, in the middle comes this SF network effort by one John Harrison, a name which won’t ring any bells (curiously, he is an executive producer on Villeneuve’s films!) . I never had any interest in this stuff for reasons already mentioned. But being on a Dune kick this summer and having utter respect for Spence’s Hobbit edit from long ago, I wanted to see what was up here.

I have to say it really is the definitive version of the story, splitting the difference between Lynch (it’s a little weird, but not jaw-agape weird) and Villeneuve (it stays with the narrative, but dares to take chances). Somehow Spence managed to truncate 90 minutes or so from the story and still tell the tale, proving you don’t need internal monologue or exposition. You simply need a sense of narrative.

Spence has a careful sensibility to Harrison’s workhorseman, respectful narrative. Dune is an incredibly difficult novel to film in its entirety- if you’re familiar with it it’s clear how much Lynch left out. One or two scenes can go a long ways, however (check Yueh and Jessica here), and the way this is edited doesn’t at all feel rushed. 3 hours is indeed perfect, proving many things - if you know how to bring scenes out with your actors and block them appropriately (I wouldn’t be surprised if Harrison has a theater background), and are aware of one’s limitations (this one isn’t trying to be Lynch), you can create something miraculous in its alchemy.

The limitations are there for those who want to gripe about them - the obvious low budget, etc. But one really cannot complain when it comes to narrative. Spence has done what a faneditor does best - tell a story.

There are scenes here which are remarkable - we don’t have Eno’s haunting prophecy theme to work with, but the 3rd stage guild spacefold scene holds its own. Jessica’s water of life trip-out is absolutely awesome in its actualization. Many many scenes here are just so cleanly and professionally done it makes me wonder why Lynch was, again, unable (or unwilling) to pull them off. Spence’s editing to make this feel like a real film is seamless, never forced, always within the scope of believability.

This film will reside proudly alongside Spicediver’s edit and Villeneuve’s ongoing saga. It’s a curious thing to consider that, when all is said and done, this version of Dune may be, all-around, the definitive one.

Bravo, Spence. I’ll be checking out Children of Dune in it’s entirety this week.

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Owner's reply August 20, 2022

Thanks for the kind review. Children of Dune is pretty great, and definitely got a budget boost.

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