Saving the Lost (including 1984’s Dune)

Ryan Guerra

Have you ever returned to the place you grew up? The aura around the memories you hold can be diminished by such a visit. Long hallways you used to walk in school are much smaller now, the place you lived in is much older, and all your old favorite spots are far less exciting, if they even still exist. Nostalgia can go a long way to mix reality with imagination. Nostalgia also guides one of my favorite nerdy passions: science-fiction and fantasy films from the 1980s.

There is something about the poor effects and budget constraints that still draws me into these imaginary worlds more effectively than the near-perfect computer-generated imagery of today. Odd dialogue choices, outlandish costumes, typical ’80s audio mixing—I want it all! Which is why, when the trailer for the new Dune film was released, I instantly felt a call to return to the original movie from 1984, the one I adored growing up. But just as it can be disappointing to return to the place you came from, some movies should be left in the past. Nostalgia can blur over a lot; let me tell you, for Dune, it did.

Based on the book of the same name, the 1984 movie is about the battle for the desert planet Arrakis between House Atreides and their rival, the Harkonnens. It had political intrigue, betrayal, and love, but unfortunately none of it was coherent enough to appease critics or audiences. Director David Lynch even tried to remove his name from the credits. Though the movie follows the book, at least an hour of content was whittled down on the cutting-room floor. This left many important moments far less impactful or even understood. The filmmakers tried filling these missing pieces with awkward and confusing inner monologues. Still, there was nothing that could save the entire last act of the film, which features edits so quick and jarring that it leaves the viewer feeling whiplash.

As an adult, Dune’s flaws are far more noticeable. As I've grown up my perspective has changed and I see things with a far more critical eye. At some points Dune hit the absolute edge of absurd. What was once a beautiful movie to me now plays like an inept adaptation. This realization saddens me, but also paints a welcome picture of how I view myself now as an adult, compared to how God has always viewed me.

As an adult, Dune’s flaws are far more noticeable.

Just as my tolerance for bad cinema has changed, so has my faith. There are far more doubts than there were when I was younger. My mistakes and choices have taken me to places I didn't imagine I would be. I question more of what's told to me and agree to far less. To put it simply, life is far more complicated now, and these complications require a more mature faith than the faith I had growing up. My faith has matured, along with my taste in entertainment.

I'm thankful that God doesn't look at me or my life the way I now look at ’80s sci-fi films. He can look past my mistakes, past my doubts, and still want a relationship with who I am today—just as he did when I was a child. Where I have become far more critical, God remains the same yesterday, today, and forever. As the one who created me, he sees me in ways I could never understand. While I have become jaded with who I see in the mirror, he sees someone worth dying for. My perspective of my life has changed, but God's remains.

When God sees you, he doesn't see all the baggage you carry. He hears all your insecurities and consoles them. He sees us through the righteousness of Christ. He sees each of us as a unique creation, one he loves deeply. We can learn a lot from this: not only to enjoy old broken movies by remembering how they once moved us, but to also appreciate people around us and be encouraged with who we are. We are all broken, none of us are sinless, but God still loves us. He did then, he does now, and he will forevermore.

To be honest, I still enjoyed watched Dune. The opening song still excited me. Vladimir Harkonnen, with his draining black pustules and unstable personality, was still fascinatingly disgusting. I still laughed when Paul (Kyle MachLachlan) rides a giant worm in the most ridiculous fashion. And yes, I still got confused during the last 30 minutes of the movie (thank you Wikipedia plot synopsis). Yet for just over two hours I was entertained largely as I once was, even as I could see the faults in the film. There is value in corny ’80s movies. There is value in the broken. And I'm so thankful God sees value in us.

Topics: Movies