Ossus Library Index Science Fiction Movie Index


Directed by Greg Yaitanes (2003, Sci-Fi Channel)
Starring Alec Newman, Julie Cox, P.H. Moriarty, Alice Krige, and Susan Sarandon

The tyrannical empire of Muad'dib begins to fall apart as forces conspire against it.



3 stars

June 3rd to 6th, 2003 on TV  

Following the books very closely, this mini-series carries with it most of the faults and successes, but expands on it visually and with terrific acting.

It's too bad that the source material for this mini-series isn't great. In fact, I could barely wade through Dune Messiah and even less Children of Dune when I read them again recently. There is so much... nothing... going on, that they seemed interminable.

The mini-series, however, seems to have improved upon the books a little, even in terms of scope. The producers cut so much of the fat that all three parts were enjoyable, though less and less as the nights wore on. Keeping to the plots to kill Paul, then the twins, was definitely the way to go for the TV screen -and maybe should have been the focus of the books, as well.

For the weakest parts of the mini-series deal with the philosophical aspects of Dune and the Atreides family, worst of all Alia. In the first part, we didn't get to see much of her religion, but later, she was literally a brute (worse than that, actually). The actress did an admirable job with making the character actually lose control of herself. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough, and I found myself dreading every scene that she was in. The only exception was when she was under the spell of the Baron Harkonnen. It was great fun to see him again, especially when he has Alia seduce one of her priests so that he can experience the boy for himself, the way he always did when he was alive! Some things don't change, especially since the Baron that she experienced was the man as he existed when her mother was born, since she was cut off from his memories at that moment.

The first third of the movie covers the entirety of Dune Messiah. As with the Dune mini-series, I was impressed with a lot of what I saw, in terms of the visual look of the movie, and the people involved. I really love the international flavor of the cast, with thick accents for the Fremen, British for the Corrino family, and so on.  I was a little disappointed with the stone burner scene that blinds Paul, though, because it was my favorite part of the book. The effect itself was quite neat, but the after-effect could have used some enhancement, and I didn't see the wonder that was supposed to be in people's eyes when he could still see. It could have used more time.

The other part of the movie that seemed rather bland were the visions. They were obviously in Jacurutu, with Leto II, but didn't have any visual sensations that I think should have been part of such an important part of the movie. The last vision, though, with Paul using Leto's eyes to kill the Tleilaxu, was great. Speaking of the Face Dancer, the cast seemed to butcher the name of that race of humans, among others. It would have been nice to see his face change shape from the girl to his own. The special effect should have been readily available from so many other shows, instead of cutting away.

Most of the characters didn't get enough motivation for their actions. The transformation of Hayt into Duncan Idaho could have been given more time, so that he could do some soul searching, in place of some of the action that we got. Korba wasn't given enough motivation either, since he would lose all of his power once Paul was dead. This, as mentioned, was a problem with the book, as well.

Paul and Chani, however, got a lot more characterization. I especially liked Chani, who had the unfortunate part of dying in childbirth. I really liked Paul's question to her, wondering if she knew what price he would pay to end the jihad, already knowing that the price would be her life.

The same qualities appeared in the second and third parts, taken from the book Children of Dune. While Jessica (wow), Irulan and Ghanima were true beauties, they couldn't compare to Chani, and so the beauty of the film was diminished right from the start!

The book wasn't as good as the first one, either, though, so it isn't truly the fault of the mini-series. The second part is definitely weaker than the first part, and the third is weaker, still. While motivations were tenuous in the first part, clarity in the characters was not to be found in so much of what happened through the rest of the movie.

We could have used some better- or clearer- explanations of Leto's transformation, and what he was planning to do to make the galaxy a better place, other than the words "The Golden Path". I was disappointed not to see Leto bursting some of the water reservoirs, or fully becoming a sand trout (the explanation for how he stopped the worm).

There were other parts that I was not disappointed to miss. The Preacher's visit to Selusa Secondus would have seemed like a repeat of Jessica's visit. Jessica herself seemed a lot more sympathetic than she was portrayed in the novel, where she was even responsible for Leto's spice trance. It would have been nice to see early knowledge that Ghanima knew she would be hypnotized into thinking that Leto was dead, but the way they were so close was already given too much time. At least they avoided the controversial incestuous relationship they had at the end. Farad'n knew that these two were closer than brother and sister, and that he would have to accept his role of consort, in order to provide Leto with heirs.

I really liked Farad'n, especially as an adult. When he decided to take charge, he did it with style, exactly as his mother would have, taking every advantage to impress the powerful and tyrannical rulers of Arrakis -even to the point of turning in his own mother. He had a quiet calm in him, which showed how the training that he refused to take when he was young had actually been embedded within him.

Although the acting was top notch, the most impressive thing about this entire mini-series was the music. It was truly cinematic, through all three parts, and worthy of a big-screen presentation. It had so much of an impact everywhere it became noticeable. But even the regular music was eclipsed by the use of a chanting-style song at the end of part 1, replacing dialog as Chani gives birth, and at the same time Paul's guards kill those who plotted against him (except for dramatic reasons, why did they wait so long?). It was by far the best part of the mini-series as a whole.

In general, the special effects were decent, though not consistently so. The Fremen eyes were not always blue, the tigers looked like bad CG, though they might have been puppets. The worms were a little better than in Dune, but not significantly, especially when Leto, Ghanima and Irulan approach a gathering of them at the beginning of part 2. One of the best special effects is the wierding way, which allows Paul, Jessica and even Farad'n to move faster than the eye can follow -they were obviously filmed at a slower frame rate, and it was perfectly done, and amazing to see.

My biggest complaint about the mini-series is how nobody aged through the whole thing, when they were portrayed by the same actors. Paul looked exactly the same as he did throughout the first mini-series, 12 years earlier. He ages for the part of the Preacher, but looks merely rugged rather than another 15 years older. Alia looks her age in the second and third parts, but she certainly doesn't look 15 in part 1. Irulan might have aged by a couple of years, but definitely not 30 years by the time the twins ascend the throne. The only one that I can forgive is Jessica, who with her Bene Gesserit ways probably knows how to slow her aging somewhat. She still looks younger than she did in Dune!

I may change my mind upon seeing this mini-series a second time, as I did with the original Dune. Seeing how I felt so frustrated and bored by the novels, however, I would say that this show was very true to the spirit and tone of the novels that it portrays, and that my enjoyment will not increase. I must reiterate that I think this mini-series has improved upon the novels, especially given the impressive visuals, especially the sets, the outstanding acting from nearly all involved, and really good direction in most scenes. It is definitely worth watching, but only if viewers are well versed in the lore of Dune. There are no explanations forthcoming, for personalities, conflicts, or motivations. Again, this is more of a failing of the source material than of the mini-series.


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