The 2000 miniseries gave us more of the actually pages of Dune translated to the screen, but it's acting, costumes and special effects were lacking.
So, to my surprise, what should appear but a new miniseries with reprising roles and some new cast members for Frank Herbert's Children of Dune on the SciFi Channel. Goodbye comparisons. We entered new screenplay territory since no theatrical version of any other Herbert novels has ever made it out to the public.
A wonderful presentation, Frank Herbert's Children of Dune combines the Dune Messiah and Children of Dune novels into this new miniseries and does so with one graceful motion. Well, almost graceful.
I don't know WHY the SciFi Channel feels the need to keep a "big name" in these films. William Hurt didn't aid the first miniseries with his 'Hurtful' acting. Likewise, I felt Mrs. Sarandon did nothing to aid in the release of this film/mini. Her character was cardboardish and dull. No action involving her at all. Nothing that seemed to help move the storyline along.
Uncharacteristically (and thankfully) Alec Newman reprises his role as Paul (and the new Preacher) and does so with powerfully strong acting (the exact opposite of what I saw from him in the original miniseries). Julie Cox was wonderful as Irulan, Jessica Krige excellently portrayed an aging Lady Jessica, and James McAvoy WAS Leto II. Jessica Brooks balanced the role of Ghanima perfectly by playing Leto's twin sister. And Daniela Amavia was P-E-R-F-E-C-T as the possessed and tortured Alia (preborn sister of Paul). She's also quite an atractive lady.
The costumes (thankfully) were also 'toned-down' a bit, so the large head-dresses and triangular suit attachments are gone. The budget for the special effects were increased (to great advantage). Loved the worms, the thopters, Alia's temple. Wonderful cinematography utilizing blue screens.
And the BIG shocker: the musical score! Brian Tyler! You the man! A true triumph as far as scores go, the music presented in this miniseries is sure to make the soul soar, or plummet into the Great Erg as appropriately presented by Mr. Tyler's score.
This miniseries is the new 5 star TV production for the SciFi Channel, and rightfully so. A presentation worth owning...on DVD.
I was pleasantly surprised after I watched and very much enjoyed the Sci Fi channel's 2000 miniseries, "Frank Herbert's Dune." At the time, I reconciled myself with the idea that this was the closest that Hollywood would come to portraying Herbert's epic. Thus, I looked forward to the airing "Children of Dune" with some enthusiasm but with low expectations.
I must admit that when I read details about the upcoming TV event, I had many misgivings: the changes in casting from the first miniseries, the fact that the script was a synthesis of the "Dune Messiah" and "Children of Dune" books, that the Atreides twins were to be teenagers instead of 9-year-olds, etc. Imagine my surprise when I found that the Sci Fi channel had done it again, and that I liked "Children of Dune" even better than their "Dune" miniseries.
If you are a die-hard Frank Herbert fan, I am not going to try to convince you that this is a worthy interpretation of "Dune." I will ask that you watch it with an open mind. However, if you are familiar with the stories and are a fan of science fiction, here are a few reasons why you should be a little forgiving and let yourself enjoy "Children of Dune":
- an excellent soundtrack, superior to that of both the Lynch movie and the original Sci Fi channel miniseries
- a bigger budget and improvements in special effects and in sets
- Alec Newman's reprised role as Muad'Dib (and as The Preacher) was powerful, both at Chani's death and at the climactic ending of the miniseries
- an improvement in the casting of Duncan Idaho, Stilgar, and to an extent the Lady Jessica (though unfortunately the new actress has been typecast in my head as the Borg Queen)
- a continued and interesting expansion of the Atreides adversaries' characters (House Corrino) in particular of Princesses Wensicia and Irulan (who in the books I never even cared about) though I wasn't too taken by Farad'n
- a brilliant teenage Leto Atreides II, who borrows bits of dialogue from "God Emperor of Dune" and makes me hope they make the next Herbert novel into a miniseries as well
- a script and a director who does not try to emulate Frank Herbert yet presents an interpretation of the saga which is respectful of it and which tries to stay true to the spirit of the novels
To conclude, it is well to note that the Dune storyline is in its purest form a Greek tragedy (according to Herbert, the Atreides ancestors are Agamemnon and the House of Atreus.) Both images and music carry the feel of great and noble deeds accomplished at the price of great pain and sorrow. This for me is the final reason that "Children of Dune" is worth watching: that you come to have a better understanding and to care deeply about both the characters and the Desert Planet. The miniseries was hardly over when I had to go looking for the DVD release date. I can only look forward to any special features that come with the DVD.
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