Dune the Miniseries

May your knife chip and shatter.

A review by Mike Shea   Movie Rating: ( * * * · · )    DVD Rating: ( * * · · · )

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Dune might very well be the best science fiction story ever told. It has an evolving plot line so thick that it makes the drivel of Star Wars look like Goodnight Moon. Reading Dune throughout college really made me wonder how a single man, Frank Herbert, could come up with the incredibly intricate political games that are played throughout the 4000 year periods of the six books. They are easily one of the greatest tales ever told. The attempt to capture such a marvelous tale and market it for the typical beer drinking slobs that usually attend movies is very hard. Most producers are wondering how they can make another movie about asteroids to even finish reading the script of Dune. They don't think the audience is ready to think for once. This was the fate of the original David Lynch version of Dune. While it tried to hold some of the original story and also appeal to the newcomer of the story, it failed in both courts. The typical "ooooh ahhhh" sci-fi action fan didn't understand a damn thing and were too busy wondering why the women wear such funny hats, and the original fans of the book were so outraged at what was missing that they burned every copy of the movie that they could find. Personally I was a fan of the movie for one reason. They tried. While it missed a lot, it did allow me to get some visuals for what I had read.

Now once again, we get a vision of Dune. This time we are allowed a full six hours for their version, four and a half after the Domino's and Bally's ads are removed. Adding this much time can make a huge difference in a movie, as it did for Lawrence of Arabia and Leon. It allows you to understand the characters and the story better, and gives the director and writer more time to give you what they want you to see. Unfortunately, this four hour version was built for TV. Gone are the billion dollar budgets you might find for the latest movie about water. Gone are the big named stars. Gone are the blazing special effects. But if 12 Monkeys taught us anything, it taught us that it takes more than special effects to make good science fiction. So Dune had a lot of potential. Did it succeed? Well, kind of. We are allowed a lot more of the story that we were originally, but there seemed to be too many scenes missing that I would have liked to have seen, and too many scenes in it that I could have done with out.

The first part of the two part series simply builds the story. We are introduced to all the main characters and given some basic guidelines. Instead of the young wonderer of Paul we got in the movie, the Paul of the TV version is a spoiled brat. He whines and whimpers around like a rotten child. We don't think he is that strong or powerful. We don't think he could stand up to his own father, much less become the next messiah.

Part two is a little stronger. We get more development of the story and Paul isn't such a whiny bastard as he was originally. He seems a little tougher after growing a bit of stubble that must come without having water to shave with. We get a good feel for the strength and severity of the Fremen culture, more so than in the original movie. There is a little more of the political intricacy that I enjoyed so much from the book, but still not as much as I would have wished. Then we get a few scenes that just felt like the typical Hollywood staples, including a bit more time spent on the romance of Chani and Paul than I would have liked. The special effects also fall apart a bit when we begin to see the worms up close. While the rest of the special effects give some pretty good feeling, a lot like Babylon 5 did, for some reason, the worms just didn't work out for me.

The final act tries it's best to put together the rest of the picture, but even when put out as the messiah of two legends, Alec Newman just doesn't hold it together. I still remember him crying and wailing about how hard his life was on Caladan. Another butchery was with the young sister of Paul, the abomination. I remember how sinister she was in the book, but that didn't seem to come across at all in this. The special effects get a little better, with some pretty neat effects for the weirding way that I enjoyed a lot more than that voice based crap they put in the movie. The conclusion helps to tie a more political bow around the end of the story, but it still has to ruin it with a little speech about what a concubine is compared to a wife when politics run marriages. I could have done without that as anyone with an open mind would understand what was happening without it being handed to us on a silver platter.

The DVD presentation of this mini-series was disappointing. While I was very pleasantly surprised to see what a marvelous job we had with The Sopranos, I was also spoiled by it and it hurt this one. Dune is shot at 1.85 to 1, but is not 16x9 enhanced and only includes a Dolby Pro-Logic soundtrack. There is no commentary, but a bunch of special features included on the second disc. Even though this is just a TV show, they still could have gone the extra distance and made a 16x9 enhanced Dolby Digital version. It would have made it that much closer to a real movie. Still, the picture and sound aren't so bad that I couldn't get into it. I was more than happy with the general presentation.

I have a hard time with this one. It could have been a lot better than it was, but it did make a more valiant attempt to capture this tale than the first movie. Had we had a stronger lead actor and broken away a little bit from what we as an audience are told to expect, it would have been far better. Perhaps the rumors of a fresh chance with Dune Messiah will help once again to offer this story to a wider audience. We can only hope.