Frank Herbert's Dune
Reviewed by Galen Strickland
Posted December 19, 2000
Comparing Frank Herbert's Dune, the mini-series, to other original productions airing on the Sci-Fi Channel it is very impressive. There are many factors that give it advantages over the David Lynch film version, especially the expanded time allowing for more plot elements and character development. It is unfortunate though that most of the acting is not on the same level. William Hurt, an Academy Award-winning actor of considerable range, gives such a lackluster performance one wonders how his Duke Leto could have inspired the fierce loyalty of his troops, and Alec Newman as Paul-Maud'Dib seems too brash and bratty in comparison to Kyle MacLachlan's more subtle portrayal. The supporting players fare much better, most notably Ian McNeice as the Baron Vladamir Harkonnen and Uwe Ochsenknecht as the Fremen sietch leader Stilgar. Julie Cox plays Princess Irulan, a character present in only one scene of the novel (but whose book excerpts highlight the beginnings of each chapter). She was given a much more prominent role here, and for the most part that was a very good decision. Not only is Ms. Cox a more-than-competent actress, her character's presence helped to illuminate several plot points ignored in the original film.
The sets and costumes are quite a bit different than in the film, and while it was a good decision not to mimic that earlier production I do prefer the look of the Lynch version, with the exception of the ornithopter design. I am sure the budget was lower than for the film, even allowing for the difference of 1984's dollar value, and for the most part it shows. CGI effects cannot compete (yet) with the more detailed sets, matte paintings, and model work of the film.
The three parts of the mini-series adhered fairly closely to the three separate books of the novel. Although almost all of the major elements of the story-line were included I did notice some distinct alterations. Some of the dialogue was delivered by the wrong character and certain things were presented out of chronological order. Still, this is better than if they had not been included at all, which was the main failing of the film. The Sci-Fi Channel reports that this series garnered their highest ratings ever, which is not surprising considering the level of promotion afforded the program. Previews were even featured at movie theatres across the country in the weeks preceding its airing.
I have also written a short review on the David Lynch film version of this story.
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