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This review comes for the first part of the Children of Dune miniseries, which is actually the adaptation of Dune Messiah. And after viewing this hour-and-a-half rendition, I must say I'm immensely pleased and impressed. It's every bit as compelling as the Dune miniseries was, and from a technical viewpoint, is actually far superior. The production design, the special effects, the cinematography are all a distinct improvement over both the original miniseries and the David Lynch disaster.
The story picks up twelve years after the conclusion of Dune; war continues to ravage the galaxy, Paul "Muad'Dib" Atreides (Alec Newman) is now seen as something of a curse by the people, as his name is now associated with bloodshed and violence. Conspiracies grow around him, his life is threatened at every turn. At the heart of it is Princess Wensicia (Susan Sarandon), daughter of Emperor Shaddam IV and sister of Irulan (Julie Cox). Her plans include preventing a new heir on the Atreides throne, sending a ghola of Duncan Idaho (Edward Atterton) to kill Paul, and to have a giant sandworm captured to begin a new spice cycle. With so many plots, Paul's main concern still centers around Chani (Barbara Kodetova) and her accelerating pregnancy.
Children of Dune's biggest asset is its talented cast. Alec Newman, who was very good in the original, has matured the past three years, his performance as Paul Atreides is excellent. Those who had doubts about him before will have them silenced with his great performance here. Daniela Amavia makes for a spirited and appealing Alia, Edward Atterton is definitely superior to James Watson in the role of Duncan Idaho, and Julie Cox is terrific and sympathetic as the conflicted Princess Irulan. Steven Berkoff, Barbara Kodetova, Alice Krige, and P.H. Moriarty are solid in their roles, with Kodetova showing improvement over the last miniseries.
Children of Dune's compelling plot is executed with precision by director Greg Yaitanes, who does a bang-up job over his predecessor, John Harrison. As a matter of fact, though Dune Messiah's story is naturally a bit weaker than Dune's, the superb execution here makes it superior to any previous adaptations of Dune (it's at least as good as the terrific miniseries, far better than the horrible Lynch film). The cinematography distinguishes itself with darker colors, while still maintaining the vibrancy the original miniseries had. Brian Tyler's beautiful score is evocative, particularly during a wonderful montage segment of literal birth and death.
The special effects are the best I've ever seen for a made-for-TV sci-fi project. The city and planetscapes are dazzling and the desert bluescreens are convincing, wisely ridding of the painted backgrounds that marred the original. There's an absolutely magnificent, visually breathtaking sequence in which the Space Guild kidnaps a giant worm from the desert, doing so in a rather clever and believable manner. So far, that has been this miniseries' highlight. All this builds to the suspenseful finale, which is a conclusion in its own right and paves the way for the next part of the miniseries. I, for one, cannot wait.
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