In the 11th millennium, Shaddam IV, ruler of the Galactic Empire, rids himself of his competitor Duke Leto Atreides by giving him control of the desert planet Dune also called Arrakis; fully aware that its present owner, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, will not give it up without a fight. The reason is that Arrakis is the source of the valuable spice, a substance produced by enormous and dangerous sandworms, which bestows special mental qualities on anyone who consumes it. A short while later Harkonnen does indeed succeed in ambushing and massacring Leto and his men. Leto's mistress Lady Jessica, who is a member of the clairvoyant order of Bene Gesserit, manages to escape into the desert with her son Paul, and after a long and dangerous march they finally encounter the Fremen, the long suppressed desert tribe of Arrakis. Impressed by Paul's clairvoyant abilities, tribal prince Stilgar takes in the fugitives. Very soon the Fremen are convinced that Paul is their long-prophesied redeemer, and... Written by
The Sci-Fi Channel's production of Frank Herbert's Dune is a vast epic tale bristling with adventure, romance, and political intrigue. It's an epic saga that's faithfully told, staying true to its source material with well-developed characters and an engrossing plot that's complex, yet entirely comprehensible. Most importantly, it's a miniseries that's extremely enjoyable to watch; this isn't an example of slow pretension, but rather a spirited and rousing adventure. Running at nearly 5 hours, the production is always a lot of fun to watch, and never flags in pacing or momentum.
The cast is a success, particularly lead Alec Newman as Paul Atreides. In the miniseries most crucial role, Newman finds most of the right nuances and emotional complexities of the character. Saskia Reeves delivers the series' best performance as Lady Jessica, a role full of warmth and heart. It's a pity Reeves won't return for Children of Dune, but Alice Krige is a superb actress in her own right. The villains of the piece are equally magnetic. Ian Mcniece is a menacingly cunning Baron Harkonnen, while Matt Keeslar makes for an imposing Feyd Rautha. In other important roles, William Hurt, P.H. Moriarty, and Julie Cox acquit themselves admirably. The only weak performer is Barbara Kodetova, who's annoying as Chani, lacking the strength and conviction we expect from the part.
Dune is a spectacular production, aided by some of the best interior sets on screen to date. The CGI effects are excellent, given the budgetary limitations, and the giant sandworms stand out, especially in their awe-inspiring first appearance. The miniseries has a lavish, gorgeous look to it (courtesy of cinemtographer Vittorio Storraro), wisely separating it from its lacking predecessor (the Lynch disaster). Writer/director John Harrison achieves tight pacing through superb editing and storytelling. He also does a fine job delivering rousing action sequences, the knife fights are dynamic and the epic battle scenes are fast-paced and exciting. I'm certain there will still be discontent Herbert fans, but I found this a fully satisfying miniseries on almost all counts.
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