Sunday, 19 March 2017

Frank Herbert’s Dune (2000)

A complex story of politics, religion, mysticism, treachery, revenge, prophesy and revolution. Sci-Fi Fantasy on a grand scale.

Dune is my second favourite sci-fi book after Arthur C. Clarke's "Rendezvous with Rama" but while this miniseries sticks closer to the source than David Lynch's film, the production values don't do it any favours, with poor effects and a second-rate cast.

The performances are all over the place; P.H. Moriarty as Gurney Halleck is terrible, Baron Harkonnen, Feyd and the Beast do not instil any sort of terror. Paul is played pretty well by Alec Newman, starting off as an arrogant, petulant child before becoming the devotion inspiring Mahdi. It's been a few years since I read the book but I'm sure some of the dialogue was "modernised" and didn't seem to have the elegant and archaic language of the book.

Effects-wise: the Shai-Hulud were okay and you got a good feel for their huge scale but it's best to ignore the shoddy green-screen work. The ornithopters didn't look anything like what I thought an ornithopter should look like.

The costumes and set-dressing, although cheap-looking, had that ostentatious Machiavellian/Borgia/Renaissance/Age of Enlightenment feel that runs throughout the book. I loved the fascistic Samurai look that they gave the Harkonnen and disguised Sardaukar shock troops. However, the stillsuits were baggy and pretty poor (David Lynch made a much better go of them). The Spacing Guild members with their pointy hats seem influenced by the cover of the old paperback I read as a child.

The Petra styled desert sietches with stone furniture and hanging plants contrast well with the ostentatious Imperial and Harkonnen sets. The Islamic and Christian references from the book are present and correct and Paul has a real T.E. Lawrence feel to him.

Would I recommend it to someone new to Dune? Although this adaptation is far less confusing than Lynch's Dune I'd still say you should read the book first as the story is complex (just look at how many names and titles Paul has: Paul Atreides, Muad'Dib, Usul, Mahdi, Kwisatz Haderach) and the miniseries is very long (4:39 hours).

Note that the Australian Umbrella blu-ray has hard-coded French subtitles for the infrequent Bene Gesserit dialogue. English subs do not exist for these brief sections :(

Overall, a thoroughly enjoyable, if flawed, miniseries.

"I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain."

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