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
First, a small catalog of guidelines for the 3 main types of viewers, and what they can expect from this mini series.
Type One: The Dunatics. For them, nothing can match up to the gospel according to Frank Herbert, so, choices are reduced to 2. Either make allowances towards both limitations and possibilities of the TV format to encounter the new and frivolous concept of fun, or refuse to watch this on the premise that any cinematic adaptation short of congeniality amounts to blasphemy by nature.
Type Two: The Lynch Mob. For them, the 84 adaptation justifies making allowances towards the novel by sheer impact of Lynch's surely unique, but also highly controversial vision - sometimes even questionable, where both Herbert and Lynch share an uncomfortable leaning towards social Darwinism and Riefenstahl-type aesthetics/ideals of 'Uebermensch' and 'Untermensch', sometimes even drifting into fascist cyphers. Noble savages versus the pit full of rotting (and of course 'sexually depraved', by showing the 'classic' negatively coded combination of cruelty and latent/outright homosexuality in men, and deception/treachery and offensive sexuality in women) carcass of the old and degenerated system of the imperial hierarchy. But the belief in 'higher breeding' (birthright of leadership/superiority) transcends both and is never put in question - not even by our 'hero' after the real necessity of a political marriage was gone. Recommendation: Watch Dune 2000. With a certain selective view applied, it'll serve as a welcome spare parts depot for their thesis that the 84 movie casts a shadow which can't be shed by any future attempt. Visually, this new version has enough thinly disguised 'Lynchisms' to justify a gloat session.
Type Three: The Players. They are the least dogmatic section of viewers, first and foremost on the look-out for 5 hours of 'other-worldly' atmosphere and storytelling beyond the mind-numbing standards of SF TV. Recommendation: Have fun and a few good 'goosebump moments' beyond mere popcorn TV.
Looks Let's face it, this one is split. The photography, costumes (matter of taste) and the built sets are excellent but highly individual. One either loves or hates it. On the whole, it looks more like a Visconti epic than Hollywood coded SF. CGI, backdrops, matte paintings and 'outdoor' studio sets, on the other hand, are so unbelievably clumsy and unprofessional that they can easily spoil the whole thing if one isn't capable of blotting them out of one's prime perception. The budget is no excuse. Half a crew from the minimal budget wizards on Farscape would've finished classes above this shambles.
Script This is far better than most give it credit. It has flaws, but they derive mostly from particular expectations of the Dunatics or the Lynch Mob. They tried to loose a bit of the extremely sterile and formalized dialogue from the books and the 84 movie - sometimes going overboard by making them talk too '90's casual' - but on the whole achieving a good compromise between Herbert's and Lynch's extremely artificial diction and something that could be recognized as 'normal' talk in such a highly ritualized environment. On the whole, they stayed closer to the book than the Lynch version, but messed up on a few small but sometimes vital details without an apparent reason. That's of no consequence for those who haven't read the original, but a pity, nonetheless in some cases, especially the lame portrayal of the Fremen. (significance of water in all its aspects)
Acting A mixed bag, here, but mainly due to the 90's approach to characterization/diction rather than bad acting. That sometimes backfires heavily, especially in the case of the lead. The whole concept - no matter how 'updated' it's supposed to be - hinges on a rather simple but nonetheless vital construct of a messiah. So, first requirement is to emanate something 'beyond' a mere character. Messiahs are NEVER characters. They are cyphers to carry and focus ideals no mortal could match up to. Herbert's Paul has at least to function/convince as a kind of Jesus with a pump action to inspire massive battles for the greater good. In that, Alec Newman fails almost completely. Half of that is down to a simple lack of presence, and the other half to Harrison's direction. Granted, Newman portrays a more 'real' person than McLachlan's aseptic and super moralistic uber-noble, but that is the last thing required for such a role. The actor who played Gurney, though, was a total wash-out and shouldn't even be mentioned in the same breath with Stewart's interpretation. But there, the pit is already reached. Most other performances range from adequate to good (in the case of non English speaking actors sometimes hampered by the sheer inability to give life to the words beyond mere translation..., with one notable and no less than exquisite exeption)
The acting highlight is set by Ian McNeice's Baron. This is the real gem of the whole piece - and most likely to be hated by both Dunatics and the Lynch Mob. He gives an outrageous Baron! Pure ham, brilliantly constructed to bypass the extremely limited and one-dimensional boundaries of that character set by Herbert & Lynch, like acid, skilfully sprinkled over the plump exterior to outline the hidden and multi-layered menace and the REAL danger. For the first time, one can really see the magnitude and cunning of the Baron's long-term agenda. At the same time McNeice splashes the character's homosexuality at the screen like a paint bomb, thereby totally disconnecting it from his evilness. This Baron is an evil man who merely HAPPENS to be a homosexual. Here, his sexuality is his only Achilles heel - his 'weak' spot amongst ppl who use exactly that to bring him down. An absolutely brilliant acting twist to de-cloak the nature of the co-existing true evil in the same person. And McNeice's Baron doesn't only say he's intelligent and downright exceptional in his scheming skills. He proves it more than once against a whole menagerie of 'allies' constantly underestimating him.
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