Special Edition, Director's Cut Special Edition, Director's Cut
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It's a mixed blessing, but "Frank Herbert's Dune" goes a long way toward satisfying science fiction purists who scoffed at David Lynch's previous attempt to adapt Herbert's epic narrative. Ironically, director John Harrison's 288-minute TV miniseries (broadcast on the Sci-Fi Channel in December 2000) offers its own share of strengths and weaknesses, which, in retrospect, emphasize the quality of Lynch's film while treating Herbert's novel with more comprehensive authority. Debate will continue as to which film is better; Lynch's extensive use of internal monologue now seems like a challenge well met, and Harrison's more conventional approach is better equipped to convey the epic scope of Herbert's interplanetary political intrigue.\n This much is certain: this "Dune" is a sumptuous treat for the eyes, with sets and costumes that were conceived with no apparent limits of budget or creativity. In terms of architecture alone, this is one of the most impressive films in science fiction history. And although the special effects fall short of feature-film quality, writer-director Harrison (who rose from an extensive background in TV) admirably tames the sprawling narrative that pits the opposing houses of Atreides and Harkonnen in a struggle to control the lucrative market for the spice melange. This is as accurate as any "Dune" adaptation is likely to get (i.e., there's no need for another attempt), and even then, it can be tricky to keep track of who's doing what to whom. Unfortunately, the film's biggest flaws are the casting of a nearly comatose William Hurt as Duke Leto, and a wooden Alec Newman as the messiah-to-be, Paul Atreides. These are regrettable shortcomings, but this "Dune" remains altogether respectable. That Frank Herbert would be impressed is perhaps the biggest compliment one can pay. "--Jeff Shannon"
Owing to the differing broadcast standards of global television, the director's cut of Frank Herbert's Dune essentially combines the international versions originally broadcast in 2000. Several scenes are new to American audiences, including some brief and tasteful nudity, but the real benefit comes from scenes that clarify the politics and betrayals that arise between the houses of Atreides and Harkonnen. In his articulate and informative commentary track, writer-director John Harrison illuminates the value of these scenes, while additional DVD supplements explore the challenges of production and, most eloquently, the artistic philosophy of cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, whose color strategies are outlined in interviews and an intellectual essay. And while the "Defining the Messiah" and "Science Future/Science Fiction" supplements are not directly related to the film, they place this epic production (and Frank Herbert's legacy) into a rich and meaningful perspective. Even if viewed only once, these and other features provide valuable context for a deeper appreciation of Harrison's ambitious adaptation. --Jeff Shannon
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I couldn't believe it: A certain character dies as he was meant to die, sacrificing himself at a Fremen sietch to give Paul and Jessica a chance to escape (though he does not get a chance to show his fighting skill.) The multiple plots are actually explained without resorting to soap operaish internal dialog. Chani was beautiful but in a hard, smart, Fremen sort of way (sorry, but Sean Young was always just a bit too elegant for that roll in the Dune Definitive Collection 2 DVD Set [Import].) Irulian was less the remote ice princess and much more interesting as a naive and protected child opening her eyes to realpolitik (and admit it guys: could you really keep your eyes off her -- really? I practically had to have mine replaced.)
Were the costumes what I imagined? No. Were the special effects perfect? No. Was each character what he should have been? NOT; but, most were pretty darn good (the blue within blue eyes were perfect) and the portrayal of the overall story is a good one. The ideas from the novel -- scarce commodities and the blood we pour out for them; beloved yet psychotic rulers; plans within plans, within plans -- come through in ways that never happened with the Lynch effort for all its gore and narcissism.
I finished this series with the utmost respect for the effort put forth by it creators, given the medium, and I say that as someone who has admired the series for three decades and read it at least a half dozen times, plus all the later works, both by Herbert and his son. Good job, Sci Fi, it was worth the wait.
For those who are new to Dune, this is the story of political intrigue set within a human Galactic Empire in the year 10,191. Mankind has spread to many worlds among the stars, made possible by a kind of faster-than-light space travel. This form of space travel is utterly dependent upon the spice melange (much as our own time is dependent upon oil). Melange enables space navigators to enter into the "navigation trance" enabling them to select a safe route for a spaceship to travel. Melange can be found only upon one planet--the planet Arrakis, also known as Dune. Melange extends life and is greatly desired by aristocrats within the Empire, but of course its use in promoting space travel and commerce is what makes it the center of intrigue and political power. Dune is the story of a struggle between the Imperial house, and two other Great Houses to control Dune, the spice, and ultimately the Empire.
Dune the novel is initially a hard slog, but it eventually rewards the reader because Dune is arguably the greatest work of imagination of all time. The great triumph of Dune is that it presents us with a universe and society utterly unlike our own, but with a realism and internal consistency that is completely convincing. This is a great story. It is also a long story, not easily adapted to the format of a 3 hour movie.
This miniseries succeeds partly because Dune is almost perfect for the miniseries format. The original David Lynch film fell short specifically because it simply had to make too many compromises to fit the format of a feature-length film. The first half of the Lynch film was superb, benefiting from its all-star cast and incredible budget, special effects, and sets, but it went downhill in the seond half. As Dune afficianados know, the Lynch film also took liberties with the story, primarily by introducing the "wierding modules" as the secret to Atreides military proficiency rather than the specialized combat techniques of the novel.
This miniseries is an almost linear depiction of the Frank Herbert novel to the screen--the script takes few liberties with the original story, the only one coming to mind is the somewhat enhanced role of Princess Irulan. This worked well, and in no way changes the fact that this miniseries truly is Herbert's novel transported to the screen. The story is wonderful to follow, and this miniseries is about as good a presentation of Dune as anyone is ever likely to make. It succeeds and succeeds well.
The main shortfall of the miniseries is the casting of Alec Newman as Paul Atreides, the leading protagonist of the Dune story. Newman lacks the stature to carry off the role of Paul--oh, if only Kyle MacLachlan, who played Paul in the Lynch film had been available! William Hurt as the Duke Leto Atreides is controversial; some feel that he was unenthusiastic about the role, and presented a somewhat sleepy performance. I thought Hurt did an adequate job, but not as good as Jurgen Prochnow in the Lynch film. The rest of the cast in the miniseries was very good, and compares reasonably well to the all-star cast in the Lynch film.
The sets, special effects, etc., while not state-of-the-art compared to the latest big budget films, are nevertheless very, very good; far better than one normally finds in made-for-TV productions. The viewer will be impressed with the imaginative and lavish sets, costumes, and effects.
Dune is a great story and this is a wonderful miniseries. Anyone who enjoys science fiction should appreciate this film, and any Dune afficianado will want to own this DVD and watch it many times, as I have.