Frank Herbert's Children of Dune: Sci-Fi TV Miniseries
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The spectacular epic that began in the Emmy Award-winning Frank Herberts Dune mini-series continues in this dazzling new journey into sweeping interstellar intrigue and visionary sci-fi adventure! On the desert planet of Dune, the ancient prophecy has been fulfilled: the rule of the legendary Muaddib has triggered a miraculous transformation of the arid wastelands. But as always, the Great Houses of the Empire are alive with rumors of conspiracy, plotting and betrayal. And when Muaddib no longer wields absolute power as the Emperor, his young son Leto Atreides and daughter Ghanima face the prospect of a disastrous civil war on Arrakis - and chaos on a galactic scale. Now, with the future of the vital Spice trade in the balance, the destiny of humanity itself will depend on the courage, strength and otherworldly wisdom of The Children of Dune!
Conspiracies abound in Children of Dune, Sci-Fi Channel's praiseworthy miniseries sequel to Frank Herbert's Dune, loyally adapted from the Herbert novels Dune Messiah and Children of Dune by John Harrison, who passed directorial duties (due to a scheduling conflict) to Greg Yaitanes, a 31-year-old TV director and Dune neophyte tackling his biggest assignment to date. Uninitiated viewers face a disadvantage; it's best to read Herbert's books and/or see the first miniseries before plunging into this remarkably coherent tangle of political intrigue, unfolding 12 years after the events of Dune.
To his horror, Maud'Dib--Arrakis emperor Paul Atreides (Alec Newman, reprising his Dune role)--has become the unintended figurehead of a violent dictatorship, and his enemies are multiplying. Vanishing into the desert, he waits as destiny shapes his twin heirs Leto II (James McAvoy) and Ghanima (Jessica Brooks), who must contend with their scheming aunt Alia (Daniela Amavia) while Princess Wensicia (Susan Sarandon), of the enemy House Corrino, plots her own attack on Maud'Dib's familial empire. Exiled Atreides matriarch Lady Jessica (Alice Krige, giving the film's finest performance) returns to Arrakis, where the enormous, desert-dwelling sandworms face an uncertain future. As always, the spice must flow, and the universe's most coveted commodity remains at the center of this richly detailed and physically impressive production. Special effects range from awesome (fly-over shots of the capital city, Arakeen) to awful (the saber-tooth tigers look like Jumanji rejects), and Dune devotees will endlessly debate the miniseries' strengths and weaknesses. Some may desire more action to punctuate the film's inherent verbosity, but consensus will surely conclude that this is Dune done right, with monumental effort and obvious devotion from everyone involved. --Jeff Shannon
- Storyboard comparisons
- "Making Dune's Children: The VFX Revealed" featurette
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Seriously though, for Dune lovers or people too lazy to read the extended canon, this miniseries actually covers the 2nd and 3rd books in Frank Herbert's Dune series: Dune Messiah & Children of Dune.
They're surpassingly close to the books, and though I don't necessarily agree with all of the character castings, and they change very minor plot details from the books (that honestly make it a little more understandable). I would completely recommend this for Sci-FI nerds ~
If you need a reason to watch this, and don't think you'll like the way the story is told, do it anyway. The soundtrack is worth it.
The acting on this series is much better than in the previous one, it actually can be described as very good. Not only Daniela Amavia's portrayal of Alia is spot on, she also looks great. Some purists may scoff at the director's decission of making Leto II and Ghanima teenagers instead of children as in the book, but to me it's really very wise: I can't think of any child performers who could effectively deliver the psychological complexities of both characters. Shedding their prior wooden performances, both Alec Newman and Barbara Kodetova give us truly convincing and engaging portrayals of Paul and Chani, the former really excelling in his interpretation of a world weary, complex and reluctant religious leader who wants to stop the madness he unwillingly started. And thankfully, this time the actors worked really hard to minimize the crazy accents that plagued the first series.
The special effects this time are much more convincing, and the desert scenes look realistic enough. The CGI effects can be hit or miss, but overall are much better than the original miniseries and can hold their own against any medium budget movie. Some scenes are very well done, like the sandworm trap or the thopter rides, yet some CGI characters still look obviously fake, like the tigers or the guild ambassador. Thankfully, the costumes are also much more restrained and functional this time around: I actually payed attention to what was happening onscreen rather than rolling my eyes or laughing out loud every time a new character appeared.
That said, the main problem with both miniseries is that in general terms, the production design looks too much like most average science fiction TV shows thus failing to capture the feel of the books effectively. The Dune universe is suppossed to be unique because of it's stunted technological development and it's medieval mentality, yet most of the spaceships, costumes and props look like they were lifted from a Star Trek or Babylon 5 episode. Even if the sets are either baroque or ancient, you can see props that are obviously derived from digital technologies, which look and feel completely out of place in the Dune universe. And that's where Lynch's movie got it completely right: everything was deliverately retro, organic, low tech or wooden, and props and costumes were conceptualized with 1930's materials, fashion, valvular technology and art deco designs in mind to avoid an excessively futuristic look. So, even if this miniseries is a step in the right direction, I still find Lynch's movie the best Dune adaptation yet.