Written by: John Harrison, based on the novel by Frank Herbert
Directed by: John Harrison
Starring: Alec Newman, Saskia Reeves, Uwe Ochsenknecht, Barbora Kodetova, William Hurt
- Production notes
- “Behind-the-Scenes” Featurette
- Photo Galleries
- “The Cinematographic Ideation of Frank Herbert’s Dune”: an Interactive Written Treatise by Vittorio Storaro
Released by: Artisan
My Advice: Rent it.
[ad#longpost]In the year 10,191, humanity is dependent on spice, which can only be found on one planet: Arrakis, otherwise known as Dune. In an effort to keep the spice flowing, former overseers of the mining, House Harkonnen, are passed up in favor of the noble House Atreides. Duke Leto Atreides (Hurt) accepts the new position, bringing his concubine, Jessica (Reeves), and his son, Paul (Newman) to the planet with him. He knows it’s a trap but the Emperor wishes the change, so what can you do? He walks into the trap anyway. This sets off a chain of betrayals, murders, and battles that will bring House Atreides to the brink of destruction–and Paul to his ultimate destiny.
Herbert’s Dune series of novels have a huge fanbase, and the original novel clocks in currently at number eight on the Internet Top 100 Sci-Fi/Fantasy List. I have only personally read the first novel, and was more impressed by the appendices on the consolidation of religions and the planetology of Arrakis than the actual story itself. This, of course, is the second time the book has been adapted for film; the first was in 1984 by David Lynch and has both its defenders and detractors among the book’s fans. But here’s an adaptation that has much for Herbert readers to be pleased about.
The film excels in the fact that they went to great lengths to make the world of Dune come to life–and I’m talking life here. Lots of work went into creating the costumes, the sets–the whole nine. And it pays off splendidly. Where the film stumbles is that it’s so good an adaptation of the book–it shares its flaws. It always bugged me that you had this great build up with Paul and everything–and the resolution seems to come way too quickly. Granted, Harrison does the best he can with montages of battles, flying bodies, and explosions–but it still suffers. Also, there are certain references to terms used by the Fremen (desert tribesmen) and other bits that you can recall if you’ve read the book–but people who haven’t read the book would likely scratch their heads and wonder.
As for the discs, the presentation of the film itself is well enough, but the features are sorely lacking. The rather anemic featurette regarding the production tries to evolve into something more than just “Hi, I’m [actor’s name] and I play [character’s name] and my motivation is [Blah].” Doesn’t quite make it, though. Although explanations of the film’s theatrical-type staging is interesting–where’s the in-depth look at the ornithopters? The lowdown on those wicked glowing eyes? More information on the different groups in the film? Nowhere. The treatise that cinematographer Vittorio Storaro provides is complete text and makes your eyes go cross after about six screens. Why didn’t they have him presenting it along with examples? No idea. The most interesting part of the discs’ extras turn out to be the costume and production pics. Which is sad. No commentary, either. It is definitely missed.
All in all, if you’re a big fan of the book, it goes without saying you want this. If you’re a huge sci-fi fan in general, then you should seriously consider it, since this shows you can do an adaptation and do it well for the small screen. All others, use your best judgement. But for me: it’s at least worth a rental.