Written by: John Harrison, based on the novel by Frank Herbert
Directed by: John Harrison
Starring: Alec Newman, Giancarlo Giannini, Uwe Ochsenknecht, Ian McNeice, Barbara KodetovÃ¡, P.H. Moriarty, Julie Cox, Laszlo Imre Kisch, Matt Keeslar, William Hurt, and Saskia Reeves
- Director’s cut with 30 minutes of additional footage
- Commentary by production team: Harrison, Ernest Farino, Harry Miler, Greg Nicotero, and Tim McHugh
- “Willis McNelly on Dune” featurette (author of Dune Encyclopedia and close friend of Frank Herbert)
- “The Lure of Spice” featurette (behind-the-scenes)
- “The Color Wheel” featurette (discussion with cinematographer Vittorio Storaro)
- “Walking and Talking with John Harrison” interview with the director
- “Defining the Messiah” featurette with religious scholars and Jungian psychologist
- “Science Future/Science Fiction Roundtable” featurette – panel including Harlan Ellison, Octavia Butler, Michael Cassutt, inventor Ray Kurzweil, and director Harrison
- Essay on cinematographic theory behind the production, by Storaro
- Photo gallery, including production sketches and stills
- Cast and crew information
Released by: Artisan
Rating: NR, recommended for audiences 13+
My Advice: Buy it. Duh. Did you see the features list?
[ad#longpost]Frank Herbert’s novels about the blasted world of Arrakis and its position at the center of a massive galactic empire require no introduction to the sci-fi initiated. The Dune miniseries, released on the Sci-Fi Channel in 2000, attempted to undo the wrongs inflicted on Herbert’s book by the lackluster (though still much beloved) 1984 film adaptation by David Lynch. Reviews were mixed initially, but those that care more for adherence to the original source material than special effects landed almost unilaterally in favor of director John Harrison’s effort. So much so, in fact, that the follow-up miniseries, Children of Dune, is set to air next year on Sci-Fi.
As a faithful adaptation of the novel, the miniseries can take very little flack indeed. The constraints of the medium make Paul Atreides’ revolution seem like too much, too fast, while the book does just as much glossing and jumping ahead in time, but gets away with it because it’s print. Visual mediums don’t handle a rapid progress through time quite as well, and so all you get is a seemingly hasty montage of battles, with the vaguest hint that time is passing. Other than this, the production has taken some heat for looking too “stage-y,” using lots of painted backdrops more appropriate to live theatre than television, but it lends the whole production just a slight touch of the surreal, which seems fitting given the central character’s transformation from whining rich boy to brooding messiah-in-training.
Where this edition shines is in the extras. Apparently attempting to atone for the thin additional material from the initial DVD release, Artisan’s packed this one with more goodies than you can shake a Fremen at. In addition to the excellent commentary track, covering nearly every aspect of the production, there are six different featurettes. One of these is the same mediocre “making-of” from the initial release, but the others, particularly “Defining the Messiah” and the “Science Future/Science Fiction Roundtable” are excellent, both in relation to the series and taken as separate pieces of sci-fi scholarship. The “Color Wheel” featurette serves to cover the same ground as the cinematography essay of Storaro, so you don’t have to go blind reading pages of pure text on the TV screen.
In short, this is the DVD they should have released in the first place. Those that liked the series well enough to buy the first release are going to feel cheated by having to spend the money for this edition, but anybody that digs on Herbert’s dusty masterpiece is going to have to have this. Even if you weren’t as crazy about the series, but are a fan of the books, there’s interesting stuff to be gleaned from the various featurettes. With any luck, they’ll hold out and just release one quality edition of Children of Dune some time in 2004.