Dec 042007

Dune Miniseries

Overall, the Sci-Fi Channel miniseries is far more faithful to Frank Herbert’s vision for Dune than the 1984 movie. With a run time of almost 4.5 hours (6 when viewed with commercials), most of the major plot elements are covered. The events are laid out much like the novel, and don’t feel rushed like the 1984 movie. With that said, the miniseries does have a few faults, most of which can be forgiven.

I particularly appreciated that the Baron Harkonnen was not completely blown out of proportion as in the 1984 movie. The Baron in the miniseries is very much like the character from the novel, and is much more convincing. It is a shame that they took such a faithfully accurate character and made him talk in cheesy poetry at the end of almost every scene of his. Those cheesy lines were certainly not in the book, so I did my best to look past them.

I realize that this was a made for cable TV series, but the low budget is very obvious. Much of the backgrounds are simply matte paintings and the overall feel seems like late 80’s early 90’s Star Trek: The Next Generation. Many of the sets made me feel like I was watching a play rather than something on TV. The costumes were not really that bad, but Feyd’s ridiculous triangle that looks like a kite attached to his back in half of his scenes made me cringe each time I saw it.

The main fault I have a hard time dismissing is that Paul is arrogant and whiny. It seems like the creators for this version were inspired by the character of Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, which is not a good thing. I felt like at any moment Paul might say to his mother, “But I don’t want to go to Dune! I want to go to Tashi Station to pick up some power converters!” This is one aspect where the 1984 movie was superior, because it portrayed Paul as responsible and confident, nothing like the whiny brat in this miniseries.

Although Paul starts like an annoying little Luke Skywalker, there is a clear sense of evolution which is better than the 1984 movie. Paul’s rise to power is more gradual, and thus more convincing. His sense of purpose builds until he decides it is time to strike back at the Harkonnen that exterminated House Atreides.

The most blatant discrepancy is the insertion of Princess Irulan into several scenes with Paul and Feyd. In the novel she merely acts as a narrator and plays a brief part in the final pages. In this miniseries she’s more like a little Nancy Drew, acting as a detective trying to piece together the plot against the Atreides. I’m not sure why the script writers decided on this change, because the rest was pretty accurate.

The miniseries isn’t quite free of comical moments. Sure, the Baron Harkonnen’s poetry is cheesy, but nothing compared to the Guild Navigator liaisons. The final scene with them sticks out like a sore thumb. I’m not sure how anyone could make it through that scene without cracking up. If you look closely it looks like Alia is barely containing her laughter.

For Dune purists, although there are still many things missing, it is not as bad as the 1984 movie. Overall, the series is very enjoyable if you can look past the cheesy sets and matte painting backgrounds. The worms and space ships are done in CGI, which looks pretty decent. The main story and themes are relatively intact, so the miniseries earns the title of “Frank Herbert’s Dune.” I truly think that someone who hasn’t seen the theatrical release and has never read the book can appreciate the story this version tells on its own. Still, I highly recommend reading the book, which is far superior.

Posted by Stettin

11 Comments to “Frank Herbert’s Dune (2000) SciFi Channel Miniseries”

  1. Shannon says:

    I agree with you. The whiny Paul was annoying and was reminiscent of Luke Skywalker, and that was a bad thing. The one thing this version is missing that the 1984 film had, though, was Sting. They should have brought him back for the miniseries. :)

  2. Timothy says:

    I have to disagree with you pretty strongly here. Yes, the mini series was more faithful to the books, I’ll grant that, however the acting and production was terrible! I felt as if the actors were being fed their lines, and some of the asides were awful. Also, they really, really should have included the whispering “in the mind’s eye” dialog, which I thought was a tremendous feature of the 1984 movie.

    All in all, I believe the writing was sub par, the acting was poor, the direction was poor. The only good thing was the Sfx budget and the more extensive story which was more faithful to the books.

  3. Stettin says:

    Everyone is entitled to their own opinion of course. As I said, if you can get over the cheesy sets and bad acting, the story is much more accurate. I still can’t understand why the 1984 movie decided to massacre the “Weirding Way” and turn it into a bunch of soldiers yelling “Beeeeooop! Whhaaaachaaa!” You have to admit that part was comical.

    There really is no way anyone can understand what is going on by watching the 1984 movie. There is just too little time. I still need to find a copy of the extended Director’s Cut (close to 3 hours) and see how it fills in the plot holes.

  4. Dennis says:

    Didnt see the mini series but IMHO the 84 movie is one of the best scifi movies ever made. Just my 2 cents.

  5. bob says:

    mini series not shown in the uk but glad i didn’t see it. having read the book i agree the 1984 movie was not faithful , however as the previous comment says “one of the best sci-fi movies ever made. for it’s time it was technically excellent with a great cast( a lot of whom were brits)

  6. Stettin says:

    I just couldn’t stop laughing about what they did to the Weirding Way in the 1984 movie. Waaaachaaa to blow something up? Sheesh.

  7. Eric J Gibson says:

    It is a obvious fault that the miniseries really suffered the look of a small budget film, but you must also remember that is WAS a small budget, made for cable TV science fiction miniseries which almost always have very small budgets. That, along with the Children of Dune sequel are two of the top three programs ever played on the Science Channel, but they certainly couldn’t expect that before hand.

    Also, is it really a criticism to think that Paul was a whiny, spoiled brat when in the book, he was a 15 year of … wait for it… spoiled whiny aristocratic brat kid that had to GROW into his destiny. The miniseries didn’t get it wrong in that way. It got it RIGHT. Actually, the fault was that Paul was not portrayed as young enough in the miniseries, so rather than seeing a kid acting appropriately whiny and spoiled, you saw a young adult acting whiny and spoiled which just feels wrong.

  8. Stettin says:

    @ Eric

    It has been several years since I read/watched the Dune series, so bear with me. I think what I was getting at about the whining was the comparison to the 1984 movie. You bring up a good point about the actor being a few years older, so his behavior seemed more out of place. I still hold to my opinion that the sets could have been done better.I knew it was low budget, so I wasn’t really expecting much anyway. Maybe they could have diverted some of the CGI budget to better sets.

  9. jozseffrd says:

    The miniseries might have been closer to the book but most of the acting,”special effects”,Characters,Oh My God the cheese-y Blue eyes and the sets were TERRIBLE!!! David Lynch’s 84 Film is in the all time top 10 sci fi on most of the web sites.And if u read the book/s the 84 version says us much as this one.The movies and miniseries on SciFi and now SyFy are Terrible and this one is no difference Thank You

  10. Dwight says:

    The Sci Fi Mini puts the 1984 movie to shame. Don’t get me wrong I’ve watched the 84 version many times but it just doesn’t hit the mark like the mini series does. The 84 version was to dark, and didn’t get close to providing a glimpse at the many themes that were being addressed within the book. I also don’t seperate the Sci Fi sequel “Children of Dune” from the first Sci Fi Movie “Dune” even though I hate to see changes in actors playing in crucial roles. If you own the Mini Series try looking at the add ons, such as how they made the movie and how the choices of background color were made to influence the audiences perceptions. I love this series and always try to influence other to read the books and watch the movies. My mom bought Dune the book for a Christmas present to me in 1972, I read 50 pages and sat it down for many years. In 1977, having tons of bored time at Ft Campbell, Ky, I started reading it again. I couldn’t put it down. I’ve reread it and all of the first six books many times. Right now I have 15 books of the series on my bookshelf and am finally reading Paul of Dune. I think I’ll go back and look at all the cheese in both movies, But I’ll probably end up sleeping and listening to the end music all night long. I do love that music.

  11. […] critics—and for the life of me I cannot understand why—have even stated a preference for the Syfy Channel’s mediocre 2000 miniseries adaptation, mostly because of issues of “faithfulness” to the source, despite it looking, as one blogger […]

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