Plot: What’s it about?
Based on Frank Herbert’s masterpiece Dune, this television miniseries tells the story of greed, power, destruction, hope, and prophecies. The focus here is on the planet Arrakis, where the land seems desolate and sand covered, but the dunes conceal the real treasures to be found here. This desert laden landscape holds the power needed for interstellar space travel, in the form of the spice melange. The natives of Arrakis are pretty much slaves, who work to harvest the spice for others, who then profit from their laborious efforts. But they look toward an ancient prophecy for hope, as they believe a messiah will emerge to free them, so they continue to toil until that time arrives. Soon Duke Leto Atreides (William Hurt) arrives with his family and in time, a chain of events unfolds that reveal his son, Paul (Alec Newman) as the potential messiah the people of Arrakis have been waiting for all these years. But with danger and oppressive forces around each turn, can Paul realize his true destiny and if so, will even he be able to fulfill it in time?
This review covers the television adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune, so if you want the David Lynch rendition, this is not the review you’ll want to read. I had some doubts when I heard the Sci/Fi Channel was going to help produce a new edition of Dune, as most of these made for television projects seem to fall short…very short. But I watched of course and in truth, I loved this production and I am very much looking forward to the possible sequels. This feature runs about four and a half hours, which allows for a wide scope and level of detail not seen in Lynch’s version, which was hindered by the producer’s wishes. The added nuances and such power this feature to terrific ends, fans of the novel will be pleased I think, although some material is still left out, of course. The cast of this edition had large boots to fill from Lynch’s version, but I feel the performances are very good, though not always on the same level, at least in a few cases. The production design here is terrific however, with lush visuals and stunning location work, very impressive indeed. If you’re a fan of the novel or feature film edition, then I recommend you give this adaptation a spin, it offers a lot more in terms of detail and is a very impressive overall production.
This cast had a steep incline to deal with, as most of the roles here had been played in Lynch’s Dune, many played to almost perfection. Although the cast here is good, most of the performers fail to surpass their previous counterparts, but William Hurt gives a much superior turn as Duke Leto. But since his role is expanded and offered more chance to shine, perhaps that is what fueled him to a better performance that Jurgen Prochnow, who played Leto in the Lynch version. I don’t usually give much though to Hurt and his performances, but he is a very talented worker and as such, I wanted to draw some attention to his turn in Dune. Hurt seems to be the anchor for this entire cast, sort of holding them all together with his very good performance. You can also see Hurt in such films as Sunshine, Dark City, Broadcast News, Altered States, Lost in Space. The cast here also includes Ian McNeice (No Escape, Longitude), Alec Newman (Greenwich Mean Time), Julie Cox (Felicia’s Journey, Death Machine), Saskia Reeves (The Bridge, Close My Eyes), and Giancarlo Giannini (Hannibal, A Walk In The Clouds).
Video: How does it look?
Dune is presented in a 1.77:1 widescreen transfer, which is not enhanced for widescreen televisions. This makes no sense to me whatsoever, as Artisan is usually good about anamorphic transfers, but really dropped the ball in this case. This is not a bad transfer by any means, but I think it would have looked richer and more defined with the added resolution. The visuals come off well here, with vivid colors and more than stable contrast, but some edge enhancement is visible here and there. Aside from the infrequent problem with jagged lines and what not, this is a terrific transfer, but I am still knocking the score thanks to the lack of anamorphic enhancement.
Audio: How does it sound?
I was also impressed with the audio here, which is well presented via a 2.0 surround option. The music is the most active element here, but some scenes do call on the surrounds a little more, with pleasant results. The sound effects have a wide range of presence, from powerful elements to more subtle ones, all of which are well represented in this track. No issues in terms of dialogue either, as vocals seem crisp and clean, with no volume problems in the least. This set includes English captions, but no alternate subtitle or language options.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The main draw here is The Lure of Spice, a twenty-five minute featurette that offers some insight into this production. The piece includes a number of interviews with cast & crew members, as well as a smattering of behind the scenes footage at times. This is pretty much an extended promotional tool, but the interviews do offer some information, so I am pleased Artisan included the featurette here. You can also view still galleries for the costume and production design aspects, as well as a visual essay by Vittorio Storaro, the cinematographer for the production. This set also houses some talent files and some very informative production notes, which are more than worth a once over.