Saturday, July 18, 2015

From The Archives - Frank Herbert's Children Of Dune Sci Fi Channel Original Miniseries Review

Title: Frank Herbert’s Children Of Dune
Stars: Alec Newman, Julie Cox, Edward Atterton, Ian McNeice, Barbora Kodetová, Steven Berkoff, Daniela Amavia, P.H. Moriarty, James McAvoy, Jessica Brooks, Jonathan Bruun, Rik Young, Martin McDougall, Gee Williams, Klara Issova, Zuzana Geislerová, Karel Dobry, Ivo Novak, Alice Krige, and Susan Sarandon
Writer: John Harrison
Based on the Novels “Dune Messiah” and “Children Of Dune by: Frank Herbert
Director: Greg Yaitanes
Running Time: 270 minutes without commercials
Media: Sci-Fi Channel Original Television Miniseries Event (NTSC VHS Screeners)
World Premiere Part 1: Sunday, March 16, 2003, at 9pm (ET/PT)
World Premiere Part II: Monday, March 17, 2003, at 9pm (ET/PT)
World Premiere Part III: Tuesday, March 18, 2003, at 9pm (ET/PT)
Network: The Sci-Fi Channel (Check your local cable/satellite listings for channel)
TV Rating: Not Available At The Time Of This Review
Reviewer: Mark A. Rivera
“A Brief History Of Dune.”
Frank Herbert’s “Dune Chronicles” are among the most popular series of science fiction novels ever written. “Dune” was published in 1965 and was the first novel to win the Nebula Award and shared the Hugo Award. In 1984 a feature film adaptation directed by David Lynch with a screenplay written by Lynch premiered theatrically to both critical panning and a lackluster box office in America. However the film found a cult following on home video and through cable and television broadcasts in part because of the cult notoriety of Lynch’s other films that followed. In 1988 “Dune” was re-cut without the approval of David Lynch, who subsequently had his directing credit changed for the “Special TV Edition” to the Director’s Guild alias “Alan Smithee” and his screenwriting credit changed to “Judas Booth.” Although never made officially available on home video in America, “Dune: Special TV Edition” did turn up for sale legally on DVD and laserdisc in Japan, Germany,  and the United Kingdom. The theatrical cut of “Dune” was eventually re-released on VHS, laserdisc, and DVD in America through Universal Studios Home Entertainment and it seemed that fans of “The Dune Chronicles” would have to satisfy themselves with both cuts of “Dune” and the novels for some time.

Then Executive Producer Richard P. Rubinstein, who had produced several theatrical and very successful television collaborations with George A. Romero and Stephen King purchased the television rights for “Dune” and long time colleague John Harrison wrote the teleplay and directed the miniseries adaptation or remake, which premiered in 2000 on the Sci-Fi Channel as “Frank Herbert’s Dune.” The miniseries was both critically and commercially successful, winning an Emmy Award and paving the way for a miniseries sequel adaptation of the next two books that make up the original trilogy of “The Dune Chronicles” entitled “Dune Messiah” and “Children Of Dune.” With most of the original cast returning to reprise their roles from the first miniseries and even a few returning as different characters as well as some new cast additions, “Frank Herbert’s Children Of Dune” was produced with a teleplay by John Harrison and screen direction by Greg Yaitanes. Now this miniseries sequel is set to make it’s premiere on the Sci-Fi Channel on Sunday, March 16, 2003, at 9pm (ET/PT) with the other two parts airing on Monday, March 17, 2003 (ET/PT), and Tuesday, March 18, 2003 (ET/PT) respectively.

“When Religion And Politics Ride In The Same Cart… The Whirlwind Follows.”
Twelve years have past since Paul “Muad’ dib” Atreides (Alec Newman) ascended the Lions Head Throne after vanquishing his mortal enemies the Harkonnens and banished the Emperor Shaddam IV and his Royal House Corrino to the harsh Imperial Prison Planet Salusa Secundas. In these years he has watched Arrakis become the new center of the Empire and seen the terraforming changes begin to take shape as patches of green grass and water now appear on Arrakis, changing the very desert ecology that has afforded the human race of it’s one most important commodity, the spice. Though it may take a thousand years to change the face of Arrakis completely, Paul is troubled by the effect it is having on the great sandworms that need the desert sands native to Arrakis to survive. With this symbiosis broken, the changing of Arrakis from a desert planet to a lush green world could eventually send humanity into another dark age since without the worms, there can be no spice and without the spice, there can be no intergalactic space travel performed by the spacing guild, whose navigators require tremendous quantities to fold space and make faster than light interplanetary travel possible.
In addition the legend of “Muad’ dib” has sparked a galactic jihad that has spread across the universe and the revolution he has started has perverted into a corrupt, brutal, and totalitarian regime. Paul knows only one way to deliver humanity out of this chaos and that is by taking the “Golden Path” and demystifying his mythos. However forces within the royal court and out among the deposed House Corrino now under the leadership of Princess Wensicia (Susan Sarandon) in league with the Spacing Guild and the Bene Gesserit sisterhood are conspiring to bring Paul’s rule to an end by presenting him with a “Trojan Horse” in the form of a cloned Duncan Idaho (Edward Atterton), who was a great alley and friend to House Atreides. Paul sees that he must allow the events to come to play themselves through with the hope that his “Pre-Born” son Leto II (James McAvoy) will guide humanity down the “Golden Path” of freedom by making a sacrifice even Paul fears. In Paul’s absence Paul’s sister Alia (Daniela Amavia) rules as Regent, while displaying symptoms of “Abomination” as the memories and personalities within, including that of the evil Baron Harkonnen (Ian McNeice), her maternal grandfather, vies for control of her mind and places the heirs to the throne and humanity’s salvation at risk.

“The Saga Of Dune Is Far From Over…”
Finally and for the first time, the second and third books of Herbert’s “Dune Chronicles” have been dramatized as a sequel to “Frank Herbert’s Dune.” Scripted by Jon Harrison, it is wise to include both books and integrate them into one miniseries in part because alone neither book is as impressive as the first book, but collectively “Frank Herbert’s Children Of Dune” makes for a good continuation as well as a conclusion to the first miniseries and unlike the first miniseries, which also suffered from the understandable comparisons with Lynch’s dramatization, one can completely judge “Frank Herbert’s Children Of Dune” on it’s own merits as both a stand alone film and continuation of “Frank Herbert’s Dune.”

First off is the pace of “Frank Herbert’s Children Of Dune,” which is much faster and includes an epic score by Brian Tyler. The quick pace serves the miniseries well because there is more action and less introduction and whatnot that was present in the first miniseries. However people who have not read the books might find the events that follow a little confusing at times. So it definitely does not hurt to have read the books or seen the first miniseries, but I should note that “Frank Herbert’s Children Of Dune” is a lot easier to follow than the 1984 feature film adaptation of “Dune” so I doubt viewers unfamiliar with the story will get lost. Basically part one of “Frank Herbert’s Children Of Dune” covers the second book in “The Dune Chronicles” entitled “Dune Messiah” while integrating elements between the second and third book in the series “Children Of Dune” enough so that the second and third parts follow nicely together with the first.

What is great to see is that so many actors from the first miniseries have returned to reprise their roles in the second miniseries even for smaller, but still important roles. Returning for “Frank Herbert’s Children Of Dune “in addition to Alec Newman as “Paul Atreides” and Ian McNeice as “The Baron Vladimir Harkonnen” are Julie Cox as “Princess Irulan Corrino,” are Barbora Kodetová as “Chani,” P.H. Moriarty as “Gurney Halleck,” Zuzana Geislerová as “Reverend Mother Mohiam,” and Karel Dobry, who played “Dr. Kynes” in “Frank Herbert’s Dune” plays the character of “Korba” in this one.

Steven Berkoff steps into the role of “Stilgar” with some nice intensity while Alice Krige takes over the role of “Lady Jessica.” Other noteworthy performances include Edward Atterton as “Duncan Idaho,” Daniela Amavia as “Princess Alia,” Jessica Brooks as “Ghanima,” Gee Williams as “Bijazz,” and James McAvoy rises with a charismatic performance as “Leto II.” Susan Sarandon is a standout as “Princess Wensicia.” She delivers an icy and calculating performance that never goes over the top and lends every scene she appears in an added sense of dimension. My only caveat with her performance is in one scene where she looks as though she is either trying to strut or having trouble walking on high heels, but otherwise Sarandon does a fine job.

We get to see a different Arrakis than we had in the previous miniseries and finally get to see what the surface of Caladan looks like as well as external and surface images of the planet Salusa Secundas. The special effects and production value are equal to if not better than the first miniseries though some CGI effects like the Guild Ambassador looks more like a cross between a goldfish and a man than the way the navigator was presented in the first miniseries and the tigers look a bit too CGI even for television.

One can see a lot of classic archetypes come to life within “Frank Herbert’s Children Of Dune” that will draw some interesting comparison with biblical and contemporary images. If Paul Atreides was in a sense like Moses delivering the Israelites from the oppression of Pharaoh in “Frank Herbert’s Dune,” here he takes on a role sort of like “John The Baptist” paving the way for Leto II whose destiny and price for saving humanity also requires a supreme life altering sacrifice. If one compares the religious regime of Muad’ dib” to the totalitarian oppression of the Empire in “The Star Wars Saga” one can view “Leto II’s” role to “Luke Skywalker’s” role in helping to redeem his father in “Star Wars: Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi” in that in both cases we have fathers whose actions have helped to create an environment that is like an oppressive machine and need their sons to help them redeem themselves by bringing “balance” through destroying the machine that threatens the free will of all life forms. Please keep in mind that this is a general comparison between two popular archetypal series and nothing more.

By the end of “Frank Herbert’s Children Of Dune” the viewer is left with a sense of closure as well as a hint of what is to come if Sci-Fi should produce a third miniseries based on the fourth book in “The Dune Chronicles” entitled “God Emperor Of Dune,” which I hope they will.
As a whole I found “Frank Herbert’s Children Of Dune” thoroughly entertaining and intriguing and think it is a worthy miniseries sequel to “Frank Herbert’s Dune” not to be missed.

© Copyright 2003 By Mark A. Rivera
All Rights Reserved.