While it seems like I should be getting close to being Dune-d out, that isn’t the case at all. After seeing Denis Villeneuve’s Dune, my desire to read the books is piqued more than ever. In the meantime, I’m moving on to John Harrison and Greg Yaitanes’ follow-up to the Syfy Dune miniseries, Frank Herbert’s Children of Dune. First broadcast in 2003, the series continues from the events of Dune, covering Herbert’s novels Dune Messiah and Children of Dune.
The series begins several years after the events of Dune. Paul Atreides/Muad’Dib (Alec Newman) became the Emporer after defeating House Harkonnen and now splits his time between Arrakis and Caladan, which is the source of incredible frustration amongst the Fremen as Paul’s promise to transform the planet’s ecology is not progressing at an acceptable rate. In other words, he’s not quite the messiah they expected.
This dissatisfaction is the perfect opportunity for the family of the former emperor to devise to plan to regain power. From the House of Corrino, Princess Wensicia (Susan Sarandon) attempts to unite the Bene Gesserit, the Spacing Guild, the Tielaxu, and a tiny rebel Fremen force to overthrow Paul. The plan is to create chaos in the House of Atreides, which involves, weirdly, a clone (or replicant?) of Paul’s dead friend and mentor Duncan Idaho (Edward Atterton), luring Lady Jessica (Alice Krige) back into the Bene Gesserit, and stealing a few sandworms from Arrakis in hopes of a new center for mining spice.
Meanwhile, there’s trouble in the House Atreides. After an attack on the loyal Fremen, Paul is rendered blind, and he now lives in exile in the desert. Paul’s sister, Alia (Daniela Amavia), takes over as Empress but is haunted by the ghost of Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Ian McNeice).
“…create chaos…which involves, weirdly, a clone of Paul’s dead friend and mentor Duncan Idaho…”
Paul’s twin children, Leto II (James McAvoy) and Ghanima (Jessica Brooks), are now young adults, and Princess Wensicia looks to assassinate them. However, Leto seems dead after getting lost in the deadly desert of Arrakis. Ghanima also escapes the assassination plan, and not knowing that Wensicia was behind it, Alia entertains the idea of Ghanima marrying Wensicia’s son, Farad’n (Jonathan Brüün), to broker peace between Corrino and Attredies, while gaining access to the Spice through marriage.
My criticism of Children of Dune is similar to my criticism of Dune but less so. I felt like the inherent weakness was that the series was simply a straight narrative of the novel (which I haven’t read), presenting the book’s action and very little of the subtext of the story. This is still true, but the way twins Leto and Ghanima handle the political intrigue had me hooked much more than Dune. While the former seemed like an intergalactic game of Risk, this explores the more insidious world of diplomacy and backroom backstabbings.
From the standpoint of the mythology, the twins, Leto II and Ghanima, are the heart and soul of the story. I’m not going to spoil anything, but as Leto II, a young McAvoy shows the emergence of an outstanding actor. Yes, an imperfect performance with wonky religious dialogue. Nevertheless, he is clearly working his way through it with a great deal of earnestness, and this role was excellent preparation for the wonky lines of Professor X.
Children of Dune still has that soap opera vibe to it. Much of the action and intrigue comes from the dialogue, but on the bright side, there’s more hand-to-hand fighting than the first. I think it also helped that the first Dune miniseries was so dense in plotting, history, and mythology that this is allowed to breathe and tell a much more coherent and enjoyable story once you get past its inherent weaknesses, that is.
"…a young McAvoy shows the emergence of an outstanding actor."