As we head into the upcoming release of Denis Villeneuve’s version of Frank Herbert’s Dune, I will be reviewing the previous adaptations of the novel. Also, I’ll be seeing them for the first time. After watching David Lynch’s Dune, we now move on to John Harrison’s mini-series from 2000, first appearing on the Sci-Fi Channel.
Not to rehash the plot from Lynch’s film, the mini-series also tells the story of diplomatic factions fighting over control of the desert planet Arrakis and its production of “The Spice.” The spice is crucial as it powers space travel and literally blows your mind.
As the saying goes, “He who controls The Spice controls the universe,” or “destiny” in the case of Dune. That destiny belongs to young Paul Atreides (Alec Newman), the reluctant heir to his father’s kingdom (or Duke-dom). Paul finds himself in a rigorous educational program, brutal hand-to-hand combat regimen, and trained by his mother, Lady Jessica (Saskia Reeves), in the ways of the mystical Bene Gesserit ways.
“…waiting for a messiah to deliver their people and the planet. That messiah is known as Muad’Dib…”
Meanwhile, the Emporer has commanded that the house of Atreides, led by Duke Leto (William Hurt), takes over stewardship of Arrakis after expelling his cousins, the Harkonnens, as its longtime steward. But, unbeknownst to Duke Leto, it’s a trap. The Harkonnens murder him, and Paul and Lady Jessica are sent into exile in the desert, and Harkonnens are more powerful than ever, though still under the emperor’s thumb.
Part one of Dune ends as Paul and Lady Jessica find refuge with the people of Arrakis, known as the Fremen. Paul soon finds out that the Fremen have been waiting for a messiah to deliver their people and the planet. That messiah is known as Muad’Dib, and Paul happens to fit the requirement as described in prophecy. But, of course, prophecies in cinema are slang for spoilers.
Considering writer/director John Harrison’s series runs four and a half hours, it expands the novel’s world better than David Lynch could, but it does suffer from some of the same criticisms. Full Disclosure: I have not read Dune (the novel), so like the first film, I’m coming in relatively cold, and I cannot attest to Harrison’s claim that his version is a “faithful interpretation,” but for the sake of this review, let’s assume he’s right.
"…prophecies in cinema are slang for spoilers."