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DUNE (2000)
Reviewed April 24th, 2001 by Todd Terwilliger


Based upon Frank Herbert's seminal book of the same name, this Sci-Fi channel mini-series attempts to bring the world of Arrakis to the small screen. Dune (2000) follows the book far more closely than David Lynch's '80s opus. However, the results of this accuracy are mixed at best.

Duke Leto Atreides (William Hurt), at the behest of the Emperor (Giancarlo Giannini), takes over the stewardship of Arrakis, also called Dune. Arrakis is extremely important to the empire because Melange, a spice found only on Arrakis, makes, among other things, interstellar travel possible. This stewardship, however, is a dangerous position. Also coveted by the Atreides' mortal enemies, the Harkonnens, Arrakis is both a prize and a trap. With Leto comes his son Paul (Alec Newman), who may or may not be a hero fortold by legend, and his mother, a sister in the ultra-powerful Bene Geserit order (Saskia Reeves).

Hurt is the only “name” actor of the cast. The majority of the other actors are European. Unfortunately, their accents, at times, become distracting. The acting itself was below average. Even Hurt, whom I usually enjoy, was overly wooden. I found the actors uncomfortable with many of their lines. It did not help, either, that they felt the need to alter the pronunciations of some of the words. Most distracting was “Harkonnen” which they pronounced “HAR-kon-nen” rather than “har-KON-nen”.

The special effects are where the mini-series really shines. The worms look incredible, as do the ornithopters. The sets, however, sometimes look too much like sets. For example, the palace on Arrakis looks beautiful with fluted columns and wide floors of colored marble. However, windows and doors that look out into the city show an unconvincing backdrop.

Filmed in a 1.77:1 aspect ratio, Dune is presented in a non-anamorphic widescreen format. The film's extremely bright palette is well rendered. The transfer is extremely clean and free of any defects. Blacks are relatively deep and flesh colors remain consistently lifelike despite the bright color scheme.

The 2.0 Dolby Digital soundtrack is decent but unspectacular. There are a few moments of good imaging across the front soundstage but most of the action and dialog is locked into the center channel. The dialog is very clear and the musical score has good depth. The bass is lighter than I had expected, coming into play very rarely.

This two-disc set from Artisan features a couple of extra features. There is a 25 minute behind-the-scenes featurette, a written “treatise”, photo gallery, and cast and crew bios. The treatise and featurette are interesting but not must-haves. Unfortunately, more extras were planned but shelved at the last moment by Artisan because of conflicts with the production.

I must admit that I was biased watching this feature because I am a huge fan of the Lynch version of Dune. All in all, I prefer the earlier version and it's darker, gothic interpretation. The Sci-Fi production is more close to the book but it tends to dwell too long on details that, in the final analysis, aren't worth dwelling on. Therefore more important, central actions are marginalized, even in an extended mini-series such as this. If anything, Dune (2000) is worth a rental just to see the worms and what this new film does with the concepts of Herbert's book. Unfortunately, it isn't the seminal Dune we'd been hoping for.


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