Review: “Frank Herbert’s Dune”

Whether you love it or loathe it, David Lynch’s attempt to adapt the Frank Herbert sci-fi classic into a film had a few good features but in the end failed. The “Dune” story isn’t designed to be told in a 2.5 hour feature film – like “Dances with Wolves” its more suitable as a four hour epic.

Thus a mini-series version clocking in at 4.5 hours without ads seemed the perfect format for the story and indeed this recent production, whilst lacking the big budget feel of Lynch’s film, is certainly an improvement as its constructed with a better paced script and improved acting all round.

Of the acting the most dramatic difference is that of Baron Harkonnen. Lynch’s version had him as a pockmarked, bloated and ugly beast who was basically a throwaway villain – not memorable or frightening, just gross. McNeice’s turn as the Baron in this however is much better, the character played as a very clever Machiavellian schemer who delivers some great dialogue and does it to over the top but rarely ever going ‘too far’ with it.

Alec Newman also easily steps all over Kyle McLachlan’s performance in the role of Paul Atreides, and while the character does have some bad dialgoue, he does his best with it. Other solid performances come from Saskia Reeves as his mother Jessica, Julie Cox as the Emperor’s daughter Irulan, and Matt Keeslar as the psychotic Feyd (thank god no Sting in a winged speedo scene in this version – that was scary).

On the weaker side Hurt does a standard job but his character doesn’t get to do much, Giannini proves a so-so Emperor, and Zuzana Geislerova is too over the top as the Bene Gesserit Mother. As its a TV production, FX wise one expects a lower standard though the costuming and set design however are movie-quality with some of the most colourful and distinctive efforts in both fields for a TV production I’ve seen in years.

The pace is a little strange as the pre-Arrakis scenes feel rushed and are over with in just 30 minutes, in fact half the story seems to be told in the first segment of the three-part series and most of the rest of it comes out in the last chapter – thus it leaves the middle part the weakest segment and one in which things get a little too slow and sadly don’t progress much.

The events in the first chapter should’ve been spread out and over into the second chapter (which should’ve been shortened) and then there would’ve been a better balance. Still, as mini-series go this is a good one and while the definitive version of “Dune” has yet to be made, this is the best version out there so far – it has its flaws but is still pretty solid.