Picks and Pans Review: Frank Herbert's Dune
Sci-Fi Channel (Sun.-Tue., Dec. 3-5, 9 p.m. ET)
Fans of Herbert's 1965 sci-fi classic, rejoice: Your Muad'Dib has finally arrived! For those unfamiliar with the futuristic novel or David Lynch's visually dazzling yet otherwise disappointing 1984 film version, Muad'Dib means "Messiah." And to the Fremen, the nomadic freedom fighters of the colonized desert planet Arrakis (Dune), he seems to be personified by Paul Atreides (newcomer Alec Newman), the plucky son of an idealistic nobleman, Duke Leto (Lost in Space's William Hurt). The duke is newly in charge of mining Dune's most precious asset: spice. Spice is nice—and addictive too. Consume enough of it and your eyes turn a blazing blue and your consciousness expands. Though the stuff is protected by giant sandworms that make Moby Dick look like a minnow, it's valuable enough to die—and kill—for.
That would be plot enough for any six-hour miniseries, but writer-director John Harrison, faithful to Herbert, also works in themes of religion and ecology with a dash of Lawrence of Arabia and echoes of Star Wars—which in fact borrowed quite a bit from Herbert.
Frankly, it helps to have read the book to understand the Fremen's mysticism. Still, the sets and costumes are sumptuous, the special effects impressive, and the actors give dignity to their faux-Shakespearean line readings. Heartiest of all is Brit thespian Ian McNeice as Baron Harkonnen, a corpulent villain with a flair for rhyming couplets as he flits about in an antigravity belt. It's as if Orson Welles had been cast as Jabba the Hutt.
Bottom Line: A sci-fi high five
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