When I was a child I found the Dune (1984) story to be fairly interesting due to its creative ideas. Only after gaining access to the Internet did I realize it was a commercial and critical flop, and that the 1965 novel it based on is an important sci-fi literature with major impact on sci-fi movies today, especially Star Wars. I also learned that Frank Herbert’s Dune (2000) TV miniseries was supposed to be true to the novel, and should therefore be a better adaption. Now that I’ve finally watched the miniseries, I have to say it is a huge disappointment for me.
- Comprehensibility – Dune (1984) was widely criticized as incomprehensible and confusing. This problem is mostly addressed in the 177-minute Extended Edition (hereafter “the movie”) by adding a lot of narration. While this is not ideal and not approved by the director, it is better than an incomprehensible movie. In fact there are some explanations that I can find from the movie but not the miniseries, even though the latter is “true to the novel”.
- Ugliness – the villain in the movie is indeed unnecessarily gross and is uncomfortable to watch in a few scenes. I do not find the spacing guild navigator alien to be ugly – in fact I think this monster design is brilliant, while the miniseries version looks generic and is not noteworthy. While the miniseries does not have gross scenes, the picture is presented with a high contrast and reddish cast that I find to be quite uncomfortable to watch for a long time, compared to the few uncomfortable scenes in the movie.
- Lead actor – I do not like the portrayal of the protagonist in the miniseries at all, especially during the first episode. The protagonist in the movie is far more charismatic.
- Faithfulness – The unfaithful aspects of the movie are well-known. The sonic weapon known as weirding module is weird. The rain is simply wrong. However, the weriding way from the novel that is presented in the miniseries is not any better – it is just very dull hand to hand combat. To make things worse, the weirding way is used inconsistently, especially during the climactic battle. The addition of princess Irulan subplot in the miniseries is a nice touch though.
- Production values – Naturally the movie had a big budget. The movie still looks reasonably fine today. The miniseries could not compensate for its low budget even with 16 years of filming technology advancement, and showed really fake matte painting backgrounds. While the battles in the movie are not particularly good, the miniseries battles are simply really dull.
- Pacing – if the theatrical edition had too little time to tell the story, the miniseries had too much. The latter spent too much time moving from one plot point to another. There is no fun in watching two people walking through the dessert with nothing happening.
These are the reasons why I much prefer the movie to the miniseries, even if the movie is flawed.
Frank Herbert’s Children of Dune (2003) is the sequel to the miniseries. Surprisingly it corrected several issues I had with the original miniseries so I could actually enjoy it. The drama unfolds at a better pace, and have great music to accompany it.