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OK, let’s get one thing straight right from the start: you cannot fully appreciate what on Dune is going on in this new Children of Dune Miniseries. That is, unless you've seen the original Dune Miniseries from the Sci-Fi channel. I don’t usually stick in what appears to be such a blatant advert for another product, but this sequel is not like your Rocky’s, Die Hard’s or Lethal Weapon’s; the original and sequels of which each stand on their own merit (did I say they had merit? Sorry!). They do not interact with each other very much - but you REALLY need the background information for Children of Dune, which can only be provided by either reading the book, or watching the original Dune Miniseries. Not even the David Lynch movie will help because the screenplay is considerably different in the two productions.

Paul Muad'dib
So, before rushing out and buying the Children miniseries, get hold of the Dune series first. The benefits to your sanity will be highly productive, especially if you have a wife like mine who is forever asking "Who is that?"

Movie
The movie is separated into three 83-minute discs, and includes the events in the book of Dune Messiah (which has been seamlessly integrated into the sequence, and it does work quite well from that point of view). One actor takes a little away from continuity (Steven Burkoff as Stilgar), but I am afraid that the one actor who did need replacing is still there, with his awfully forced accent. This is P. H. Moriarty as Gurney Halleck, and I think that this is the one role that really detracts one’s attention from what really matters in the film - the plotlines.

I will attempt to explain only a small part of the plot of this second Dune series, which ranks as the most complex of any sci-fi book I have ever read (including AC Clarke’s "2001" and Asimov’s "Foundation" Trilogy). It does actually contain everything a sci-fi buff will love - an excellently convoluted plot, with several sub plots worming their way into the whole, philosophy & religion intertwining with science, superbly executed characterisations (except for Gurney Halleck), and those ever present fantasy creatures - the giant desert worms of Arrakis.

Golden Path Dreams, the son goes where the father could not.
The spoken commentary at the start of each section gives an overview of the history, and the first section starts 12 years after Muad’dib has taken over as Emperor. Chaos and civil war now reign, and the name of Muad’dib is a curse rather than a blessing. Outside of House Atreides there is a conspiracy brewing involving the slightly weird and evil Princess Wensicia (brilliantly played by Susan Sarandon), allied with the Spacing Guild and the Bene Gesserit sisterhood.

During an assassination attempt, Paul Atreides (Muad’dib) is blinded and wanders off into the desert, never to be seen again (or so we think). His wife, Chani, has died giving birth to their twin children, Leto II and Ghanima, who are born with the same curse as Paul’s sister, Alia. It is Alia who now rules as regent for the twins, but she is tortured by her own demons and voices in her head, brought on by overdosing on spice. The spice awakens what may be described as a race memory, and her Grandfather, the evil Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, begins to take over Alia’s mind.

All of this instability on Dune prompts the Princess Wensicia to hatch her plot against the Atreides by killing the twins with genetically engineered predatory animals. A wanderer appears from the desert and starts preaching against the word of Muad’dib, proclaiming that it is has been corrupted.

Paul is blinded by the Stone Burner
More civil war arises, this time on Arrakis itself. The twins escape the attack of the killer beasts, and, in doing so, are separated in the deep desert. Leto realises he must take on a new role and begins a period of mutation after "joining" with a baby worm.

Thus the saga continues, hopefully with yet more to come from the Sci-Fi channel.

Video
Quite a dark transfer (aspect ratio 1,85:1), at least on my Dell Laptop, but just a little brighter on my TV setup. The video quality is OK, but not the best I've seen either. It is noise free and clear (as all direct to video should be), but the dark image, plus a distinct sand flavoured orangey cast to the whole colour scheme does put a bit of a damper on my enthusiasm for the production generally.

Audio
The audio tracks present are both in English (Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0). We get very good audio production, with solid sound staging. A good sub woofer will be needed to make the most of the worm effects and explosions, of which there are a good number. Dialog is clear and well placed too. Special sound effects have been relatively well thought out, and there do not appear to be any continuity problems with the transition from the first to second Miniseries.

Extras
All of the extras are on disc one, with a [/i]Photo Gallery[/i] that has 50 still shots from the movie and from production. There is a fairly well made Storyboard Comparison sequence, nicely blending in the storyboard to segments of the film in a split screen mode. I did like this technique - other storyboard sequences can be a bit wooden, but this was very lively and well thought out. Finally there is the Making of Dunes Children - a 13-minute featurette with the new director, Greg Yaitanes and contributions from the director of the first Dune series and screenplay writer for both series - John Harrison. This tends to concentrate of the visual special effects and is OK in that, but could have been a bit longer and more inclusive of other aspects of the series.

Gallery still of the twins
Overall
Complicated, really complicated! You have to watch it several times to fully grasp what has happened and what is happening, but excellently done nonetheless. My only moans, if any, are the orange colour cast, and the visual effects are not quite in the same league as Lynch’s film, or other modern sci-fi films of similar ilk. Just a little bit too low cost on the graphics and CGI, but I can live with that...

Compared to the Region One Artisan release, this is a three discer where Artisan have done it on only two discs, but there is a little more (but not much) by way of extras on the Warner R2 release. So, no real difference, no cuts restored etc...

Impressive overall, with a good solid feel to the concept, some great performances (Susan Sarandon), one duff performance (P H Moriarty), but definitely one to acquire and keep on the shelves (and watch of course!)


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