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After almost twenty years, we get another adaptation of Dune. The story of this new version does not change much. It is still the story of Paul Atredies (Alec Newman) and his journey to the planet Arrakis with his family (William Hurt and Saskia Reeves) to help oversee the mining of Spice, the most precious commodity in the universe, which allows for instantaneous pace travel. Without it, there is no commerce. There is more going on than just a mining operation however. Unknown to the Atredies family is the fact that the Emperor of the universe is secretly plotting with the villainous Harkonen family to see the destruction of the Atredies family. The following events see Paul come into contact with the Fremen, the natives of Arrakis who may just hold the key to Paul’s destiny.

Dune: Director's Cut
Let me just say right off that bat that this version is a vast improvement over David Lynch’s movie. Calling this a remake of Lynch’s movie would be unfair. It is another adoption of the book from another perspective. A perspective that feels much more correct to this Dune fan than Lynch’s movie. Part of the reason this version works better is that in order to get the original into an acceptable running time, much of the book had to be removed or changed. This version runs at a more appropriate 295 minutes, as opposed to Lynch’s 130 minutes. Lynch’s movie was very fast and only really made sense to people who had read the book. This mini-series takes its time to get the story and the characters out there for people to understand and enjoy.

The overall look and feel of this Dune also just seems more correct. As a matter of fact, when reading Dune for the first time, this is pretty much exactly what I had in mind, which means Lynch’s movie took me completely by surprise. This film has a lighter, brighter and clearer look about it as opposed to Lynch’s dark and smoky look. The sets have a much more majestic look about them, the special effects aren’t held up by strings anymore and even better, the characters are cast better and are portrayed much more appropriately.

The main example is the evil Harkonans. In Lynch’s movie, the villains parade around like clowns. Here they really do have a scariness about them that makes them so much easier to take serious. Ian McNeice was born to play the evil Baron Vladimir. William Hurt is also a much more graceful and compassionate Duke Leto, a pity his role is somewhat downsized in the later parts of the movie as he is fantastic in this part. He really puts his heart into it. Another more accurate portrayal is that of the Fremen. This time they actually look like natives rather than ‘Batman’ villains. Also worth mentioning is Julie Cox in the part of Princess Irulan. She is a gorgeous girl who brings real spirit to this character whose part in the book was significantly smaller.

Dune: Director's Cut
There are a few bothering things here however. This series was done for a very limited budget so the scenery of Arrakis is obviously a backdrop on a stage with sand in front of it. This is hardly any fault of the movie or it’s creators, but still a little distracting. What is impressive for the budget however is the wonderful use of CGI effects. The ships, or Ornithopters, are very cool and the final battle scenes put the choppy and unpleasant battles from the original to shame. This interpretation of the ‘weirding way’ is also very clever.

I am not saying that the original Dune was bad—not at all. I may have disliked it at first, but I did grow to like it once I accepted that it just isn’t what I had in mind for the big budget movie of my favourite book. Although the original is a decent enough cult classic, this adaptation seems far more accurate to the way Frank Herbert describes this world in the books. WriterDirector John Harrison obviously cares very much for the story and has gone to great effort to make sure it has been told correctly. This film follows the book very closely, which means the length is very much necessary. To its credit, the story keeps on moving and never drags. This version is by far the version of choice and made this fan very, very happy.

Video
This version of Dune is presented in its original widescreen broadcast ratio of 1.78:1. It looks pretty good for a television movie. Although the settings are no-where near as large as they were in the original, they still look nice with well-saturated colours with some very nice tints. Skin tones are great. Shadows are fine. Even the unnatural looking backdrops look great with a very warm yellow ad orange landscape. There is also no worrying about film artefacts. The only issue for me was NTSC interference, but that is the fault of my PAL DVD player, not of the disc.

Dune: Director's Cut
Audio
This disc includes a total of four tracks. There are Dolby and DTS 5.1 tracks, a Dolby Stereo Surround track and a commentary track. Dune sounds pretty good with some really nice ambience effects during the quieter scenes and a decent music score which turns out well in all tracks. The real treat comes during the battle sequences. The surrounds and sub are put to good work to ensure a thrilling and exciting action experience when you get them. As for which track is the best, the DTS comes out in front yet again with its better channel separation, better and more extensive use of the surrounds and a more balanced and controlled use of the sub. It is also a bit louder. As a fan, I was thrilled to see the inclusion of a DTS track, especially since this is a TV movie.

Extras
The three-disc set comes with a whole range of extras. The movie comes with an audio commentary by Writer Director John Harrison, and selected members of the production team. It’s a pretty standard commentary, which has the group talk about almost everything from effects to sets to the actors. Fans will enjoy listening to all the tech talk. It is also interesting to note that Harrison was not at all pleased with the original David Lynch film.

The first disc includes a documentary called ‘Lure of the Spice.’ This features interviews and behind the scenes footage and covers lots of ground such as characters, sets, background and special effects. It’s probably the best extra here and more like it should have been included. It is also interesting to note that William Hurt was also not a fan of Lynch’s movie, and also thinks this version is the more correct one. Following is a short interview with Graeme Revell who composed the music. Revell talks about the different influences which inspired the music and how it all fits. The last feature on the disc is a collection of storyboards, costume designs, visual effects etc.

Dune: Director's Cut
Disc two starts of with an interview with Willis McNilly the Dune encyclopaedia author and long friend of Frank Herbert. Here you will find out a lot about Dune and how Herbert originally perceived the book. It’s good viewing, but only fans may be interesting. The ‘Science Future Science Fiction Roundtable’ feature was lost on me. John Harrison talks with a bunch of authors about stuff I could hardly understand. I gave up half way through. This disc also contains cast and crew bios and production notes.


The final disc contains a feature called ‘The Colour Wheel’ in which cinematographer Vittorio Storano talks about the importance of colours in the movie. Storano also has an essay on the disc called ‘The Cinematographic Ideation of Dune. It just talks about similar stuff to the documentary. Also included is a tape of John Harrison and religious scholars talking about their definition of the messiah which is why it is called ‘Defining the Messiah.’ The final featurette is called ‘Walking and Talking with John Harrison’ in which Harrison is interviewed whilst walking through a park. It’s nice to have a change of setting for an interview. I was getting sick of a plain colour backdrop. Closing the extra features is a pre-production gallery for ‘Children of Dune,’ the sequel which is now on DVD. A few trailers for other releases are also here.

A good set of extras all in all, but would have benefited from more making-of stuff. The R4 release features two lengthy making-ofs, which are absent from here. A brilliant trailer for the series is also absent. It’s a shame, but still doesn’t detract from the vast diversity of extras here.

Dune: Director's Cut
Overall
This is a darn near perfect adaptation of a classic novel. Everyone involved seems to love the book as much as John Harrison and really gave it their all to make this the definitive version. This is a wonderfully worked series that could not have made this fan any happier. This extended Director’s Cut just improves on it. The DVD is presented beautifully in its widescreen presentation and is complimented by some brilliant audio tracks, with special mention to the DTS track. Closing the deal is an extensive and diverse list of extras, which cover several aspects of the film and its themes. More Making-of stuff would have been nice however. This is still however the DVD of a television movie in which all other TV movie DVDs should be judged.


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