Our explorations of Dune have stumbled into their second month as we continue exploring the various derivative works inspired by Frank Herbert’s 1966 novel. The Hugo Project is making an extended stop on Arrakis for the merry month of May as we explore 1966’s Dune and the works it inspired. This week it’s on to the miniseries Frank Herbert’s Dune and Frank Herbert’s Children of Dune, produced by the Sci Fi Channel in 2000 and 2003.
[Warning: .gifs and swearing]
These miniseries are actually pretty good. Whether you choose to see this as fortunate – they’re actually worth watching! And I didn’t fall asleep in the middle! – or unfortunate – no snarky commentary – is up to you.
The miniseries of Dune is much more faithful to the book than the 1984 film, in part because it’s longer and thus has more time to develop things, and in part because it wasn’t made in the 1980s so there was less pressure to fill it with fuckery. (Look, I was born in the 80s, but come on – did the entire Western world just go completely insane for ten years and then quietly agree never to mention it?)
Children of Dune (the film) adapts Dune Messiah and Children of Dune (the book) fairly faithfully as well, though Leto and Ghanima are older in the miniseries – good luck finding a pair of 9-year-old actors who could do the roles justice. Squashing two books into one miniseries does require some artistic license, especially to make the stories flow together and keep the whole film semi-coherent, but for the most part I can’t find fault with the decisions made. They even made Irulan more likeable than she is in the books, hooray!
All of the female characters are certainly more likeable in the miniseries than they were in the movie, and, in some cases, than they were in the books. Jessica isn’t useless! Chani believably kicks ass and is more than just a womb! Irulan actually gets to be a real character in Dune, and gets to be more than just an annoyance in Children of Dune.
Alia and Ghanima are not as well-treated; the miniseries chooses to go straight to slutty-evil for Alia, ruining what I thought was actually a relatively respectful portrayal of a sexually frustrated young woman in Dune Messiah. Ghanima is denied what little agency she had in the book (major spoiler in blue):
In the book, when Leto fakes his death, Ghani chooses to build a false memory of his death to further the plan. This mental exercise is what allows her to strengthen herself against the memories within her. She chooses a path that leads to her preserving her mind and her individuality better even than Leto, who chooses one of the memories to control the others, just as Alia let Duke Harkonnen take over. In the miniseries, however, Leto fools Ghani as well as everyone else and the issue of her own mental state is never broached.
Well, you win some, you lose some. Both miniseries lack the grand sense of scale of the movie, and the movie definitely does a better job of creating the baroque style of the Emperor and the royal families. But the miniseries does a better job of creating the sietches and other aspects of Fremen culture (and tones the fuckery way down; this cannot be emphasized enough), has better character development, is more respectful of the female characters, and is more faithful to the books. My recommendation? Miniseries over movie, any day.
No ramblog for this one; I only had a few amusing scribbles while watching these. The most important of which was, of course, I for one would love to be haunted by shirtless James McAvoy.
Oh, yeah, did I not mention that he plays Leto II? And spends about half the miniseries shirtless?
Believe it or not, there are Real Plot Reasons why he’s molesting himself in that .gif. Really. Not lying.
Oh, shut up and take the eye candy, will you?
We’ll be taking next week off, but I’ll return on the 17th with…something. Maybe more Dune sequels, maybe the 1967 Hugo winner – oh, crap, that means more Heinlein. Er. We’ll see. I’ll come up with something, I swear.