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Frank Herbert's Dune (2000): The Director's Cut

After a mean old baron kills his dad and takes over the family palace, Paul Atreides (Alec Newman) finds himself driven into the desert. In short order, he finds out he's (a) the end result of an übermensch breeding program set up by creepy nuns and (b) the prophesied messiah to a pack of water-worshipping nomads. So what does he do? Hey, what else? Ingest scads of mind-expanding drugs, whip those nomads into a messianic frenzy and take back the kingdom! That's Dune in a nutshell: a mind-bending mix of Machiavelli, the Apostle Paul and Ken Kesey — now available on three DVD platters containing the 295-minute "Director's Cut" of the Sci-Fi Channel miniseries, plus a fairly generous smattering of new extras. Writer/director John Harrison, making the most of a tight budget, exercises near-total control of the material — no easy feat, given that the material depends on (a) near-omnipresent scheming, (b) some increasingly esoteric hallucination sequences, and (c) a protagonist who makes such non-protagonistic utterances as "The vast expanse of humanity is about to awaken from its complacency.... There are no innocents!" Of course, the best thing about Dune 2000 is the work of legendary cinematographer Vittorio Storaro: He works closely with Harrison and production designer "Kreka" Kakovic to film the book as set-bound Expressionist cinema — using giant backdrops in place of outdoor locales and dimmer boards to shift his bold lighting mid-scene. Harrison et al defy viewer expectations by making the "world of the play" blatantly, sumptuously fake; whether you'll enjoy that is, of course, a matter of personal taste — and the "Director's Cut," offers a half-hour more of said fakery. Anamorphic Widescreen (1.77:1), Dolby Digital 5.1, 2.0 Stereo and DTS. Among the extras carried over from the previous two-disc release: a 26-minute making-of featurette, costume-design and production-design exhibits, cast & crew and production notes — plus "The Cinematographic Ideation of Frank Herbert's Dune" (an "interactive written treatise," ahem, by Vittorio Storaro). New to this three-disc edition: a running audio commentary with Harrison, Tim McHugh, Greg Nicotero, Ernest Farino, and Harry Miller; a 5-minute interview with Graham Revell and a sampling of his soundtrack; "Willis McNeely on Dune," a 12 minute interview with a Dune scholar; "Science Future/Science Fiction Roundtable," a discussion with sci-fi writers about the state of the art; "Walking and Talking with John Harrison," which is precisely what it sounds like; "Defining the Messiah," an off-topic 13-minute rumination on Christ figures (!); "The Color Wheel," a 12-minute interview with Storaro; stills from the upcoming sequel; and trailers for other Artisan films. Three-disc digipak.
—Alexandra DuPont

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