DVD Tales: Frank Herbert's Children of Dune to From the Earth to the Moon

Following from Fog of War...

Frank Herbert's Dune (John Harrison, 2000)
Let me invert the next two entries to put them in chronological order here... Ah, that's better. Dune. Desert planet. When I first saw the previews for David Lynch's version, my 13-year-old self went mad over them. A big science-fiction epic on the silver screen and look here, it's based on a book with at least 3 sequels I can order right away from my book club and have act as companions to my movie-going experience. And then my mom brought us to see it, and she made like she liked it so as not to disappoint us, and I didn't have the heart to tell her it was indeed terrible. Well, it's got a great look (when not going for a gross-out), but it's a poor adaptation of the novel. Possibly, there's no way to do Dune justice in a 2-hour feature film. Cut to 2000 and Space is showing the Dune mini-series. That's more like it! It's got problems, mostly dealing with the costuming and gunplay, but by giving a couple of hours to each of the novel's three "books", we get the full scope of the politics and cultures at work. A grand adaptation which has inspired me to re-read Dune at least twice now (after its original broadcast and after I watched the DVD). I've also bought this DVD twice. The one I have now is the European edit with more extras and nudity. I gave away the US edit in one of those contests I used to run every summer.

Frank Herbert's Children of Dune (Greg Yaitanes, 2003)
The sequel, combining the events of Dune Messiah and Children of Dune gets far crazier, with Leto becoming a cross between a worm and the Flash, but since it seems like James McAvoy has since become hot stuff, you can see him in the role with his shirt off (this is how I get girls to watch SF). Sadly, Saskia Reeves is gone as the most beautiful Lady Jessica I could ever imagine, replaced by Borg Queen Alice Krige who, well, isn't. Susan Sarandon joins the cast though, just to show what kind of talent was attracted to this project. Though I doubt we'll ever see God Emperor of Dune, I'm sure it would be interesting too!

From Dusk Till Dawn (Robert Rodriguez, 1996)
In the mid-90s, we went crazy for anything written or directed by Quentin Tarantino, so off we go to the theaters to see his new film. Ok cool, it's the same kind of soundtrack-happy crime drama/comedy. Harvey Keitel, Juliet Lewis, Michael Parks, Cheech Marin, Quentin himself... ok! And then it turns into a splat-horror vampire movie. With no advance warning. In those days before Internet spoilage, this took us completely by surprise, and though it remained entertaining, it was a big, laughing "What the f%&k!?!?!?" Of course on repeat viewings, you can just enjoy the riff on old Fangoria fodder without any distractions, but it's still two different films rear-ending each other.

From Hell (Hughes Bros., 2001)
Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell's From Hell is possibly my favorite work by either of them. Making a film of it is a dodgy proposition at best, since it is likely to just turn into an adaptation of The Final Solution, and it kinda does. Though Moore writes From Hell in a cinematic 9-panel grid (à la Watchmen), there's just no way to weave in the interconnectivity of his work on celluloid. Things just go by too fast. Cinema shortcuts like combining Inspector Abberline with the psychic are further evidence of why it simply can't work. Still, I'd call it a sincere effort and it's got Ian Holm in it. The DVD is actually a lot more valuable for armchair Ripperologists, with documentaries on Jack the Ripper and absinthe, a tour of the murder sites, and a graphic novel-to-film comparison.

From the Earth to the Moon (various, 1998)
There's something magical about the idea of going to the moon in space capsule run by a 1960s computer, which is part and parcel of why I loved this HBO series and bought it both on VHS and DVD (the VHS since given away as a prize in a Beat the Geeks I'd engineered). The other reason I love it is that each episode has its own narrative and cinematic style, making each one a short movie. My favorite Apollo mission? Apollo 8 - around the moon on Christmas Eve, how could you not love that? It's a particularly strong episode too. DVD extras could have been a little stronger and more animated, but I'm not really complaining.

But what did YOU think? Next: Futurama to Garden State.