Dune v. Dune: Who Did It Best?

I’ve been following the news of a purported reboot of Frank Herbert’s Dune on the big screen. The movie has a director – Denis Villeneuve –  and is slated for a December 2019 release. As a big fan of the original six books written by Frank Herbert as well as the many books his son, Brian Herbert, and Kevin J. Anderson have produced over the years.

I enjoyed both the 1985 movie – which has its flaws – and the 2000 mini-series by SYFY – which had its flaws but was more true to the original material. So yes, I am super-geeked to know we get a third crack at doing Dune right. That both Brian Herbert and Anderson are deeply involved with the script is a promising sign.

Which leads to the question: Of the two entrants so far, who did Dune better? I have to lean to the 2000 mini-series only because they seemed to more closely follow Herbert’s storyline. Of course, it helped they had more than one “movie” to tell the story, but still they did it a little better.

But when you break down the actors and actresses who played in the adaptations, its a much different story.

PAUL ATREDIES – I have to go with Kyle MacLachlan over Alec Newman. Kyle seemed to have Paul dialed in while Alec played a spoiled brat having a tantrum they had to move. I also bought Kyle more as a leader of men.

DUKE LETO ATREDIES – Jurgen Prochnow over William Hurt and it isn’t even close. I’m not sure why Hurt decided to play Leto as a wimp, but he did. Jurgen came off a what you would expect from a leader of an entire planet and a juggernaut in interstellar politics.

LADY JESSICA – This was another knockout before the fight even started. Francesca Annis is in another galaxy than Saskia Reeves. Francesca was believable as not only a great lady, but as a Bene Gesserit. Saskia never got there.

PADISHAH EMPEROR SHADDAM IV – This one was close because both Jose Ferrer and Giancarlo Giannini were superb in the role. But the nod goes to Jose who had the air of a badass, scheming Galactic Emperor about him.

GURNEY HALLECK – Patrick Stewart over P.H. Moriarty and it isn’t even close.

REVEREND MOTHER GAIUS HELEN MOHIAM – Sian Phillips easily wins this. She played her role exactly the way you imagine a Reverend Mother of the Bene Gesserit would be. I keep wondering if Zuzana Geislerova ever bothered reading even one of the books?

DR. PARDOT KYNES – As I sit here, I can’t even picture what Karel Dobry looked like in the mini-series. Max Von Sydow mopped up the floor here. He has a presence on screen, no matter what role he is playing that is impossible to deny.

Max is the only reason why I even bother watching the Flash Gordon movie with Sam Jones in it. That is how you play Ming the Merciless (just in case there is a Flash Gordon reboot in the works).

THUFIR HAWAT – Freddie Jones in a landslide over Jan Vlasak. Like Dobry above, I have a hard time recalling Vlasak when I think of Dune 2000.

DUNCAN IDAHO – Richard Jordan just looked like the Duncan that Herbert wrote. James Watson? Not so much. Jordan is also the better actor.

PRINCESS IRULAN – Virginia Madsen came up short in 1985. But to be fair, she really wasn’t given a lot to do in the 1985 film. Julie Cox’s Irulan was a player in 2000 and she carried it off well. Cox gets the win here, snapping 1985’s stranglehold.

STILGAR – Dead Heat. Everett McGill is who I picture whenever I read the early Dune books. He had the look of a man who leads others and forced his will upon an environment dead set on killing him every second of the day. But Uwe Ochsenknecht had the gravitas of a leader with a cool head and his own iron will. They both played the role well.

CHANI – Let me admit one thing – I dislike Sean Young as an actress. Seriously dislike. In Blade Runner I kept hoping Deckard would retire her. Barbora Kodetova wasn’t much better. But she wasn’t Sean Young and she gets the win here.

BARON HARKONNEN – Despite the very British way he pronounced the last name, we’ll give Ian McNeice’s performance in 2000 the nod here. Mainly because Kenneth McMillian’s portrayal was way too over the top crazy. In the books, the Baron is cunning, cruel and sadistic. But he wasn’t a lunatic.

PITER DE VRIES – Brad Dourif but only because Jan Unger’s effort in 2000 was a meh.

FEYD RAUTHA – Sting was much better in the role than I expected when I heard he’d been cast in 1985. He did quite well. But Matt Keeslar played the Feyd that Frank Herbert wrote and that gives his effort the nod over Sting.

DR. YUEH – Dean Stockwell played the traitorous doctor as Herbert wrote him. Robert Russell, like Unger above, was a meh.

ALIA – This is a tie because Alicia Witt played Alia as a very young girl in 1985 and Laura Burton played an older Alia. That being said, they both played their roles well.

SHADDOUT MAPES – Linda Hunt. No more needs be said. Sorry, Jaroslava Siktancova.

THE BEAST RABBAN – Laszlo I. Kish actually did okay in 2000. But Paul L. Smith was the Beast Rabban in every aspect in 1985 and he gets the nod.

So here’s the breakdown: Names in bold are who played it better. Names in italics mean it was a tie.

CHARACTER PORTRAYED DUNE 1985 DUNE 2000
Paul Atreides Kyle MacLachlan Alec Newman
Duke Leto Atreides Jürgen Prochnow William Hurt
Lady Jessica Francesca Annis Saskia Reeves
Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV José Ferrer Giancarlo Giannini
Gurney Halleck Patrick Stewart P.H. Moriarty
Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam Siân Phillips Zuzana Geislerova
Doctor Kynes Max von Sydow Karel Dobry
Thufir Hawat Freddie Jones Jan Vlasak
Duncan Idaho Richard Jordan James Watson
Princess Irulan Virginia Madsen Julie Cox
Chani Sean Young Barbora Kodetova
Stilgar Everett McGill Uwe Ochsenknecht
Baron Vladimir Harkonnen Kenneth McMillan Ian McNeice
Piter De Vries Brad Dourif Jan Unger
Feyd Rautha Sting Matt Keeslar
Doctor Wellington Yueh Dean Stockwell Robert Russell
Alia Alicia Witt Laura Burton
Shadout Mapes Linda Hunt Jaroslava Siktancova
The Beast Rabban Paul L. Smith Laszlo I. Kish

I have no idea who the people in charge of casting the reboot have in mind for these roles. But I do have three suggestions I humbly offer.

Kyle MacLachlan as Duke Leto Atredies

Jurgen Prochnow as the Padishah Emperor Shaddamn IV

Francesca Annis as Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam

All three actors are still active and it would be a great bridge between the 1985 original and the 2019 reboot. Plus, all three are really good and familiar with the material. Just a thought.

So, what do you think? Who did it better? Who should be cast in the 2019 reboot? Let me know in the comments.

As if you’d like to read my own “Dune”, check out When The Gods Fell. You can pre-order on Kindle today for its September 4, 2018 release. It will also be out in paperback and audiobook on Sept. 4th as well. It is Game of Thrones on ancient Mars. Like I said: Dune. Without the sandworms.

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