The Sci-Fi Channel, following the enormous, Emmy-winning success of their miniseries adaptation of Frank Herbert's Dune in 2000, in 2003 produced a sequel miniseries entitled Children of Dune. This second series follows the events of both Dune Messiah and Children of Dune, with nearly all the actors from the first series reprising their roles.
Sci-Fi, however, greatly increased the budget for the second series, and it outshines the first in almost every single aspect. Gone are the cheesy outdoor sets and wild costumes, here are much more nuanced performances and elaborate location shoots (thanks digital technology!). As directed by Greg Yaitanes, written by John Harrison (who wrote and directed the first miniseries), and most especially as scored by Brian Tyler, nearly everything about this production is more lavish, expressive, detailed and most importantly entertaining. Which, since the first mini in this author's opinion was far better than David Lynch's Dune motion picture released in 1984, is saying quite a bit.
Herbert purists may get ticked off at some of the details that have been changed to bring these two books to the screen--Princess Irulan Corrino is no longer part of the conspiracy to assassinate Emperor Paul Muad'Dib Atreides, having been replaced by her older sister Princess Wensicia Corrino for example--and some of the special effects are lame--any living creature that's been rendered via CG is incredibly bad--but this should not in any way lessen Dune fans or the casual viewer's enjoyment of this six-hour tale of imperial court politics, religious ruminations, and the ultimate destiny of the species homo sapiens.
Of special note is the acting: Alec Newman must have attained some serious chops between 2000 and now, as his portrayal of Paul--a man hopelessly lost to both destiny and the jihad he has unleashed upon the entire universe--is superb, better than his initial outing in 2000, and completely blows away anything Kyle MacLachlan tried to do in Lynch's motion picture. Also incredible is the portrayal of Leto II by young talent James McAvoy, whose subtle potrayal of the future God Emperor of Dune is a marvel to watch.
In fact, this miniseries actually suffers from the big-name star power brought to it: much like the wooden performance of William Hurt as Duke Leto Atreides in the original mini, Susan Sarandon's performance as the evil Wensicia tends to be a bit too broad and hammy. Most of the other actors seem to be taking their nigh-shakespearean roles seriously, whereas Sarandon is just playing evil for evil's sake. However, her screen time is limited and does not detract in any way from the overall majesty of the story unfolding.
Lastly, the music this time 'round is far more powerful, more epic, more majestic in every conceivable way. Brian Tyler's score, most effectively used in lavish CG flyby shots of Dune's capital city Arrakeen and during a stunning montage (lifted straight from The Godfather) during which Chani (marvelously portrayed by the absolutely radiant Barbora Kodetová) gives birth to twins while Paul has his conspirators assassinated is hair-raising good stuff. I've always contended that the score to a filmed piece of entertainment should be every bit as much an actor as the actors themselves, and Tyler's score satisfies that in spades.
Casual viewers may not understand the many-layered plots and intrigues if they're complete newbs to Herbert's work, and it's strongly advised that the books be read, or at the very least the first miniseries be watched, before attempting to fully enjoy this highly-entertaining, lavishly produced miniseries. You don't often find a satisfying blend of both science fiction and high drama in one work, but Children of Dune does just that, and does it for the most part very well.
Here are the principal credits for the production, taken from IMDB:
Writing credits (WGA)
Frank Herbert (books Dune Messiah, Children of Dune)
John Harrison (teleplay)
Alec Newman .... Paul Atreides
Edward Atterton .... Duncan Idaho
Ian McNeice .... Baron Vladimir Harkonnen
Barbora Kodetová .... Chani
Steven Berkoff .... Stilgar
Daniela Amavia .... Princess Alia
P.H. Moriarty .... Gurney Halleck
James McAvoy .... Leto II
Jessica Brooks .... Ghanima
Jonathan Bruun .... Farad'N
Rik Young .... Javid
Martin McDougall .... Scytale
Gee Williams .... Bijaz
Alice Krige .... Lady Jessica
Susan Sarandon .... Wensicia