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Children of Dune
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Cast:Greg Yaitanes, Alec Newman, Julie Cox, Edward Atterton

This five-hour-long second installment of Frank Herbert's sci-fi saga, as adapted for television by the Sci-Fi Channel, is even more lavishly produced than its predecessor and has all the scope and grandeur one finds in the most memorable cinematic epics. John Harrison's teleplay, which combines material from Herbert's second and third Dune books, is densely plotted and rich in intrigue, suspense, and excitement. Alec Newman is back as Paul Atreides, who has overthrown the evil emperor of planet Arrakis and assumed the throne with faithful wife, Irulan (Julie Cox), at his side. As the story begins, Paul's popularity is waning among those citizens of Arrakis who detest what they believe to be the deleterious changes he has made to the planet's ecological system. Princess Wensicia (Susan Sarandon), daughter of the previous emperor and sister of Irulan, still covets revenge and power and sees opportunity in the unexpected disappearance of Atreides, who flees into the desert and is presumed dead. Children of Dune, like all good epics, spans many years and introduces a plethora of colorful supporting characters. A substantial portion of the running time is devoted to the exploits of the Atreides twins, Leto (James McAvoy) and Ghanima (Jessica Brooks), who are drawn inexorably into the vortex of political intrigue created by their father's departure. Of course, these events play out against the backdrop of an unmistakably alien planet whose vast deserts are populated by gigantic sand worms and other exotic creatures. Prolific TV director Greg Yaitanes doesn't seem at all intimidated by so massive a project, and while some of the finer plot points aren't delineated as carefully as they might have been, the sprawling narrative unfolds with linear directness. Science-fiction fans carped somewhat about the production values of the previous Dune miniseries, but there will be no such complaints about Children: everything from sets to costumes to special effects is of feature-film quality, and a stirring musical score lends majesty to the proceedings. This unusually intricate sci-fi extravaganza will yield countless hours of pleasure, as its compelling story is one you'll want to revisit again and again. Ed Hulse

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