Dune (Ultra HD 4K Blu-ray)

January 24, 2022 9 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

I don’t know why I recall what I’m about to type, but I remember watching a “year in review” with the now late film critics Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel. Ebert (or maybe it was Siskel) said “Dune, stunk.” Obviously this was in regard to David Lynch’s 1984 film and not the 2000 mini-series or the review in question. It’s no secret that Lynch wasn’t a fan of this movie. And he’s an odd one, but at least to someone it seemed that he was the right man for the job. Over the years he’s wanted to distance himself from the film and that’s fine. Having never read Frank Herbert’s novel I can’t exactly pinpoint what the problem was with brining that to screen, but I have to imagine that it’s easier said than done (the novel came with its own glossary, for cryin’ out loud!). There have been several notable novels that work well in print, but on screen – there’s a failure to launch. But, here we are, in the 21st century and noted director Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Blade Runner 2049)has taken a stab at the adaptation. He seems the right man for the job, but given the sordid history of Dune on screen – did it work?

As anyone who’s seen any previous adaption of Dune or has read the book, it’s a bit futile to try and describe the plot. Notably it involves the fight over valuable spices on a futuristic planet. Paul (Timothée Chalamet) is a young man assigned to protect those spices. His parents: Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) and Duke Leto (Oscar Isaac), have other duties. Paul is also dreaming of a “mystery girl” (Zendaya) with Duncan (Jason Mamoa) his loyal soldier and friend. We’re introduced to several more characters in the first hour and it’s not often clear how or why they’re connected. We also don’t really get to know what the big deal is about the spices or why they’re so integral to so many. This, in my opinion, is the film’s downfall and while those familiar with the source material might be “in the know” the rest of us are left out in the cold.

Add to that, this is only the first part of the film. Yes, it’s not wrapped up in the film’s 156 minute running time. There will be obvious comparisons to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Parts I and II and, of course, It. This might be one to watch when all is said and done, but who knows how long that will take?

There’s a lot, yet seemingly nothing, going on in Dune. It does serve as a set up to the next installment, but as mentioned above – and as of this writing, it could be a while before we see the next one. The performances are great, there’s no shortage of talent involved here and if you’re a fan of Denis Villeneuve’s science-fiction movies, then you’ll be at home. I’m tempted to do one of three things and maybe give this one a try: read the original novel, re-watch the 1984 version or watch the 2000 mini-series. I’m sure for those that have a grasp on the source material, this one knocked it out of the park. For the rest of us, we’ll need to bone up.

Video: How’s it look?

Dune might be one of the most beautiful, awe-inspiring films I’ve seen in quite some time. Granted, I’m guilty of saying such trite things as “…most every new Blu-ray and 4K movie looks good these days” but in this case, it takes it to another level. It’s gorgeous. I almost with this was filmed in a 2.55:1 aspect ratio like Lawrence of Arabia (the two share a similar backdrop, of course) if for no other reason than to showcase the pristine picture. Warner’s 4K disc is, without a doubt, one of the finest examples of how a 4K movie should look. Capturing the level of detail in the film, the hushed tones, the intricacies and everything in between – I don’t know how they did it, but my God…I just can’t gush enough over how amazing this looks. Suffice it to say that even if you watch the Blu-ray (please don’t watch the Blu-ray), you’re in for a visual treat.

Audio: How’s it sound?

It’s fairly hard to compare with anything on a technical level after the praise I just gave to how the image appears, but…the included Dolby Atmos sound mix is nearly as impressive. Of course, if you’re not equipped (pardon the pun) to handle the Atmos mix, the Dolby TrueHD 7.1 track will keep all of your speakers working overtime. If I were to pick one word to summarize this track, I’d have to say that it’s enveloping. That’s what it does. It puts the viewer square in the middle of the action. And, if you’ve got your home theater set up correct – that’s the point, right? LFE are heavily involved (those worms make a lot of noise), vocals are crystal clear and surrounds are almost constantly churning away. Bra-vo!

Supplements: What are the extras?

Dune comes equipped with a lot of EPK-esque vignettes, though I found them interesting. I’d have preferred a commentary track, but we can’t have it all.

  • Behind-the-Scenes Featurettes – We’ve got 8 featurettes that go into a LOT of technical detail about the movie, the shoot, locations and so forth. Many of the cast and crew are featured with production designers, visual effects artists and everything in between are showcased. Most of these run about 5 to 15 minutes.
    • The Royal Houses
    • Building the Ancient Future
    • My Desert, My Dune
    • Constructing the Ornithopters
    • Designing the Sandworm
    • Beware the Baron
    • Wardrobe From Another World
    • A New Soundscape
  • Filmbooks – Consider this next section a guide to some of the different “houses” or “tribes.” If you’re familiar with Game of Thrones or Harry Potter (and I have to assume anyone reading this is, you’ll know what to expect).
    • House Atreides
    • House Harkonnen
    • The Bene Gesserit
    • The Fremen
    • The Spice Melange
  • Inside Dune – Lastly we get a trio of segments of scenes from the film with some commentary by those involved. I found this the least interesting of the supplements, but better to have than not.
    • The Training Room
    • The Space Harvester
    • The Sardaukar Battle

The Bottom Line

The more I think about Dune, the more it grew on me. On one hand, it did tend to drag on in parts. But another part of me says that the source material is so difficult to translate to screen (think Watchmen), that this is the kind of show that needs an 8 episode miniseries to truly do it justice. Nevertheless, if your A/V system is up to par (and even if it’s not), this is what it was made for.

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