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4K Ultra HD Review: Dune

January 11, 2022

By John Corrado

Denis Villeneuve’s Dune, the filmmaker’s adaptation of the first half of Frank Herbert’s classic sci-fi novel, was one of the biggest movies of 2021. It’s a massive film in terms of scope that delivers immersive visuals and rich world-building, brought to life with an all-star cast.

This is the definition of a film that was made to be experienced on the biggest screen possible, and Villeneuve has been very vocal about his intention for people to see it in theatres. But it was always going to have to live on through home entertainment, and now Warner Bros. is releasing the film on Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD this week.

The good news is that I think Dune still provides a very satisfying viewing experience at home. I first saw the film in IMAX at the Cinesphere during TIFF, so watching it again on a smaller screen was obviously a different experience. But I was still quite impressed by the huge scale of Dune seeing it on my fifty inch 4K TV, and the crystal clarity of 4K really is the way to go.

The 2160p transfer allows us to appreciate the textures on the film’s sets and costumes, while offering nice detail on faces in closeups. The only thing missing from the disc is that it doesn’t utilize the IMAX aspect ratio for scenes that were shot in the format, instead playing out entirely at 2.39:1, with black bars on the top and bottom. The locked off widescreen aspect ratio does work for the film, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there is another edition sometime down the line that restores the IMAX scenes which expanded to show more height.

It’s the sheer spectacle of Dune that makes it an impressive watch, from Grieg Fraser’s cinematography with sweeping shots of the desert landscapes on the planet Arrakis, to Hans Zimmer’s booming score. I also think this is a film that rewards subsequent viewings (I initially had a bit of trouble keeping up with the exposition-heavy first half, but this wasn’t an issue for me on second viewing), with Villeneuve doing a fine job of bringing the classic hero’s journey of Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) to the screen.

The one downside of the film is that it ends somewhat abruptly and feels very much like a first half, making the wait of Dune: Part Two in 2023 somewhat long. But Dune: Part One still functions as a rich and visually spectacular space epic that was made for movie theatres, though still holds up surprisingly well at home, especially in 4K Ultra HD.

For more on the film itself, you can read my original review from TIFF right here.

Bonus Features (4K Ultra HD):

There are no bonus features on the 4K disc, but a regular Blu-ray is included as well that boasts over an hour of behind the scenes material. A code for a digital copy is also included in the package, which ships with a shiny slipcover.

The Royal Houses (8 minutes, 12 seconds): Villeneuve and the film’s cast members offer a good primer on the main characters and the different houses that they hail from.

Filmbooks (10 minutes, 27 seconds): Extended versions of the educational filmbooks that Paul watches in the film, explaining the four main tribes and the powerful “spice” they are all after.

House Atreides (2 minutes, 8 seconds)

House Harkonnen (1 minute, 51 seconds)

The Bene Gesserit (2 minutes, 23 seconds)

The Fremen (2 minutes, 12 seconds)

The Spice Melange (1 minute, 51 seconds)

Inside Dune (12 minutes, 24 seconds): Three featurettes focusing on the logistics behind specific scenes in the film.

The Training Room (5 minutes, 7 seconds): Focuses on the choreography between Chalamet and Josh Brolin in the training sequence.

The Spice Harvester (3 minutes, 12 seconds): Looks at the design and special effects of the spice harvester on the planet Arrakis.

The Sardaukar Battle (4 minutes, 4 seconds): A look at the choreography and swordplay behind Jason Momoa’s big hallway fight.

Building the Ancient Future (6 minutes, 26 seconds): A closer look at the design elements of different rooms in the film.

My Desert, My Dune (4 minutes, 50 seconds): Explores the design of the different worlds and shooting on location in Jordan and on a soundstage in Budapest.

Constructing the Ornithopters (5 minutes, 38 seconds): Looks at designing the dragonfly-like flying machines on Arrakis, and how they worked from the descriptions in Herbert’s book to come up with designs that were both cool and functional, including building practical versions of them to film in on hydraulic rigs.

Designing the Sandworm (5 minutes, 40 seconds): Explores how the visual effects team brought the iconic sandworms to screen in a believable way, from their baleen teeth, to the sounds they make, and how they displace the sand around them.

Beware the Baron (5 minutes, 0 seconds): A fascinating look at the very impressive makeup and prosthetics work that was done to turn Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgård into the Baron.

Wardrobe from Another World (2 minutes, 52 seconds): A brief but interesting look at the different costumes designed by Robert Morgan and Jacqueline West, and how they wanted to give the outfits an otherworldly quality inspired by both the distant past and far off future.

A New Soundscape (11 minutes, 12 seconds): The first half features sound editors Mark Mangini and Theo Green talking about their organic sound design and recording in the desert, and the second half focuses on Hans Zimmer’s score and his drive to create new sounds for the film, as a lifelong fan of the book. The featurette also looks at how the two elements – sound design and score – bleed into each other in the film.

Dune is a Warner Bros. Home Entertainment release. It’s 155 minutes and rated PG.

Street Date: January 11th, 2022

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