I’ve been eagerly anticipating Denis Villeneuve‘s Dune – a big budget feature film adaptation of Frank Herbert‘s seminal sci-fi novel – since it was announced several years ago, so it was exciting to attend IMAX’s exclusive look at Dune: a half-hour collection of featurettes, the new trailer and two sequences from the film itself, presented on the huge Cineworld IMAX screen in Leicester Square. The featurette’s provided a strong sense of Dune‘s scope, with interviews from the all-star cast, whilst a short discussion between director Denis Villeneuve and composer Hans Zimmer provided a great insight into the scoring process for the film, but perhaps the most exciting aspect of the event was getting to see two sequences from Dune – the opening ten minutes, and a scene from later on in the film heralding the first arrival of the sand worms.
Based on the footage shown in IMAX, Dune looks absolutely incredible. It’s a very complex premise, but the prologue establishes the basis concept of the film very clearly, without just tedious bouts of exposition. The world of Arrakis has been pillaged by House Harkonnen for Spice – a precious substance that all of the futuristic human civilisation is built upon – and has now transferred power over to House Atreides, led by Duke Leto (Oscar Isaac). Leto is summoned to rule over Arrakis, along with his partner Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) and son Paul (Timothée Chalamet) – who has been dreaming of a mysterious girl from the planet (Zendaya). Both the opening sequence, and the second sequence screened look outstanding, with stunning cinematography and some very, very impressive, distinctive production design. A key aspect of big sci-fi epics is the look, and Dune has it all; the film reportedly cost $165 million, and every cent is up there on-screen. It’s all so tactile and “lived in”, with every frame littered with intricate details. Hans Zimmer‘s score is unique, as the composer taps into his more experimental side that also features a deep choral section that reminded me of Jóhann Jóhannsson‘s work, composer of Denis Villeneuve‘s Arrival. The size and scope is awe-inspiring, and Villeneuve handles every moment with the sense of care and precise detail that one would expect from the director of Arrival and Blade Runner 2049. In the featurette, Villeneuve says that this is a film he’s been wanting to make since he was 14, and I think his passion for the project shows.
When you’re planning to see Dune, I highly recommend seeing it in IMAX. Not only do you get to see something that looks this good, with this level of detail on a huge screen with an immersive sound system, but the film has been made specifically for IMAX, with many scenes filmed for IMAX on the Arri Alexa LF and Mini LF. In the IMAX scenes, the screen will expand from the conventional wider 2.35:1 aspect ratio to a much taller 1.90:1, or if watching in IMAX laser or film, an even bigger 1.43:1 aspect ratio – much like with Christopher Nolan’s recent films. The sequences in their full 1.90:1 frame looked incredible, and combined with the 12-Track digital sound system completely transported the audience away to the distant worlds of Caladan and Arrakis, with sand storms, explosions, space ships and Hans Zimmer‘s brilliant score.
I can’t wait to see Dune in full – it was one of my most anticipated films of the year, and having seen this sneak preview, it might well be have taken the top spot as my most anticipated film of 2021. This is going to be something very special indeed – and absolutely seeing on the biggest screen you can find.