Film / Home Entertainment

Dune (2021) 4K Blu-ray review: Dir. Denis Villeneuve

At a time when the future of cinema has been put into question, it’s reassuring to find a film that truly deserves to be seen on the biggest screen possible with the best and loudest speakers imaginable. After over a year of feeling trapped at home, Denis Villeneuve‘s Dune was a welcome dose of big-screen escapism. It’s a film that boasts stunning vistas, intricate sets and costumes and a Hans Zimmer score determined to shake cinema seats; and looked and sounded absolutely incredible in IMAX. I was intrigued then to see if the film would hold up on the small screen, with this 4K Blu-ray release from Warner Bros Home Entertainment.

The year is 10,191. The planet Arrakis has been ruled over by the Harkonnen family for 80 years, growing rich from spice mining – a substance that prolongs the lives of its users, but is also key to interstellar travel. In a surprising turn of events, the Emperor of the known universe reassigns the planet to Duke Leto of House Atreides (Oscar Isaac), leading his household to move from the comforts of their rainy world of Caladan to the harsh deserts of Dune – a world that has featured prominently in the dreams of the duke’s son Paul (Timothée Chalamet), who seems to be experiencing visions of the future. As the Harknonnens prepare an act of retaliation, House Atreides must seek help from the local inhabitants of Dune, known as the Fremen: a group who hold the key to Paul’s future…

It’s rare to find a film with such rich world-building as Dune; the best comparison I can think of is Peter Jackson‘s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The sets, the costumes, the ships…everything is so beautifully and intricately designed – this isn’t a clean glossy future, but one almost medieval in aesthetic. Denis Villeneuve had already proven himself to be a great sci-fi director with Arrival and Blade Runner 2049, yet the palpable sense of awe throughout Dune is something else, from the sweeping shots of Arrakis, Caladan and Giedi Prime to the immense scale of the sandworms, looming over Paul like some kind of alien god. The visual effects work throughout is almost perfect, while Hans Zimmer provides one of his best scores to date, and the all-star ensemble cast deliver excellent performances. My only real issue with Dune is the ending. It may only be Part One of two (the second is due for a 2023 release), but the ending still feels quite abrupt; nothing in the story feels resolved, and it’s hardly an edge-of-your-seat cliff-hanger. That being said, the promise of Dune: Part Two does make this ending much less disappointing – even if expectations will be high for the concluding instalment…

(You can read my full review of the film from its original cinema release here.)

Warner Bros Home Entertainment have released Dune on DVD, Blu-ray and 4K UHD Blu-ray, with limited edition steelbooks exclusive to HMV and Warner Bros Shop. The 4K presentation is superb: the various nuances of Greig Fraser‘s cinematography are brought out in the HDR (High Dynamic Range) presentation, while the added resolution brings out a plenty of detail in the sets and costumes. The CGI effects rarely feel out of place and generally look exceptional, while the slightly soft “filmic” look is maintained throughout. Hans Zimmer‘s spectacular score and the bass-heavy sound design are sure to be a good test of anyone’s home cinema system, and the film has been accompanied with Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. Dune may lose some of its impact on the small screen – the wide shots aren’t quite as impressive without the scale of an IMAX screen – but Warner Bros have provided a strong release for home cinema enthusiasts and casual fans alike. If there’s a criticism to be had with the presentation, it’s that Dune is only available in the standard theatrical 2.39:1 aspect ratio, meaning that the scenes filmed in IMAX are cropped in line with the rest of the film. Some fans may be disappointed that the IMAX scenes aren’t presented in full screen 16:9 as with Christopher Nolan‘s films, or receive a similar treatment to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice with the even taller 1.43:1 aspect ratio, but this does result in a more consistent look for Dune, which is admittedly less distracting.

Special Features:

  • The Royal Houses
  • Filmbooks: House Atreides
  • Filmbooks: House Harkonnen
  • Filmbooks: The Fremen
  • Filmbooks: The Spice Melange
  • Inside Dune: The Training Room
  • Inside Dune: The Spice Harvester
  • Inside Dune: The Sardaukar Battle
  • Building the Ancient Future
  • My Desert, My Dune
  • Constructing the Ornithopters
  • Designing the Sandworm
  • Beware the Baron
  • Wardrobe from Another World
  • A New Soundscape

All of these extras are exclusively available on the Blu-ray disc, save for The Royal Houses featurette, which is included on the DVD (none of these features are available on the 4K disc, which is slightly disappointing but not entirely surprising). While the behind the scenes featurettes do provide an insight into the making of the film, they all feel too short, running around 5 to 10 minutes each, and aren’t as detailed as I’d have liked – especially for a production as big as Dune. A nice addition to the set, however, are the four “filmbooks”, produced in the style as the filmbooks viewed by Paul in the movie, which provide information on aspects of the universe created by Frank Herbert.

Overall, Dune‘s 4K Blu-ray release is a bit of a mixed bag: the extras are quite lacklustre (there’s no deleted scenes or feature commentary), and while the presentation lacks the expanded IMAX aspect ratio, it does look and sound excellent, I have to commend Warner Bros and Legendary Pictures for giving the film a full 4K digital intermediate, along with Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. If you’re a fan of the film, it’s the best way to experience Dune at home – and if you haven’t seen it yet, it’s well worth a purchase just for the movie alone.

Dune is available on 4K UHD, Blu-ray, DVD and on Digital from Warner Bros Home Entertainment – Order now: https://amzn.to/3u9xK3R

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