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Dune (2021) (4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review)

REVIEW OVERVIEW

The Film
The Video (Overall)
HDR Effect
The Audio
The Supplements
Overall

SUMMARY

The first part in the latest adaptation of the Frank Herbert novel finds the son of the nobel Atreides family engulfed in political intrigue on the dangerous planet of Arrakis where the galaxy's most prized substance, spice melange, is processed.

Denis Villeneuve, who successfully helmed the sequel to the cult sci-fi film Blade Runner, Blade Runner 2049 thirty-five years after the original first entered theaters, takes the reins in this adaptation of Frank Herbert’s enigmatic sci-fi novel Dune. Dune has caused more than one great filmmaker to stumble, starting with Alejandro Jodorowsky who never completed his concept work on a film adaptation. Then there was David Lynch who did film an adaptation in 1984 but was hindered by a cutoff budget and interference from his producers. The result was a half-baked, surreal and often bizarre sci-fi B-movie classic that never reaches it potential, but has so much there that makes it still an enjoyable film.

Villeneuve has none of the hindrances of Lynch and has brought his version to completion (well, partially, at this point) unlike Jodorowsky. This is the first part of a two-part adaptation of Frank Herbert’s novel that deals with Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet), the son and heir of the House Atreides, whose father the duke Leto (Oscar Isaac), must take the stewardship of the planet called Arrakis where the coveted resource known as the “spice melange” is mined and has caused many conflicts. Paul arrives and almost immediately realizes the depths of the issues surrounding Arrakis, including the enslavement of the indigenous people of the planet and the plots of the Baron Harkonnen and the Emperor to unseat the Atreides and ensure their grip on the spice trade.

Villeneuve’s film, even in just this first half, immediately captures the complexity and layered density of Herbert’s material. The screenwriters (Jon Spaihts and Eric Roth co-write with Villeneuve) pack a lot of information and backstory into Part One and introduce many characters, some which must take a backseat for now, but they’re there and ready for part two.

From the opening we are tossed into a visual and aural fantasy that is breathtaking in its detail, borrowing heavily from the past efforts to bring the film to life, but infusing Villeneuve’s unique touch, most solidly seen in something like Blade Runner 2049. Every vehicle, every piece of clothing, every realm the characters move through feels and looks like modern art while also looking futuristic and otherworldly. Hans Zimmer’s pulsating, often percussive, sometimes lush and sweeping score brings it all together. On the basis of Part One alone, Denis Villeneuve can take heart in being the filmmaker to finally be the one to successfully adapt the work that has often been called too difficult to be made into a film.

The Video

Dune was shot in 4.5K and used a 4K digital intermediate. It arrives on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray in a 2.39:1 HEVC 2160p (4K UHD) Dolby Vision (HDR10 compatible) encodement. It has a MaxLL of 787 nits and a MaxFALL of 239 nits. The disc doesn’t immediately strike you as being brighter given the desaturated overall look of the film but keep watching. If you watched this film streaming on HBO Max in 4K UHD with HDR, forget about what you saw. You get with this disc an image that looks about 10x better than that stream, with much crisper details and even the HDR, in my case played back in Dolby Vision on my CX OLED, looks more vibrant. There are excellent specular highlights that yield superb sunlight coming through the rooms, good glow from numerous gadgets or the glistening of metal on swords.  The scene where Paul Atreides must hold his hand in the box to pass the test and the flash of flame comes on nearly blinded me with its sudden shock of bright flame. The most reference points of the film come in chapters 10-11 where there are battle sequences, explosions, flashes of the force fields, and lots of incredible play with the light and shadows. Compare the Blu-ray and the image on the Blu-ray comes across as very flat and two-dimensional. This is a very stark difference considering the 4K disc, while one is watching, can seem like it is dim, as I mentioned above. It isn’t. And despite the desaturated look, it has a wider array of tones on the 4K than on the Blu-ray, which comes across as more monotone than the 4K disc and lacks the visual dynamism of the 4K disc.

The Audio

The Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 compatible) is pure reference from the very opening, with the percussive score spreading out through the surrounds and being propped up by resounding low frequencies. There’s great height awareness as well as “The Voice” brings the ‘voice of God’ sound effect or the Ornithopters fly overhead. And the score also fills the height channels and surrounds. Only some spots allow the dialogue to purposely drop a little low beneath the sound effects and score. Otherwise, this is pure reference.

The Supplements

Warner includes a lot of interviews, behind-the-scenes, and background on the various Houses mentioned in the film. These featurettes cover the locations, the casting, and more.

  • Movies Anywhere Digital Code
  • Blu-ray with Feature Film and Bonus Features
  • The Royal Houses (1080p; 00:08:12)
  • The Spice Melange (1080p; 00:01:51)
  • The Sardaukar Battle (1080p; 00:04:04)
  • Filmbooks (1080p; 00:10:27):
    • House Atreides
    • House Harkonnen
    • The Bene Gesserit
    • The Fremen
    • The Spice Melange
  • Inside Dune (1080p; 00:12:24):
    • The Training Room
    • The Spice Harvester
    • The Sardaukar Battle
  • Building the Ancient Future (1080p; 00:06:26)
  • My Desert, My Dune (1080p; 00:04:50)
  • Constructing the Ornithopters (1080p; 00:05:38)
  • Designing the Sandworm (1080p; 00:05:40)
  • Beware the Baron (1080p; 00:05:00)
  • Wardrobe from Another World (1080p; 00:02:52)
  • A New Soundscape (1080p; 00:11:12)

The Final Assessment

Dune is a sci-fi masterpiece and this only Part One. We are waiting impatiently for Part Two. In the meantime, this reference quality 4K Ultra HD Combo is a magnificent way to view this inspiring work.

Dune is out on 4K Ultra HD 4K Combo January 11, 2022 from Warner Bros.


  • Rating Certificate: PG-13 (for sequences of strong violence, some disturbing images and suggestive material)
  • Studios & Distributors: Warner Bros. | Legendary Entertainment | Villeneuve Films | Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
  • Director: Denis Villeneuve
  • Written By: Jon Spaihts (screenplay by) | Denis Villeneuve (screenplay by) | Eric Roth (screenplay by)
  • Run Time: 155 Mins.
  • Street Date: 11 January 2022
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
  • Video Format: HEVC 2160p (4K UHD)
  • HDR Format: Dolby Vision (HDR10 Compatible)
  • Primary Audio: English Dolby Atmos
  • Secondary Audio: English DD 5.1 | English Descriptive Audio | French DD 5.1 | Spanish DD 5.1 | Portuguese DD 5.1 | Czech DD 5.1 | Hungarian DD 5.1 | Polish lektor
  • Subtitles: English SDH | French | Spanish | Italian SDH | Portuguese | Czech | Hungarian | Polish | Romanian | Russian
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The first part in the latest adaptation of the Frank Herbert novel finds the son of the nobel Atreides family engulfed in political intrigue on the dangerous planet of Arrakis where the galaxy's most prized substance, spice melange, is processed. Dune (2021) (4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review)
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