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Paul Atreides, a brilliant and gifted young man travels to the dangerous desert planet Arrakis the only source of the most valuable substance in the universe, “the spice” as malevolent forces explode into conflict over the planet’s exclusive supply.
*Be aware of spoilers*
Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV has ordered the Harkonnens to leave Arrakis, planet of the psychogenic substance “melange” also known as the spice. On the planet Caladan, Paul Atreides learns the special powers of his mother’s order while also learning about the planet Arrakis and its people. Paul’s father, Duke Leto Atreides receives an imperial envoy who formalizes the awarding of Arrakis to House Atreides. Paul discusses his wish to travel to Arrakis early with his father, but Leto refuses, saying that he needs Paul by his side as the emperor has set up a conflict between House Atreides and House Harkonnen.
Jessica’s Bene Gesserit superior, Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam arrives on Caladan to test Paul. After the test Mohiam berates Jessica for producing a son for Duke Leto, rather than the daughters she had been ordered to produce. The Atreides arrive on Arrakis and Paul survives an assassination attempt by a hunter seeker drone on the same night. Leto surveys his new domain and discovers that the Harkonnens have sabotaged much of the needed infrastructure while Stilgar, has come to meet with Leto. Leto’s party meets with Liet Kynes to investigate the spice mining operations and rescue the miners when the mining vehicle was attracted by a worm.
The Harkonnen forces, aided by the imperial Sardukar troops, begin their assault on the Atreides base. After being paralyzed by Yueh the Baron gloats over Leto, who bites down on his fake tooth and expels a poison, killing everyone in the room except for the Baron. Duncan brings Paul and Jessica to Kynes but the Sardukar track them there and attack. Paul and Jessica flee in an ornithopter but after being damaged they must set out on foot through the desert before a group of Fremen capture them. Jamis challenges Jessica and Paul kills him in a duel before Fremen take them back to their sietch.
Joe Caracciolo Jr.
Based on “Dune” by
Warner Bros. Pictures
Stephen McKinley Henderson
After the adaption of Lord of the Rings there was a huge interest in adapting more fantasy and science fiction book novels than ever before. You see, turning a popular fantasy book into a film may sound a great idea financially but until Peter Jackson’s gargantuan effort the results were less than stellar. It was like the spark that was missing to ignite the fire and get things going into the right direction as many adaptions had failed to succeed previously.
Since Lord of the Rings we have seen a lot of fantasy and science fiction books turned successfully into films or TV series with Harry Potter and Game of Thrones being two of the most notable ones but not the only ones. Since then we have other very successful adaptions like The Hobbit, The Witcher, His Dark Materials, The Foundation, Shadow and Bone, The Wheel of Time and The Expanse just to name a few.
One name that was missing all these years was obviously Dune. The 1965 epic science fiction novel had its chance into the big screen but David Lynch’s 1984 film was not as a solid effort as many would have hoped and was deemed a critical and commercial failure. It was as if the time was not still prime for such an epic adventure to make its transition to film. And to an extend that was true as technology back in 1984 was not good enough to portray the grand stages and epic scenery of the novels. But that was not the only problem of that film.
After David Lynch’s film failure it seems that Dune fell into development hell. Many tries were made to bring a new project up to its feet but every time things would side track and ultimately get cancelled. With rights changing hands and directors coming and going a new Dune felt like drifting further and further away. But in a way, all this time passing was working on Dune’s favor. Technology and special effects are light years ahead now compared to what was available in 1984 and the critical and commercial success of other book adaptions showed that there can be a successful Dune adaption if done right.
And this brings us to 2016 with Denis Villeneuve at the helm and finally all pieces falling together indicating that the time had finally come for a new Dune adaption to happen which it did 5 years later. The new Dune (2021) is a spectacle by any measure and Villeneuve did a lot of things right in order to make the source material justice.
First of all one criticism that the 1984 film had was that they tried to put a lot into a single film and thus the final edit felt a real mess. There was a constant battle between Lynch and the studio about its running time and usually in such situations the end result is not good. The new Dune seems to avoid this pitfall by taking its time to develop and not trying to put everything into a single feature film. You could say that what we have here resembles very much a Lord of the Rings structure where the films would cut into specific points in the story.
This can be a risky move especially if you don’t know how the audience will accept the first part which can lead to huge financial problems for the rest of the parts. With The Lord of the Rings the stakes were much higher as large parts of the sequels were already filmed and millions of dollars already spent. Villeneuve and the production studio took a more cautious approach with Dune as obviously it would mean financial disaster if Villeneuve’s film would fail financially with a second part pending release.
So while the first part does feel like an incomplete story by its end, its commercial success means that we will have the chance to see how the story ends on the big screen and give Villeneuve the chance to finish its sci-fi opus.
What Villeneuve did with the new Dune was that he made it easy to shallow even to those that are not familiar with the novels or the source material. It’s a sci-fi movie and although there is deep lore behind its seemingly fantasy coating in the end what matters is if the audience can understand the basics and how all the pieces fit together. And here Villeneuve did an amazing job. I will be honest to say that I was not very familiar with Dune’s lore, I was never very fond of the story but Villeneuve’s version really through me into the Arrakis world and made me want to learn more about it.
Obviously we will talk about the film’s technical merits that play a big part in the new adaption but the story is so well structured that never felt like it was dragging which is particularly impressive with the film’s long running time. Each scene had some importance and was not there just for filler. And this made the new Dune feel fresh and always ready to give you something more. Yes, there were a few scenes that could be handled better but looking at the whole film you cannot but feel astounded by the work Villeneuve and his team did with the story.
When splitting a story into multiple films one thing that is always hard to do is to find the right moment when to make the cut. We had seen this with the Lord of the Rings films and how hard was for Peter Jackson and his team to find the right moment in the story in order for the ending not to feel anticlimactic. And since Villeneuve decided to split the film in order to allow for more breathing space to the story it was essential to find the right spot to end this first part.
We believe that overall the film ends in a high note leaving the audience with the thirst to see what will happen next. There will always be a bit disappointment when there is no conclusion to a story but we believe that when the second part will be released the two films should and will be considered as a single film split into two parts in the same way as no single Lord of the Rings film can act on its own.
But having a good story is only one part of the equation. What we found impressive was that the casting was completely spot on. It’s not only that you have an amazing ensemble of talented actors, which by itself doesn’t mean a lot as we have seen many films featuring many known names but failing to capture the essence of their characters. In Dune each actor fit precisely the role that was given.
Usually, even with successful films there will always be some miscasting especially with productions that include a big ensemble of actors but not in Dune. And while Paul Atreides may be played by the relatively unknown Timothée Chalamet there is a number of first rate actors that surround the young Duke with Rebecca Ferguson as his mother, Oscar Isaac as Paul’s father, Josh Brolin as weapons master and Stellan Skarsgård as Vladimir Harkonnen along with some smaller roles that went to Dave Bautista as Glossu Rabban, Zendaya as Chani, Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho and even Javier Bardem as Stilgar.
The Story of Dune proved a hard nut to crack but seems that Villeneuve and the rest of the filmmakers were able to find a good balance and make the best of it by deciding to separate the story into two parts, the ensemble of actors was as good as it gets, now what would make or break the film was the technical part and if the visual and special effects could portray the grand sci-fi opera Dune was so famous about.
Thankfully as the film came out in 2021 technology had indeed improved immensely compared to where it was in 1984. We live in an age where visual and CGI effects are reaching a point that is becoming ever more difficult to understand what is real and what not. And Dune really benefit from it as the entire running time is a feast for the eyes and a grand spectacle to be remembered in the years to come in the same way that films like Lord of the Rings are still being remembered 20 years after their release.
There is really nothing bad to say about the CGI or the technical merits of the film, everything feel perfectly created and all come together to synthesize the puzzle that was direly missing in Lynch’s film. Every single visual effect from the ornithopters, the spice harvesters, the sandworms all the way to the attack of the Harkonnen forces on Atreides home base is carefully crafted to fit the world of Dune.
But it is not only the CGI effects that are amazing. Villeneuve knows his craft and every single shot, every camera angle is carefully planned in order to portray the world of Dune in the best possible way. Obviously most outdoors scenes are computer generated but many of the indoors sets are crafted with amazing detail. The same can be said about costumes with their ethereal and out of this world designs that look exceptionally good. And along the visuals, Hans Zimmer’s epic score helped to give the film an even bigger scope than the visuals alone would be capable of.
To be honest with Dune being in such a long development hell and with some commercial failures already accounted for, the production of the new Dune was a big gamble. Yes there was strong indication that the film will do good but when it had some big failures in the past and with a production budget north of $150 million the stakes were more than high both for the studio and for the director.
We are happy to say that Villeneuve managed what I thought was not possible before the film was released. He brought Dune back from the dead and not only that but he managed to instill quality and make the project relevant enough to guarantee not one but two sequels in order to bring the whole story of Dune to completion.
In the end Dune did a lot of things right. It’s a modern take of the 1965 book and Villeneuve used all his knowledge into making it such a success. Obviously there will be complaints here and there but honestly you cannot please everyone and Dune has managed to turn the tides as for many years it was deemed a project that would always carry the failure of Lynch’s film with it. Villeneuve managed to erase that and with a clean slate the sequel that is planned for 2023 is free of this burden to continue the story of House Atreides and bring a conclusion to this sci-fi opus.
A story that for so many years lingered in the failure of its previous film finally is able to shine and make us anxiously wait for the sequel that cannot come fast enough. If you still haven’t seen it please make yourself a favor and either buy the disc or watch it on streaming. It really deserves as much.
Dune lands on 4K UHD with an amazing 2160p resolution, HEVC / H.265 transfer courtesy of Warner Brothers. It comes with the standard 2.39:1 aspect ratio while the disc features not only the basic HDR10 format but also the more advanced Dolby Vision. In terms of audio we get a bombastic Dolby Atmos mix that is as good as the visuals themselves.
One thing that may fans were critical about the discs, both the UHD and Blu-ray one, is that Warner Bros didn’t include the switching aspect ratio with the expanded IMAX scenes in these releases. If you have seen the IMAX version of the film there is so much more content per shot and the IMAX format greatly benefit the wider scenery in order to give a better sense of scale and size that is lost with the more limiting 2.39:1 ratio. Why they didn’t go that route is not known but if you have seen the IMAX version then the home release will leave you with a bitter taste for sure.
But if you can overcome this fact the 4K UHD is a spectacle in itself and really makes such a visual extravaganza real justice. The increase of resolution helps to make even the tinniest of details visible. Everything from materials composition, to clothes and fabrics, to the rocky and sand surfaces of Arrakis planet has an extraordinary amount of detail.
But it was not only the level of detail that was impressive. For a barren planet like Arrakis colors had an amazing intensity and HDR grading helped a lot with it. When the Harkonnen forces attack on Atreides base each explosion felt like three dimensional. Color saturation was excellent even if a bit excessive but this was deliberate to fit each shot. The CGI effects are well integrated into each frame and they don’t feel or look out of place even with the up of resolution.
The visuals of Dune are massive and certainly ask for an equally good audio mix that we get in the form of a Dolby Atmos one. Honestly if you are looking for reference quality material Dune should be among the ones in your list. Dialogue is nicely isolated and very distinct while surround performance is through the roof which helps to expand every scene beyond what you see on the screen.
Atmos and surround effects are carefully added and have good clarity and pinpoint precision. The Atmos effects help to expand the immersion bubble even more and with such grand scenery it’s exactly what is needed. And obviously you cannot speak about a film like Dune and not mention its Earth shaking bass. When the sandworm approaches you will feel like it is ready to shallow your house, especially if you have a good surround system with an equally good subwoofer. The ornithopters engines feel natural and raw while all elements like wind, explosions and the sandstorms sound amazingly natural and real.
Closing this review what we can say about the 4K UHD is that it is one of the best releases we have encountered lately and makes real justice to the source material of such a visual spectacle as this film is. Both the video and audio are almost perfect and there is no better source to enjoy this film at home than the UHD version. Now if they had added the IMAX scenes it would be perfect but we do hope that when the second part arrives that we may get something like a director’s cut. If you haven’t seen the film yet this is the way to go, but the UHD version deserves to be in the collection of everyone who likes a good sci-fi film for what it is.
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