With the 4K Blu-ray release of Dune today from Warner Home Entertainment, we share Scott Guest’s thoughts on Denis Villeneuve’s film.
I went into Dune knowing nothing about the plot, story or characters outside of what I had seen in the trailers. I have never read the book, I have not seen the David Lynch film, or the documentary about Alejandro Jodoworsky’s failed attempt to bring the novel to screen. I always like hearing how certain pieces of literature are considered “unfilmable” and seeing the end result when those films do get made.
The films of Denis Villeneuve that I have seen have always intrigued me. Blade Runner 2049 and Arrival were both movies that I thought were in the conversation for being the best of the year when they were released, while Prisoners is extremely underrated and will hopefully find more respect as the years go by. Add in a very talented cast and some impressive visuals displayed in the trailers, I was excited to Dune.
The main plot follows the House of Atreides being assigned by the Emperor to replace House Harkonnen as rulers of Arrakis, a desert planet that contains the most valuable substance in the galaxy, spice, which is needed for space travel among other benefits. Behind the scenes, the Emperor is upset by the growing power and influence that House Atreides has and is actually working with House Harkonnen to stage a coup to destroy House Atreides once and for all. The film revolves around Paul Atreides, the son of the Duke and his journey to find his place in the world.
If you were expecting Dune to be an action film based on the trailers, then you will be disappointed, as what is shown on the screen is a very thoughtful, meditative and reflective film about power, betrayal and finding one’s calling. There is lots to like about Dune, and I go back to Denis Villeneuve. There is a confidence that is on display in the framing of his shots as well as his pure imagination of the visuals on display. He brought his “A” game and most every frame feels like it could be a painting. Dune is gorgeous to watch. I also loved the design of the machinery and aircraft that are used in the film. The one aircraft that stands out is the one that looks like it has the wings of the fly. Just the sound it makes, as well as its movement and its scale impressed me.
The music by Hans Zimmer is excellent and his work should be recognized with an Oscar nomination. It sets the tone of the scenes perfectly and always enhances the film when it is heard. You may not come away from Dune humming anything, but a good score does not have to be catchy, it just has to fit the moment and in that, the music is successful.
The casting of Dune is top notch with Oscar Isaac, Rebecca Ferguson, Timothee Chalamet, Josh Brolin, Dave Bautista, Stellan Skarsgard, Charlotte Rampling, Zendaya and Javier Bardem, but the best performance of the film belongs to Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho. We know that Momoa can handle himself in action sequences, so you have no problem believing that he can legitimately beat up people in a fight. It is in the film’s quieter moments that he really shines. My favourite sequence is when the leader of the Fremen meets Duke Leto and Duncan calmly explains that what is happening is a show of respect. Duncan’s admiration of the Fremen is on full display and it just resonated with me the most.
If you’ve seen the trailer, then you know that sandworms play a part in Dune and I honestly don’t know why they spoiled the reveal in the trailer. The sandworm is teased and talked about throughout the film, but you don’t actually see it in its full glory until the third act (which looked incredible in an IMAX theatre), which I thought was brilliant. We see its movements and parts of its mouth at points, as it gives an ominous feeling as well as giving us an idea of its size and scale without actually seeing it. When the sandworm is show in its full glory, we are absolutely impressed by it.
There is a lot to like about Dune and my only major criticism is the slow pace. Most every character is very thoughtful and reflective, which fits the style of the film being meditative. There is not a lot of urgency to what the characters do or decide, so it can detract from the film. There are characters that have visions and when they happen they feel like short bursts of energy that jolt you, before the film settles back into its pace. I always like to do the “watch test”, which is the number of times I check my watch throughout a movie to time out how long there is left. I can say for the last 45 minutes of Dune, I was checking my watch too often as I was just not engaged by that part of the story.
Overall, I am glad I watched Dune. There is so much to like about it that I can forgive the slow pace the film has and I am definitely intrigued by what will happen to these characters, at least the surviving characters, in the sequel.
The 4K HDR/Blu-ray release of Dune features the following extras:
- DOLBY VISION/HDR PRESENTATION OF THE FILM
- DOLBY ATMOS AUDIO TRACK
- The Royal Houses
- Filmbooks: House Atreides
- Filmbooks: House Harkonnen
- Filmbooks: The Spice Melangelnside Dune – The Training Room
- Inside Dune: The Space Harvester
- Inside Dune: The Sardaukar Battle
- Building the Ancient Future
- My Desert, My Dune
- Constructing the Orniyhropters
- Designing the Sandworm
- Beware the Baron
- Wardrobe From Another World
- A New Soundscape