Dune 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray review

Dune, Warner Bros., Ultra HD Blu-ray & All-Region BD, £25

Movie: The first instalment of Denis Villeneuve’s critically lauded adaptation of Frank Herbert’s ‘unfilmable’ sci-fi novel Dune is almost too epic for its own good. Its slew of bombastically grand vistas, the artfully lit pensive close-ups, the reels of slow-motion photography, the Monumental (capital M very much intentional) Hans Zimmer score… no filmmaking stone is left unturned in Dune’s quest to deliver the sense of scale Villeneuve clearly feels fans of the story deserve.

Every now and then the epicness teeters on the brink of self parody. Especially when the bloody bagpipes kick in. Thankfully, though, while a few more quiet moments might have been nice, Villeneuve is far too astute a filmmaker to ever completely lose the plot (literally).

For the vast majority of its 156-minute running time, Dune is a stirring, mesmerising experience that skilfully blends its showy elements into a film that actually makes enough sense of Herbert's complex story. Even people completely unfamiliar with the book should be able to follow it, which is more than can be said for David Lynch's earlier 1980s adaptation.
Movie rating: 4/5


Picture: If this talk of epic stuff has you hoping that Dune's 4K Blu-ray will be supreme system demo-fodder, you’d be right. Villeneuve and cinematographer Greig Fraser's carefully crafted visuals, framed here at 2.40:1 (there's no ratio shifting to accommodate the film's theatrical IMAX presentations), look resplendent.

And it’s noticeable right away that Villeneuve seems to have ditched his apparent previous taste (evidenced by earlier sci-fis Arrival and Blade Runner 2049) for rather muted HDR. The blazingly bright desert skies of Arrakis appear searingly intense – almost so much you wish you had some Fremen sun shades and a Stillsuit to wear on your sofa.

The transfer also pushes brightness hard for light bits of otherwise dark and brooding interiors, particularly if you take advantage of the Dolby Vision grade. Want to spot backlight issues on LCD TVs? Spin this disc…

The colour palette is mostly quite washed out, reflecting the desiccated, sun-bleached feeling of Arrakis. This is conveyed well, with plenty of subtle shading detail despite the rather monotone feel. The bleached palette sometimes gives way to occasional splashes of rich, deep colours for some classic Villeneuve interiors, as well as one or two really bright colourful moments – not least when it comes to the Fremen’s striking blue eyes.

Dune was shot at 4.5K resolution, and granted a 4K digital intermediate. As you’d hope from that provenance, this equates to an impressively sharp, detailed picture. Not quite as consistently pristine as the 4K Blu-ray of the director's Blade Runner sequel, perhaps, but still a definitively 4K experience.

Some shots of sandstorms or swirling mists can look a touch soft and noisy, despite the disc’s bit-rate routinely ranging higher than 80Mbps for such visually complex moments. One or two skin tones look slightly off, too. For the most part, though, the transfer does Villeneuve’s jaw-dropping vision proud.
Picture rating: 4.5/5


Audio: Dune's Dolby Atmos soundtrack is nothing short of a monster. From start to finish, with precious few moments of respite, it'll push your AV system to breaking point with its blend of epic scoring, deep and forceful bass, gargantuan impact sounds and pin-point effects placement – including plenty of overhead action to round out the scale of its locations. You’ll believe giant worms hundreds of metres long are charging through your living room. You’ll be right on the battlefield helping Atreidesians fight off the assault forces of the Empire and the Harkonnens. You’ll be convinced you’re witnessing space ships the size of tower blocks either landing or getting blown to smithereens.

Oh, and if thought Blade Runner 2049’s industrial soundtrack was an epic classic, Dune’s score makes it look puny. This is reference-grade home cinema audio.
Audio rating: 5/5


Extras: A solid array of bonuses, all contained on the accompanying Blu-ray, runs to around 75 minutes in total. Included are a background featurette on the film’s main characters; short explainers of the film’s 'houses' and the Spice Melange; looks at production and costume design, locations, key scenes and the creation of the sandworms and ornithopters; and a piece examining that speaker-killing soundtrack.
Extras rating: 3.5/5


We say: For the full audiovisual grandeur of Villeneuve’s Dune vision, this 4K BD release is the way to go.