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Knowing nothing of Dune going into David Lynch’s adaptation, it’s clear Frank Herbert’s novel conveyed a complex, intriguing, and deeply symbolic sci-fi realm. The film grazes all of those elements, winding through a baffling storyline that lacks the space to breathe.

Dune remains an infamous project; little needs said to embellish that piece of Dune’s existence. It’s known.

Dune’s raw design power is nearly enough to carry the entirety

What’s viable in Dune comes in layers. Interpretations vary from the AIDS crisis to Middle Eastern politics, and what appears on screen can reference any thematic idea. Dune’s grandiose jumble piles visual spectacle on top of winding interplanetary conflict representing religious beliefs and oil wars throughout the world’s desert regions. Herbert’s nuance though becomes a withering cataclysm when burned onto film stock.

Battling for planet Arrakis, the litany of political players lay out an extravagant society, piled up with endless subplots and internal bickering over control. It’s primarily a story about men in power who see themselves as godly beings, slowly upended by a prophesied messiah who comes to being out of a need to destroy a corrupt system.

It doesn’t work. Whatever the cause, Dune’s ponderous collapse into nigh unintelligible exposition and in-universe jargon is carried entirely by a masterclass in production design. Every frame elicits a certain awe, akin to 2001, were 2001 bloated, unfinished, or imprecise. At a certain point, Dune outpaces even Star Wars in terms of practically-made, creative effects output. Watching Kyle MacLachlan steer an enormous worm remains an unmatched and potent scene.

And its lavish costumes, sometimes aided by faultless makeup, suggest instant status, even culture. Dune doesn’t need to explore each character’s place in society. Clear visual divide defines the working poor inside spice mining vehicles from the lavishness of kings, not only in clothing but environments too. Dune’s raw design power is nearly enough to carry the entirety.

So massive is Dune, the parallels to Lawrence of Arabia don’t feel inauthentic. Paul’s (MacLachlan) rise to power follows that of Lawrence purposefully, giving the oppressed an opportunity to reclaim their land from unfair rule. The desert setting assists too. Dune, though, doesn’t have the charisma and seemingly hides its intricacies by cramming hours of content into an impossibly fragmented frame – that of a two-hour studio film, unwilling to focus or alter its course.

Video

Dazzling work yet again by Arrow, presenting a faultless 4K scan of near flawless film elements (effects/composites aside, showing minimal dirt at times). Dune takes on new life in these conditions. Dune always showed elaborate design, whether in costumes or sets, but their details all stand out in this transfer. Small touches to props, makeup, and clothing appear where they previously didn’t. It’s an invaluable disc for prop and/or costume makers, while for home A/V fanatics, a thoroughly precise and accurate image that doesn’t look like the early ’80s anymore.

Expertly replicated grain benefits from a healthy encode, consistency preserved even as spikes occur. There’s never a sense this is a digital transfer; it’s too pure and clean. Partly, thank the visual dynamics, scoring points for pure black space, resolving detail within all-black outfits, and a carefully calibrated contrast establishes its own presence. Dune offers moments of intense light, but is often reserved by design, which this Dolby Vision pass respects.

Dune’s world uses color cautiously, favoring browns, golds, orange, and yellows. Occasionally, a red vibrancy breaks free, sometimes emerald greens too. It all looks royal and gleaming, density preserved without aggressive alteration.

Audio

Defaulting to DTS-HD 2.0, there’s also a 5.1 option. Both perform evenly, the stereo spread seemingly equal. In 5.1, the stretch primarily concerning the score filling the rears. Ambiance occasionally breaks free, motors humming to extend the soundstage. Thumpers push deep tones through the sub. Slightly elevated bass gives the mix a small weight lacking on the 2.0 track, but selecting the latter means missing little.

Fidelity delivers clean, near faultless dialog through the center. Like the video, rarely, other than a few lapses, does Dune sounds its age.

Extras

Two commentaries open the bonuses, historian Paul Sammon first, podcaster Mike White on the second. A bevy of extras from 2005 look at the variety of design work individually, like models, costumes, and miniatures. Eleven deleted scenes offer an introduction by Raffaella de Laurentiis. A massive image gallery, 1983 featurette, and trailers come next.

The Blu-ray then continues with a featurette on the various merchandising tie-ins. A look at the score includes multiple interviews, including Toto. Makeup artist Giannetto de Rossi speaks about his work in a newly filmed interview. Arrow then brings in three archival interviews (from various years): production coordinator Golda Offenheim, actor Paul Smith, and effects artist Christopher Tucker.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Dune
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An arduous, confusing narrative disaster, Dune’s success lies entirely on its masterful effects and bold visual designs.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 61 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: