Since first discovering the film on VHS, David Lynch's epic sci-fi saga Dune continues to haunt our imaginations with its eccentrically baroque images and a fantastical tale about messianic leaders and the downfall of a feudal system in the very far-distant future. Courtesy of Arrow Video, the cult sci-fi classic lands on 4K Ultra HD as a two-disc Limited Edition collector's package, featuring a gorgeous Dolby Vision presentation, a fantastic pair of DTS-HD MA tracks and a treasure trove of bonus material. This latest edition, which includes several other goodies, makes for a Highly Recommended addition to the UHD cult library.
When revisiting David Lynch's Dune once again, I am reminded of David Fincher's words that cinema is an inherently risky and imperfect art form where a filmmaker readily welcomes a room full of complete strangers into their imagination for a finite amount of time. This sentiment pretty much sums up not only my love of Lynch's sci-fi epic to this day, as a stunning imperfect piece of art, but it also thoroughly encapsulates the troubled production itself. Even before Lynch was officially involved, the attempt at adapting Frank Herbert's 1965 novel already had a notorious history, passed through the hands of other talented filmmakers, making it somewhat of a doomed endeavor from the start. Nevertheless, Lynch brought his unique sensibilities to Herbert's fantasy saga set in the far-distant future and shared to the world his darkly romanticized vision of one of the most influential science fiction books.
For me, Lynch's effort can ultimately be described as a most beautiful failure or a tragic beauty — that sort of nightmarish dream that fascinates us and haunts us long after waking, as though demanding to make sense of it yet remaining frustratingly inaccessible. Bizarrely vague, half-remembered snapshots litter our mind but recalled randomly out of order, from people with glowing blue eyes living in exotic desert lands and monstrous cosmic mutants that bend space and time to a young warrior riding a gargantuan sandworm and a grossly obese flying man with festering blisters whose nephew is the lead singer of The Police. And much like a dream, the story, written by Lynch, is like scattered images haphazardly told in a chronological order, which is admittedly the film's shortcoming, but it's nonetheless held together by the director's noir-like avant-garde style and the mesmerizing baroque aesthetics.
In spite of its flaws, Dune remains a captivating motion picture experience by a visionary auteur that still manages to impress and fascinate almost forty years later.
For a more in-depth take on the film, check out Josh Zyber's excellent review of the 2010 Blu-ray HERE.
Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray
David Lynch's Dune arrives courtesy of Arrow Video as a two-disc 4K Ultra HD Limited Edition box set. Inside a sturdy sepia-tan, brown & yellow cardboard box, a black, slightly thicker keepcase houses a Region Free, triple-layered UHD100 disc with a center spindle holding a Region Free, single-layered BD25 disc. The case comes with new reversible cover art, six double-sided lobby cards and a flyer for Arrow Video's new streaming service. The side-sliding box also contains a folded, double-sided poster and a 60-page booklet featuring a list of Dune terminology and a reprint of a 1997 interview with the director by Chris Rodley. It also contains two analytical essays by Andrew Nette and Christian McCrea, and there are two more essays focusing on the music and sound effects by Charlie Brigden and Ric Gentry. At startup, the disc goes straight to the menu screen with full-motion clips and music playing in the background.
The spice flows freely on Ultra HD equipped with a stunningly impressive HEVC H.265 encode that declares a kanly duel against its Blu-ray predecessor and tosses it into the mouth of a hungry sandworm.
Struck from a fresh restoration and remaster of the original 35mm camera negatives, the native 4K transfer flaunts sharper definition overall with only a few soft moments here and there, which is to be expected given the production's history and the condition of the elements. Naturally, the dated visual effects and mattes stand out more at this resolution, but amazingly, they have aged well and still look relatively good all things considered. Overlooking this, the rest of the movie is in fantastic shape where we can plainly make out the smallest details in the architectural design of the buildings. Each of the Barron's oozing boils is discrete while the individual hairs of the Mentat's bushy eyebrows are distinct, and the stitching and threading in the elaborately ornate costumes are striking. All in all, the picture is beautiful with much to appreciate, easily the best the film has ever looked in any format.
One thing worth taking into consideration is that the film has never really had the most dynamic photography, favoring an earthy-amber tone for a majority of the runtime. Nevertheless, Freddie Francis's cinematography benefits from the jump to UHD, displaying a richer, more varied selection of browns, tans and oranges throughout. The mix of deep sepias, caramels, mustard yellows and marigolds in the Emperor's palace and in the deserts of Arrakis are full-bodied, serving as great opposition to the vibrant emerald and shamrock greens of Giedi Prime where the Harkonnens' distinctive red hair shines a bold tiger orange. While the reds in some articles of clothing and in the blood are an animated crimson shade, the blue eyes of the Fremen glow an intense cobalt blue. Facial complexions appear healthy and natural to the fantastical climate with highly revealing, lifelike textures during close-ups.
The Dolby Vision HDR presentation further extends the life of the film, looking fresher than ever and more rejuvenated than its HD SDR counterparts. Admittedly, the improvement is subtle and nuanced, but the boost in contrast allows for a brighter video with cleaner, more radiant whites. Specular highlights are the most noteworthy, furnishing a narrower, crisper brilliance on metallic surfaces like the decorative military medals of some uniforms, in the energetic glow from various light sources and in the sonic beams shooting from the Weirding Modules. Brightness levels also enjoy a notable upgrade, bathing much of the visuals in inky rich, velvety blacks while maintaining excellent gradational differences between the various shades. Likewise, shadows are a deep midnight ebony without ruining visibility in the darkest corners, providing the 2.35:1 image with a lovely cinematic appeal and appreciable depth.
Altogether, the 4K video is simply gorgeous and a fantastic upgrade, sure to please fans everywhere. (Dolby Vision HDR Video Rating: 88/100)
The sleeper has awakened on UHD, outfitted with an excellent pair of DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks: one, a 2.0 stereo track while the other, a 5.1 surround option. Either choice makes for a good listen and complement to the visuals, but for all intents and purposes, the latter appears to be identical to that enjoyed on previous Blu-ray editions and didn't reveal any discernible, real-world differences. For more on the quality of the track, readers can check out Josh Zyber's review of the Blu-ray HERE.
My thoughts pretty much match his as the lossless mix isn't particularly dynamic with the higher frequencies sometimes coming off a tad bright, but for the most part, the mid-range is surprisingly extensive with hearty, impactful low-end. As for the stereo option, those same frequencies sound more natural and are arguably cleaner, but the overall presentation also feels mildly flatter and more uniform while the low-end is notably more lacking. Both tracks are front-heavy presentations, but the 5.1 variant occasionally and subtly employs surrounds, extending the soundfield decently well. In either case, dialogue reproduction is excellent. Switching between the two, I found myself preferring and enjoying the stereo mix since is it closer to the original design, and when applying the receiver's Dolby Surround or DTS: Neural:X up-mixing functionality, the music and atmospherics smoothly bleed into the sides and top heights, nicely expanding the soundfield to satisfying effectiveness. (Audio Rating: 82/100)
For this UHD edition, Arrow Video offers a treasure trove of supplements, some ported from previous releases while others are new additions fans will want to check out.
Ultra HD Disc
Like so many others who have fallen under its spell, David Lynch's Dune has haunted my imagination since first discovering the epic sci-fi saga on VHS. It's a strange reverie of eccentrically baroque images haphazardly pieced together to express a coherent tale of messianic leaders and the downfall of a feudal system in the very far-distant future. In spite of its shortcomings, the film remains a captivating motion picture experience by a visionary auteur. Courtesy of Arrow Video, the cult sci-fi classic lands on 4K Ultra HD as a two-disc Limited Edition collector's package. The Dolby Vision HDR presentation is a stunningly impressive upgrade over its Blu-ray predecessors, complemented by an equally fantastic pair of DTS-HD MA tracks in either 2.0 stereo or 5.1 surround sound. Porting over some familiar bonuses along with a few new additions on a separate Blu-ray disc, Arrow has put together a fantastic box set that includes an informative booklet, six lobby cards and a folded poster, making the overall package a highly recommended addition to the UHD cult library.