Dune: Part Two (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Bill Hunt
  • Review Date: May 13, 2024
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Dune: Part Two (4K UHD Review)


Denis Villeneuve

Release Date(s)

2024 (May 14, 2024)


Legendary Pictures/Warner Bros. Pictures (Warner Bros. Discovery Home Entertainment)
  • Film/Program Grade: A+
  • Video Grade: A
  • Audio Grade: A+
  • Extras Grade: B-

Dune: Part Two (4K Ultra HD)




[Editor’s Note: This review contains spoilers for Dune: Part One (reviewed here in 4K Ultra HD). You may wish to view that film first, before reading on here.]

In the wake of the Harkonnen slaughter of House Atredies, a betrayal orchestrated by the Emperor Shaddam IV himself (Christopher Walken), the Bene Gesserit-trained Princess Irulan (Florence Pugh) struggles to understand her father’s actions and their long term consequences for the Imperium. But in the deep desert of Arrakis, the results are far more immediate for Paul Atredies (Timothée Chalamet) and his mother Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson). While their native Freemen hosts would just as soon take their water as take them in, a fundamentalist sect led by Stilgar (Javier Bardem) believes Paul to be the Lisan al-Gaib, the off-world messiah who will lead them to paradise—an idea that Jessica encourages when she’s coerced into becoming the tribe’s new Reverend Mother.

But that belief was planted thousands of years ago by the Bene Gesserit, so the younger and more secular Fremen are disinclined to trust the newcomers. Paul too dismisses the prophecy, but he’s not beyond using it to win their support for a campaign of revenge against the Harkonnen—something all the Fremen want regardless. So as he gradually learns the ways of her people and gains acceptance among their ranks, Chani (Zendaya) begins to fall in love with Paul. And when their guerrilla war on spice production grows wider and more costly, and Rabban (Dave Bautista) is unable to prevent this, the Baron Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgård) sends his younger nephew and heir apparent, Feyd-Rautha (Austin Butler), to root out the Fremen and crush them once and for all.

With Dune: Part One, director Denis Villeneuve proved definitively that he could capture the scope, texture, and complexity of Frank Herbert’s groundbreaking 1965 science fiction novel—or at least the first half of it—with a singular vision, unique production design, and ‘pure cinema’ direction that Stanley Kubrick would have admired. But what remained to be proven when that film ended, was whether Villeneuve and his team could rise to the challenges presented by the second half of Herbert’s novel.

Three years later, not only have they met that challenge, they’ve exceeded even the most lofty expectations for it. Villeneuve’s Dune: Part Two redefines the very idea of epic in cinema. The sheer scale of the experience here eclipses anything we’ve seen imagined on the big screen before and the verisimilitude is exquisite. Everything you see feels like something captured in camera, even though you know that visual effects abound. Cinematographer Greig Fraser (Rogue One, The Batman, The Creator) deserves another Oscar for this work. From the subtle textures of the desert to the brutalist Harkonnen architecture, everything is rendered with stark beauty.

The cast remains terrific here, while the new players help to expand the story. The screenplay (by the director and writer Jon Spaihts) takes its time, building on established themes while adding depth and nuance. Fremen and Harkonnen culture alike are more fully rendered, as are the manipulations of the Emperor, his daughter, and the Bene Gesserit. What you don’t see here is a Guild Navigator—it’s clear that’s been saved for the final installment in Villeneuve’s planned trilogy, Dune Messiah. Changes have also been made to the timeline of Paul and Chani’s romance, so that more of it can be included in the third film (to give its story greater emotional resonance).

Nevertheless, Dune: Part Two does offer a clear ending to the conflict between Atredies and Harkonnen, as it should given the structure of Herbert’s original novel. And once you reach the end of Part Two, you will have taken an impressive ride through dramatic vistas and epic battles. But none of that scale comes at the expense of the film’s individual characters or ideas. In fact, that’s arguably Villeneuve’s finest achievement: The intimate here is never lost or overwhelmed by the film’s visual grandeur and spectacle.

Dune: Part Two was captured digitally in the ARRIRAW codec (at 4.5 and 6.5K) using Arri Alexa 65 IMAX and Mini LF IMAX cameras, with IronGlass VLFV MKII Dune and Moviecam lenses. It should also be noted that for the Geidi Prime exteriors, Fraser employed a visible light filter to capture the image exclusively in infrared. As was the case with the previous film, the footage was then scanned out to 35 mm dupe stock, and that film was itself scanned back to digital in native 4K—it’s those new digital files that were then used for editing and post production. Per Fraser (speaking of Part One to The Hollywood Reporter, linked here): “When we projected film, it just didn’t give us the feeling that we were after. It felt, as Denis put it, a little bit nostalgic, like we were watching something that has happened in the past.” Digital felt more contemporary, “but it was a little too crisp.” Scanning the digitally-captured image out to film and then back to digital “gave us the feeling we had been picturing—a certain texture that’s painterly but feels timeless.” From a technical standpoint, this process retains the clarity and clean detailing of large-format digital, yet exhibits the benefits of film too, including photochemical grain, interlayer halation, and density breathing. The film was ultimately completed as a 4K Digital Intermediate at the 2.39:1 scope aspect ratio for its wide theatrical release, though this time the entire film was shot for exhibition in IMAX format at 1.90:1 (save for approximately forty minutes shot in full 1.43:1).

Unfortunately (like Part One), Warner’s new 4K Ultra HD presentation is framed exclusively at 2.39:1. (More on this in a minute.) What’s more (unlike Part One), the studio has actually included about an hour’s worth of special features on this 4K disc, which takes a bit of data space away from the image. (More on this in a minute too.) Thankfully, the film has been encoded onto a 100GB disc, so there’s still plenty of room available—the average video data rate remains high at around 50-60 Mbps. And the good news is that the resulting 4K image is still very near to reference quality. Overall resolution is outstanding, with clean fine detailing that’s visible in rock, sand, skin, and stone. Photochemical grain is light and organic. The image has been graded for high dynamic range (both HDR10 and Dolby Vision options are available) and that range is broad indeed. Blacks are deeply dark, yet retain an abundance of detail—Fremen robes and textiles benefit from this in particular. Colors are richly saturated and exhibit lovely nuance. It would be difficult to choose a standout scene here visually, as the entire film is essentially demo-worthy. But particularly impressive are the film’s opening scenes on Arrakis, as a skirmish between the Fremen and a Harkonnen patrol unfolds beneath a solar eclipse—the color of the sand and sky above shifts gradually throughout the encounter as the quality of the sunlight changes. Highlights are truly bold, lending an oppressive glare to desert skies and a lustrous sheen to Harkonnen armor and the Emperor’s costumes, vehicles, and environments. And the image exhibits lovely depth and dimensionality at all times.

But… the frustrating thing here is that most fans of Dune: Part Two would prefer to see it on disc in a 1.78:1 ratio that preserves something of the IMAX experience. Villeneuve has hinted in interviews that he’s approved such a master, and Fraser has commented on a number of occasions that he wants the IMAX version on disc as well. Given all this, the only conclusion one can arrive at is that Warner Bros. Discovery Home Entertainment already has plans to re-issue these films on Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD in an IMAX ratio at a later date, perhaps when Dune Messiah is complete. If that’s the case, it would certainly be nice if they’d at least let fans know. In the meantime, the film was approved for wide release in 2.39 and looks marvelous in that ratio. Comparing this image to the 4K Digital version (available on Apple TV and elsewhere) reveals no contest—this 4K disc is hands down the best way to watch Dune: Part Two at home.

Once again, the UHD also features an absolutely stunning English Dolby Atmos mix—one of the all-time best on this format and a perfect match for the first film’s mix. The soundstage here is massive, with thunderous bass and incredible dynamics apparent right from the film’s opening Sardaukar chant, soon followed by the quiet wind chimes on the grounds of the Imperial Palace on Kaitain as Irulan delivers her opening monologue (a nod to David Lynch’s 1984 film). Atmospheric immersion abounds from the entire speaker array, including the overheads—whispering wind, shifting sands, spatial cues in the cavernous interiors of Sietch Tabr. Dialogue is clear at all times, even as rumbling bass accompanies the use of the “Voice,” as well as the ancient voices in Paul’s visions. As was the case with the first film, the soundscapes continue to have a natural authenticity, as though recorded on location. The desert seems to have a voice of its own, yet there’s a psychedelic quality to the soundscapes that befits Herbert’s universe. Sandworms rumble, the sound of ornithopters and thumpers have genuine heft. Organic and mechanical rhythms pervade the mix, some in-world and some added via yet another spectacular Hans Zimmer score, which also includes an extraordinarily haunting love theme, that seems to speak for not only Chani and Paul, but for the desert itself. Audio standouts include Paul’s worm-riding test (in which the “grandfather” worm almost sounds like a jet engine as it plunges into the dune beneath him), Feyd’s arena fight on Geidi Prime, the Fremen attack on the Harkonnen spice harvester, the Harkonnen artillery strike on Sietch Tabr, Paul’s charismatic speech at the Southern Sietch war council (entirety of Chapter 13 for that matter, including Zimmer’s lead in music), and of course the film’s entire closing battle. From start to finish, Dune: Part Two is a sonic marvel, with an Atmos mix that grabs you by the balls and makes for perfect home theater demo material. Additional sound options include English Audio Description (US), English Descriptive Audio (UK), and 5.1 Dolby Digital in English, French, and Spanish, with optional subtitles available in English (for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing), French, Spanish, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish.

Strangely, Warner’s physical 4K SKU is a single-disc release that includes the film in 2160p on UHD only. I say strangely, because their Dune: Part One release was a 2-disc set that also included the film in 1080p HD on Blu-ray. A Blu-ray version is still available here, but you either have to buy it separately or you need to upgrade to the 4K/BD Steelbook package instead. That’ll be irritating to the many disc collectors who purchased the 4K/BD Amaray SKU for Part One and expected a similar package for this film. Frankly, it’s the kind of perplexing decision that gets made by studio executives who clearly aren’t disc consumers themselves (and thus have no idea how frustrating it is to those who are). The fact that there’s no Blu-ray here also means that the special features included take up space on the 4K that should have been reserved for picture and sound. Those features include:

  • Chakobsa Training (HD – 4:51)
  • Creating the Fremen World (HD – 11:41)
  • Finding the Worlds of Dune (HD – 6:24)
  • Buzz Around the New ‘Thopter’ (HD – 3:51)
  • Worm-Riding (HD – 9:23)
  • Becoming Feyd (HD – 7:33)
  • A New Set of Threads (HD – 7:40)
  • Deeper into the Desert: The Sounds of Dune (HD – 12:59)

The content here is all good, and each piece is long enough to be more substantial than typical EPK content. It amount to about 64 minutes’ worth of material, which examines the creation of the Fremen language, the film’s production design, its location filming (in Jordan, Italy, Abu Dubai, and Namibia), the new Orni Bee design, how the worm-riding was realized on screen using gimbals in a Colosseum-like arena of “sand screen” material, the character of Feyd, the elaborate and detailed costume work, and the film’s ground-breaking music and sound design. Participants include virtually everyone you’d want to hear from, including Villeneuve, Frasier, Zimmer, and editor Joe Walker, actors Chalamet, Zendaya, Ferguson, Bardem, Butler, Pugh, and Bautista, as well as Josh Brolin and Souheila Yacoub, fight coordinator Roger Yuan (who also plays Lanville), producers Tanya Lapointe, Mary Parent, Herbert Gains, and Cale Boyter, co-producer Brice Parker, VFX producer Paul Lambert, costume designer Jacqueline West, sound designer Richard King, prop master Doug Harlocker, and many others. Highlights include the filming of an actual partial solar eclipse out in the desert (which appears in the film), the concept of Feyd as an “eater of souls” which he believes makes him stronger (inspired in part by Mick Jagger, who would have played the character in Alejandro Jodorowsky’s unrealized film adaptation), and the many unique musical instruments (some of them constructed from parts found at Home Depot) that can be heard in the film’s score.

But that’s not all; an additional 43 minutes’ worth of content is available digitally if you redeem the Movies Anywhere code found in the packaging. Those extras include:

  • An Ensemble for the Ages (HD – 21:53)
  • Inside Dune: Spice Harvester Attack (HD – 5:40)
  • Inside Dune: Gurney Halleck’s Revenge (HD – 3:25)
  • Inside Dune: Fight for the Imperial Throne (HD – 5:09)
  • Filmbooks: House Corrino (HD – 1:30)
  • Filmbooks: The Reverend Mother (HD – 2:07)
  • Filmbooks: Water (HD – 1:44)
  • Filmbooks: Lisan al-Gaib and the Fremen Religion (HD – 1:33)

The Ensemble piece is particularly good, as it spotlights all of the key cast members. The Inside Dune clips are welcome too, though too brief to be substantial. And the Filmbooks are a continuation of those included on the Blu-ray version of Dune: Part One (once again narrated by editor Joe Walker). It’s just a shame they’re not available on disc here as well.

Again, I’m sure someone at Warner Bros. thought making this a single-disc set—and including at least some extras on the disc—was a good compromise to save money. But what it actually means is that A) the video quality here could have been even better, B) not all of the extras are available on disc where fans prefer them, and C) those who purchased the 4K/BD combo of Part One don’t get a Blu-ray for Part Two. Frustrating, frustrating, and frustrating! (I’ll only mention in passing the fact that Part One was available in Blu-ray 3D as well, which this film is not—also frustrating.) Combined with the lack of IMAX ratio, there’s no doubt that many fans will simply prefer to wait for a better version on 4K UHD. All of that said, the A/V quality here is still outstanding. So if you can make peace with the idea that a better disc is inevitable—and at this point it had better be, because everyone wants that IMAX presentation—Warner’s initial physical offering is still worth considering.

If you love Frank Herbert’s original novel and enjoyed Denis Villeneuve’s first foray into the deserts of Arrakis, you almost certainly had impossibly high expectations of Part Two. But this director has come through yet again; Villeneuve’s complete adaptation of Dune deserves its rightful place alongside Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and Ridley Scott’s original Blade Runner as one of the greatest works of science fiction cinema to date. The two-part film experience is an instant classic of the genre and—quite honestly—one of the greatest experiences you can have in a movie theatre. Turns out, it’s pretty great at home as well.

Bring on Dune Messiah… and Dune: Parts One and Two in IMAX Enhanced 4K Ultra HD, damnit!

- Bill Hunt

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