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To 3D Or Not To 3D: Buy The Right Dune Ticket

Zendaya and Timothée Chalamet looking down with blue eyes in Dune.
(Image credit: Legendary Pictures/Warner Bros.)

Another world of epic storytelling, all-star casting and franchise potential has landed at a theater near you. Thanks to director Denis Villeneuve’s Dune, Frank Herbert’s sci-fi touchstone is on the big screen yet again, and in a stunning update. Which, of course, includes a 3D conversion released out into the wild. But is this third dimensional effort so good you feel like you could ruffle Timothée Chalamet’s hair? Well, that’s basically asking, “To 3D or Not To 3D?,” so let’s get to questioning, shall we?

The usual warning before we get too deep in the sand: if you want to see what we thought of Dune as a movie, you’re in the wrong place. Eric Eisenberg’s official review is available to answer your questions on that particular subject. But from this point on, we’re going to sift through the 3D conversion of Dune and see whether the spice is worth the hype. 

FIT SCORE -  5/5

You know how they say throwing the first punch determines the course of a fight? 3D’s kind of like that, as if you don’t lay down some proper groundwork early on, the rest of the battle’s uphill. Dune gets this to a tee, as it shows just why it’s supposed to be in 3D, with a stunning prologue involving a quick action set piece establishing the Harkonnen hold on Arrakis. Everything from sweeping vistas to personal moments of conversation is framed in such a way that 3D absolutely works its magic on Denis Villeneuve’s visual canvas. Though it also helps that Mr. Villeneuve is no stranger to the format, as his previous film Blade Runner 2049 was also an eye-popping knockout.

PLANNING & EFFORT -  4/5

DNeg has done it again, folks. After putting out an amazing 3D conversion of No Time To Die, the team returns to the field of play with Dune. There’s some really impressive factors at work here, particularly the preservation of visual clarity in the movie’s darker moments. A minor point deduction did crop up though, and it’s one we can discuss in more detail immediately, as the Before the Window section fell just slightly short of perfect.

BEFORE THE WINDOW -  4/5

While the Before the Window thrills of a movie like Dune should never be abused, as it would cheapen the entire product, there could have been more moments of screen-breaking during the massive action scenes. That being said, the one visual sequence that absolutely nails projecting an object into the audience, has to be when Paul is trying to evade the Hunter Killer. That object absolutely flies at the audience, inducing a bit of a flinch. Also, if you’re a fan of facial features projecting into the audience, Rebecca Fergusson and Oscar Isaac are fine examples of this feature at work. Isaac’s beard especially benefits, which only makes it a shame that Jason Momoa couldn’t keep his in tact for Dune.

BEYOND THE WINDOW -  5/5

I wasn’t just being cute before when I made that remark about being able to ruffle Timothée Chalamet’s hair. Dune has 3D depths so well drawn, even a person’s hair gets to be the star of the show. Again, right from the opening, the depth of picture packs a powerful punch, which absolutely matters in a film that has tons of troop formations and intimate discussions that require such depth. Characters and their environments are properly separated, and there’s even some really cool moments where floating spice particles, and even subtitles, serve as a fun buffer between objects and persons. Still, one of the most impressive elements of the Beyond the Window aspect is seeing Paul’s visions of Zendaya’s Chani, and watching her windswept hair represent a perfect microcosm of just how deep these visuals are.

BRIGHTNESS SCORE -  5/5

I hope you’re sitting down for this, dear readers, because I’m surprised I’m even about to say it. For a movie that has as many dimly lit scenes as Dune does, the brightness is perfect. Daytime scenes are crisp and clear, even with the layer of darkness that’s added by merely putting on your 3D glasses. But when it comes to nighttime battle scenes or the darkness of Baron Harkonnen’s lair, the picture doesn’t quit. Exploding ships and burning trees during a crucial battle scene are not failed by this film’s 3D conversion, as the picture can be murky...but purely when it meant to be. Though to be fair, your mileage may vary, as the brightness factor depends on how well your theater of choice maintains its equipment. Which was firmly in mind during this screening of Dune, as things got off to a rocky start with un-calibrated 3D. However, the matter was corrected easily enough, and the film restarted in full 3D beauty. 

GLASSES OFF SCORE -  5/5

Taking your glasses off during a 3D movie is a moviegoing tradition, like buttered popcorn and timing your bathroom breaks. So when you remove your glasses during Dune, you want the screen to be as blurry as possible; and it definitely lives up to that requirement. You can trace the blur on the screen to specific points where it stops, leaving certain aspects of the picture looking 2D. That manipulation shows you just how much work was done to make that 3D image look as beautiful as it appears when you put your glasses back on. 

AUDIENCE HEALTH -  5/5

The health of the audience is important when watching a 3D movie. Gone are the days where red and blue anaglyph would cause headaches, but even in the world of polarized lenses, the picture can still cause some visual strain. Dune absolutely does not strain your eyes, and yes, this is a movie that includes some impressive hand to hand combat action in its execution. Again, should you have a theater you absolutely trust with 3D presentations, this is a factor that you won’t have to worry about. 

FINAL VERDICT: 33/35

A hearty round of applause to the folks at DNeg are yet again in order, as Dune lives up to the hype in 3D. For a movie that’s shot and enhanced for IMAX, it’s a true and proper shame that the premium format has turned its back on the format it once embraced so dearly. If Dune was shown in IMAX 3D, it could be the ultimate experience; but even in standard format 3D, it’s absolutely brilliant. 

If you want to see Denis Villeneuve’s latest sci-fi masterpiece in the third dimension, check your local listings very carefully. And if you want to catch up on previous 3D evaluations, head over to our full To 3D Or Not To 3D Archive. We'll see you here for the next 3D adventure, which just might present itself in those messages from the deep: our dreams. 

Mike Reyes

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.