IMAX Magic: Unveiling the True Majesty of Dune

This article’s headline might lead to a resounding “duh” from many folks, but let me explain. In October 2021, Warner Bros. released Dune: Part One in theaters and on HBO Max. Streaming from home was the new craze, and I bought into the concept. I had just watched and enjoyed Zack Snyder’s Justice League from the comforts of my couch a few months earlier, so why wouldn’t I love Dune in the same environment?

While I don’t have the biggest TV or powerful sound system, I was confident my first viewing would produce a mind-blowing experience. I really liked the movie, but I admit to pausing it a few times for a quick snack or bathroom break. Since then, I’ve rewatched Denis Villeneuve’s epic a handful of times and enjoyed it, but I never truly loved it.

That all changed last weekend.

With the anticipated Dune: Part Two on the horizon, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to watch the original on the big screen — let alone IMAX! I dragged my daughter to a 7 p.m. showing. After roughly 30 minutes of trailers and promos, Dune finally started, and I was hooked from start to finish, mesmerized by Villeneuve’s incredible images, Hans Zimmer’s powerful score, the massive story, the compelling characters, and the action; everything clicked. Not once did I look at my phone, and I didn’t even take a bathroom break despite drinking nearly a gallon of Pepsi before entering the theater.

Finally, I saw Dune: Part One as it was meant to be seen.

We live in a strange time where studios battle for dominance in the streaming world. Dozens of television shows are released weekly. There’s too much content to sift through. Much of said content sucks; thin storylines stretched to their breaking point across hundreds of viewing hours, all leaning on the same tired troupes we’ve seen countless times.

WB could have easily turned Frank Herbert’s Dune series into a long-winded TV show. Enough material exists to allow for a few fascinating seasons. Still, much like Star Wars, Herbert’s grand science fiction tale doesn’t function as well on the small screen (see 2000’s Dune miniseries), where the colossal desert landscapes, thunderous sandworms, and epic battles and conflicts are diminished. Some stories require the largest screen imaginable to appreciate.

Dune: Part One is an excellent film on its own. Villeneuve, Jon Spaihts, and Eric Roth do a wonderful job adapting the complex novels into a mesmerizing 155-minute motion picture. Additional viewings are required to grasp the entire story, but that’s only because this strange universe is so massive in scale and stuffed with characters executing personal objectives.

Yet, while the politics of Dune are riveting, the grand visuals remain the film’s ultimate ace in the hole. The sights and sounds of Arrakis generally pop thanks to the impeccable production, but on IMAX, they are glorious to behold. Villeneuve shot most of the film with IMAX cameras so that the lush images occupy the entire screen, not just to satisfy his urges.

The acclaimed director understands that audiences must see vast, arid Arrakis landscapes to fully embrace the struggle at the film’s core. Outside of, say, a 200-inch projector screen, I’m not sure the technology at home exists to properly translate Dune’s scope.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I would love nothing more than to see streaming take off. I live for pop culture. And yet, I’m convinced nothing will ever trump the theater-going experience. At the risk of sounding like Nicole Kidman, going to the movies is an integral part of the human experience. Sitting in a dark room filled with a bucket of popcorn amongst strangers to gawk at larger-than-life stories, characters, and visuals is an event that cannot be replicated at home.

I already knew Dune: Part One was a good movie, but IMAX convinced me that it’s a great one— ditto with recent big-screen viewings of Jaws, E.T., Titanic, Glory, and Avatar. For all our attempts to squeeze everything onto our TV sets, the future of cinema lies, well, in the cinema.

And yes, I’ve already got my tickets for Dune: Part Two.

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