Movie Review: “Dune: Part Two”


Dune Part 2 movie review

Despite the presence of giant worms and talking space fetuses and numerous flashy fight scenes, “Dune: Part Two” is an adult sci-fi epic that takes its deep and very complex themes seriously throughout its long runtime. Other tellings of this story wouldn’t wrestle so fervently with identity, class, religion, and more the way that they are being tackled in director Denis Villeneuve’s film. The movie stands as an earnest testament to Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel that even further interrogates prickly discourses about saviors, the powerful, and the dispossessed thanks to the script by Villeneuve and Jon Spaihts. But it’s not all heady conversations and musings on these heavy topics, as there’s plenty of amazing imagery and exciting action to fully flesh out the world and keep it entertaining. There are some parts where that 166-minutes length is felt, and some redundancy could’ve been cut down for the sake of streamlining. But mostly “Dune: Part Two” delivers on the promise of the first installment to deliver a genuinely fantastic sci-fi masterpiece.

“Part Two” picks up immediately where the first one ended, with Paul (Timothée Chalamet) and his mother Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) now hiding with the Fremen on Arrakis. With the help of Chani (Zendaya) and Stilgar (Javier Bardem), Paul learns their desert ways and how to survive in the harsh environments. Meanwhile, Baron Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgård) has tasked his nephew, Rabban (Dave Bautista), with squeezing as much spice from Arrakis as possible to avoid a similar fate as the House Atreides if the Emperor (Christopher Walken) isn’t pleased with production. Paul is reluctant to embrace and use the prophecies seeded on Dune by the Bene-Gesserit, while his mother is all too happy to employ them to promote her son amongst their new people (and keep him safe). Paul wants revenge against all Harkonnens — including newcomer Feyd-Rautha (Austin Butler) — but doesn’t want to use the Fremen simply for his own purposes, and therefore be another outsider that manipulates them.

Villeneuve’s sequel both has a lot going on and very little. Firstly, it is entirely necessary to have seen the first part to know what is going on at any given time. This isn’t a detriment—it was always going to be told in two parts—but it is important to note in this age where installments try to hide that they are sequels or further entries in a larger story, even going so far as obscuring the number in the series. Viewers are immediately plunged into the story and there is never any catch up to acclimate folks to the events of “Dune.” But, at almost three hours long, that exposition isn’t missed as deeper themes are discussed. It would be easy for this to be the tale of a white savior showing up non-white people in their own customs to become an intergalactic hero. And that’s certainly one interpretation of Paul’s story—but the script is painfully aware of that (as was the book), and goes to great lengths to show how the prophecy was actually a source of control and that Paul’s great reluctance at taking the helm of the leader stems from not wanting to usurp the Fremen’s own agency. As the voice of the Fremen, the one who is distrusting of the religiosity and outsiders, Chani excels at being fiery independence and tender partner to Paul, helping soothe that storm that rages within him—which is all aided by an excellent performance by Zendaya.

All the performances are great across the board, with no actor in “Dune: Part Two” lapsing into a one-note character. Bardem is hilarious and intoxicating as the true-believer Stilgar that wishes Paul would be the figure of prophecy that he has been raised to believe in. Bautista’s Rabban is a rageful monster but ultimately ineffectual papier-mâché Mephistopheles that grants his ogre persona with a touch of sadness because of his inabilities. Ferguson and Chalamet find even more layers to their characters from the first movie as Jessica and Paul change but stay akin to the people we met in the previous installment. And newcomers (to “Dune”) like Butler, Léa Seydoux, and Florence Pugh (as Princess Irulan, the Emperor’s daughter) bring their own flavors into the mix that help further expand the universe and deepen the intrigue of the moving parts at work.

It is a truly fascinating world that Villeneuve has built from Herbert’s universe. Beautifully captured by DP Greig Fraser, the vast desert can look cruel in one scene and wondrously inviting in the next, depending on what is called for. The production design and costuming, with its many extras and settings, is unparalleled in most modern filmmaking—at least not since “Fury Road.” “Dune: Part Two” is a fully realized existence with amazing ideas at work in design that create something alien yet fundamentally human at the same time. It is our far future, and so has remnants of our DNA sprinkled throughout while still revealing new and daring visuals constantly. This is all greatly aided by Hans Zimmer’s amazing bombastic score with its intense percussion, desert sounds, and vocal exchanges to create a space that feels Othered but still familiar and home-like. These visuals and audio are born from our pasts but are fully realized in this remarkable film’s vision of tomorrow.

If there is a flaw to “Dune: Part Two” is that around the 2/3 mark, it can feel like that beautifully rendered internal conflict of Paul’s has been underlined enough. And that some of those scenes of anguish and grappling can go on too long. But what to cut? I don’t know. There’s a famous scene in “Amadeus” where the Emperor says that Mozart’s music is full of “too many notes.” When Mozart asks which to cut, the Emperor has nothing to say to it. That’s how it feels with “Dune: Part Two”—it’s probable that every moment is needed to paint this beautiful masterpiece, but one can’t help but feel that at times it is going a bit long and slow over material already covered. This thankfully minor issue is usually quickly resolved by moving on to a new plot development or location with its own dazzling imagery and engaging performances.

All told, “Dune: Part Two” is the real deal in terms of sci-fi epics, and will probably end up being one of the most defining films of the genre for the next decade to come. It’s a tremendous work and stunning sequel that is simply unparalleled.


Starring: Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Josh Brolin, Austin Butler, Florence Pugh, Dave Bautista, Christopher Walken, Léa Seydoux, Souheila Yacoub, Stellan Skarsgård, Charlotte Rampling, Javier Bardem
Director: Denis Villeneuve

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