Dune: Part Two Movie Review | Zendaya and Chalamet Serve Desert Power

This writer hates sand. Seriously. The very thought of sand stirs an ancient rage inside that the world has never seen the likes of before. It may be due to the association between sand and heat and as someone who could be sunburned by walking into a well-lit room it feels appropriate. So when one thinks of how this writer would respond to a film named after a literal mound of it, the expected response would surely be far from positive… wouldn’t it? Let’s just say that Dune: Part Two has this writer re-evaluating some things.  

When Dune: Part One was released it genuinely felt like the odds were stacked against it. Arriving after long delays caused by the pandemic, (as well as the decision to simultaneously release it in cinemas as well as streaming), it meant that it would need a miracle for a sequel to get the go-ahead. In a time where sequels and prequels seemingly arrive by the dozen, there was something to be said about the need for the Dune franchise to continue. Bridging the gap between pure spectacle and enthralling drama, to not continue with it would have surely been to humanity’s doom. Luckily, some miracles do occur. People showed up and a sequel was announced… which was also delayed. Nonetheless, the time has finally come and if there were ever a chance that a sequel may not be able to live up to a standard set by the first then rest assured… we have something special on our hands. 

Dune: Part Two opens with a booming message before even the production logos have a chance to appear. A repeated trick from the first film, it immediately sets the tone for what is to follow and should also be enough to knock the phones out of the hands of the monsters sitting around you. Opening with a narration from one of the film’s new characters, the opening scene recounts the events of the first film but from a radically different perspective than what viewers were met with in the first film. Instead of hearing about the colonial horrors inflicted upon the indigenous people, the viewers hear from the oppressors themselves. The voice of Florence Pugh’s Princess Irulan eschews convention and provides an immediate glimpse as to how her father, The Emperor, may not be as stable as is needed in a time like this. 

Dune: Part Two picks up the action just as the previous film ends. Having just killed a man whose previous presence in his visions spoke of a different future altogether, Paul Atreides has earned safe passage for him and his mother, Lady Jessica, to follow the indigenous Fremen as they navigate the harsh desert reality of Arrakis. As an early set-piece dictates, the two have much to learn if they are to survive long enough to fulfil Paul’s potential destiny. In the previous film, it becomes clear that Paul has been extensively trained by his mother to become something far greater than merely the Duke of House Atreides. As they begin to integrate themselves with the Fremen, who are in search of hope in prophecies and faith, the two paths find themselves unexpectedly converging. Paul’s visions speak of a dark future should he follow the wrong path. Which direction he can possibly take becomes muddied when the forces around him attempt to compel an answer. Destiny is decided by two hands after all. 


Dune: Part Two is quite simply spectacular. In an age where a film like this had to wait until its existence was dictated by box office figures and expectations, it is also one of the most necessary films in a time like this. The budget is by no means cheap but when you compare that to some of the other big-budgeted blockbusters of the time it is remarkable the job this film does at proving its worth. Denis Villeneuve has long professed his dreams at adapting the works of Frank Herbert. His vision for the story as well as his broad attention to detail is astounding. Villeneuve has always been a chameleon in the sense that whatever way a story needs to be told, he can adapt. Dune: Part Two is truly a triumph in all the ways it can possibly be. 

From a technical standpoint Dune: Part Two is among one of the finest displays of the visual prowess that the big screen can truly behold. Endless harsh desert views become something transcendently magnificent in the hands of Greig Fraser’s cinematography, especially when combined with Hans Zimmer’s melodic score which is simply sublime. Frequent Villeneuve collaborator Patrice Vermette’s production design builds the world better than any endless exposition ever could. From the wide shots that would make David Lean stand to attention, to the way Villeneuve uses the camera to capture the intimacy between Paul and Chani, every shot becomes a sight to behold. In a world where viewers are becoming flooded with endless films that do not even care to light a scene in any desirable way, Dune: Part Two is something of a rebellion in itself. 

Of course one cannot have a space opera without its cast playing the part and what is abundantly clear is that the casting choices are a dream for any future film historians looking to discover how many stars can fit on one call sheet. Timothée Chalamet’s stock may be stuffed to the brim with moody shots of him staring into space (literally and figuratively) but here he truly captures what Villeneuve, much like the Fremen themselves, was surely praying for. Balancing a thirst for revenge and dancing with destiny, Chalamet is truly in his element. Rebecca Ferguson reaches new heights with a Lady Jessica that could set a thousand ships to sail using only her eyes. She definitely benefits from a new development that gives her a chance to channel a different side to her character. A true standout in everything she does, here she truly shines. Javier Bardem’s Stilgar is a paradox unto himself. At once a leader capable of coercing others into impossible choices, he is also a zealot desperately clinging onto faith so much so that he is willing to bet everything on an outsider. 

While some may have complained that Dune: Part One did not feature enough of Zendaya’s Chani, it is abundantly clear to this writer that her presence was found throughout the film and was already a more profound influence than merely shoehorning her into scenes. Vindication is hard to come by in every day life but it surely arrived when upon viewing this film the one thing that jumped out from the screen was what a charismatic marvel Zendaya truly is. This is accomplished by letting her command the screen and become the emotional heart. By utilising her in this way it is almost as if Villeneuve had an ace up his sleeve when it came to working out how to adapt this story. As Paul gets to know Chani, the audience witnesses first-hand their relationship develop without coming across as forced or delving into cheesy territory. The run-time obviously assists but it is not a crutch. There is a thoughtful evolution to their characters and when combined with undeniable chemistry between the two actors it simply works wonders. A delicate touch in a film this big is a true joy to behold. 

Austin Butler’s appearance in this film may be visually striking but it is also a role he so clearly has a ball with playing. Elvis voice left at the door, Butler’s Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen is a savage killer with a thirst for carnage and a path to power. Mirroring Paul, it is clear that Feyd-Rautha’s future is also being swayed by forces beyond his comprehension. Stellan Skarsgård’s Baron Harkonnen is once again a force who commands a screen he could so easily fill. Uncle to Feyd-Rautha and Dave Bautista’s Rabban, the Harkonnen’s display of power and destruction in the first film was only the beginning. An understated Christopher Walken’s Emperor Shaddam exerts his control of the universe and he perfectly exudes the passive royalty that comes with the role. Florence Pugh’s Princess Irulan is his daughter, a leader in-training with an eye growing keener than her father. Rounding out the cast is an actor whose presence is extremely fleeting but whose place in the story seems absolutely vital for its future. This writer will not spoil who they are or who they are playing but to have kept their appearance in the film a secret given their status is another level of praise entirely. 

Dune: Part Two is at its best when its forces combine to create a space opera about choice and destiny. Throughout the series Paul is met with visions of a bleak future that threatens to kill billions. His attempts to control his own fate is contrasted with the decisions he makes. While others serve their own purpose and therefore exert a pressure in one direction, the film never lets Chalamet’s Paul feel like a victim of destiny. A recent trend in media is to portray a character as strong when the duty is for the greater good and tragic if the duty strays to the side of evil. Here, Dune: Part Two produces another rare gem: a character given the freedom of movement to not adhere to it. One way or another, the viewer will make their mind up, and the film respects the audience enough to not merely yell in their direction what they should take from it. One thing for certain is that the Dune franchise isn’t just surviving. It is thriving. 

Dune: Part Two is showing in cinemas now

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