A young woman caresses a young mans face while staring into his eyes, they're surrounded by desert.

Film Review: Dune: Part Two

Film Reviews

Dune: Part Two
Director: Denis Villenueve

Legendary Pictures
In Theaters: 03.01

While those of us over 40 vividly remember a time when waiting over two years for a sequel was par for the course, it’s almost unheard of now. Fans are bursting with excitement as the science fiction event of 2024, Dune: Part Two, arrives in theaters. 

The story picks up where Dune: Part One left off, as the fate of the desert planet Arrakis, renowned as the only source of the valuable spice melange, hangs by a thread. Baron Vladamir Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgård, Good Will Hunting, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo), fresh off an invasion that wiped out House Atreides, schemes to take control of Arrakis. Meanwhile, Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet, Wonka, Little Women) and his mother, Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation)—the only apparent survivors of Harkonnen’s attack—take refuge in the desert among the Fremen tribe at Sietch Tabr. 

Paul’s priority is vengeance against the Baron and all those who betrayed House Atreides. He joins the Fremen in their fight, proving himself a natural warrior and leader. Stilgar (Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men), the deeply religious leader of the tribe, believes Paul to be the foretold savior who will liberate Arrakis, or Dune as it is known by the natives. Others doubt his divine nature, including the beautiful warrior Chani (Zendaya, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Euphoria) and Paul himself. As the war over control of Dune rages, Paul must choose a course of action to ensure the future of the planet, even if it means embracing a destiny he doesn’t believe in.

Dune: Part Two is an eye-popping spectacle that’s also a terrific piece of storytelling and social allegory, deftly tackling the theme of corruption in the pursuit of power—whether in the name of capitalism, religion, politics or family. In terms of grand-scale filmmaking, it ranks impressively and is as skillfully made as a blockbuster can be. While it’s easy enough to follow what’s going on in Part Two if you’ve seen the first film, or if you’ve read Frank Herbert’s iconic novel, a refresher on Part One before going into this one would be wise, as this film takes off running and doesn’t bother to backtrack. The action is more intense and the stakes seem higher this time around. Villenueve, the phenomenally talented director who helmed Sicario, Arrival and Blade Runner 2049, created absolutely stunning sequences, featuring a lot more of the infamous giant sandworms that live under the desert. 

Chalamet and the other returning cast members haven’t missed a step and are joined by some very exciting additions. Christopher Walken (The Deer Hunter, Catch Me if You Can) gives his most nuanced and interesting performance in years as Shaddam IV, the Emperor of the Known Universe, and the always-excellent Florence Pugh (Oppenheimer, Midsommar) adds considerable screen presence as his daughter, Princess Irulan. Austin Butler (Elvis) is a serious scene-stealer as Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen, the Baron’s sociopathic nephew, adopting an eerily uncanny echo of Skarsgård’s distinctive voice. Zendaya gets more action in the script this time around, though the relationship between Paul and Chani gets a bit of a short shift simply because there’s so much to cover (even with a 165-minute runtime). The dazzling production design, pitch-perfect visual effects and powerhouse music score by Hans Zimmer are already emerging as difficult-to-beat Oscar contenders, and we’re not even three months into the year yet.

The internet hype machine is already hailing Dune: Part Two as a greater triumph than rising crust frozen pizza and Paxlovid combined. While such hype should be tempered, the Dune films join the ranks of classic Star Wars, The Lord of Rings and The Dark Knight trilogy as a high mark in the history of franchise filmmaking. Whether Paul Atreides is a messiah or not, Denis Villenueve is certainly delivering us from the doldrums of assembly line mediocrity. –Patrick Gibbs

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