Dune: Part Two Review

A year after seeing the sci-fi epic Dune two years ago and blowing away expectations, director Denis Villeneuve finally gets his cinematic vision realized with Dune: Part Two, the second part of the director’s two-part adaptation of Frank Herbert’s novel. There are high expectations for Villeneuve after the success of the first film, so the pressure is certainly on to see if he can deliver the finishing blow in the story of the war on Arrakis. As the first movie was more of a setup for this story, Dune: Part Two acts as a secondary arc that puts the action at the center. The director continues to go deep into the lore of Dune while exploring the story’s central themes like politics, religion, and destiny as audiences see the journey of our main hero come full circle. Dune: Part Two truly delivers on bringing a visually stunning spectacle on the big screen and wrapping things up in an action-packed sci-fi epic.

Picking up from the first film, Dune: Part Two continues the journey of Timothee Chalamet’s Paul Atreides as he teams up with the native Fremen to get revenge on the Harkonnen for attacking his family and taking over the spice trade. His relationship with Zendaya’s Chani also goes much deeper as he understands what’s at stake for him and the Fremen as they take the fight forward. Returning to the cast is Rebecca Ferguson as Paul’s mother Lady Jessica, who continues to become mysterious and powerful behind the scenes to make sure her son fulfills his destiny. Leading the Fremen is Javier Bardem’s Stilgar, who along with his tribe believe that Paul is the one to lead them to paradise as the prophesied Muad’Dib. There are also new enemies in the mist, including Austin Butler’s Feyd-Rautha, the psychotic heir to House Harkonnen.

Paul learns that he will lead the Fremen as the Lisan al-Gaib, the rumored prophet who would bring these people to paradise. However, the young prince tries not to follow this path that the Bene Gesserit has foreseen would lead to war and death. What Paul soon learns is that as his power grows stronger, his fate will end up as it was predetermined. It is a strong sentiment that the film follows as it tackles the issue of free will and destiny. The story becomes so complex and intriguing as Paul is pressured into this position that both the Fremen and the Bene Gesserit have laid out for him. Paul doesn’t want to accept the fact that he is the savior of this desert planet because he knows what awaits him if he does.

It is the actions that Paul takes that ultimately put him on the path to his destiny that he doesn’t want fulfilled. Paul gains the experience to be a good fighter and leader as he continues to lead the Fremen to victory against the Harkonnen army, increasing his legend among the people of Arrakis. We see that the Fremen want to believe that the prophet is him because that’s what they were told for many years and they want to get out of their poverty to find a better way of life. No matter how many times Paul rejects his role, the Fremen know that is exactly how the Muad’Dib acts in this situation. Faith and religion play quite a strong role in Dune: Part Two as we learn more about the Fremen’s prophecy and how Paul plays into that.

Timothee Chalamet continues to lead the charge as Paul and embraces the role well. His expression on his face is easy to read during the first half of the film as audiences see how much of a burden it is for him to carry this responsibility. Despite what fate has given him, Paul becomes a natural leader on his own, making anyone follow him no matter how bad the situation gets. Zendaya finally gets the spotlight as Chani after only getting small screen time in the first film and she delivers a strong performance. Her character sees how Paul is with the Fremen, believing he can be one of them even though she doesn’t believe in the prophecy. We see these two becoming closer, but Paul’s destiny seems to drift them farther apart. It is the chemistry between these two performers that makes Dune: Part Two engaging to watch.

We also get some individual standouts with some new and returning cast members despite Chalamet and Zendaya mostly taking center stage throughout the film. Rebecca Ferguson continues to deliver a creepy and strong-willed performance as Paul’s overprotective mother. Javier Bardem also gives some wisdom and humor as the Fremen leader who believes that his people will find paradise with Paul leading them. One of the most provocative performances goes to Austin Butler playing the crazy and stern Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen. His introduction is incredible when we witness the battle he puts himself in the arena, showing just how cold and menacing he is in person and combat. Villeneuve takes advantage of the color schemes to set the mood, creating an unsettling and beautiful display of House Harkonnen. There is so much detail that the director has put into the film when it comes to action in Arrakis, making audiences come into this world full of sandworms and big ships in the sky. 

With so much to see in the film, sometimes it can be quite a lot to take in. Even with the number of characters we are introduced to, there really isn’t enough time to get to know them. Audiences are introduced to the Emperor and his daughter Princess Irulan, played by Christopher Walken and Florence Pugh respectively. It would be nice to see more of their world and how much they fit into the overall narrative, but it seems they may play a bigger role in a future installment. The same thing goes for Lady Jessica as we learn about her connection to her unborn daughter, who makes a surprise cameo. There’s so much lore to explore, but it often feels rushed as it is often glossed over as the movie heads back into the main narrative. 

The cinematography and score are also one of the huge strengths of Dune: Part Two. Greig Fraser continues to impress with his amazing shots of Arrakis as we are put into the middle of the action as if we are all living it alongside Paul and the Fremen. The world of Dune is fully realized through the lens that Fraser carefully puts together as we stand in awe of the marvelous movie magic that he’s created. Hans Zimmer also brings his musical expertise into the background score, making some deeply poetic sounds that compliment the culture of the Fremen and the cold-hearted nature of Harkonnens. Zimmer continues to prove why he is the best at what he does to bring cinematic greatness to his scores.

Dune: Part Two proves to be equally and perhaps better than the first film. It is easy to get lost in this world thanks to the incredible work done by Villeneuve and Fraser’s stunning cinematography. Chalamet and Zendaya bring in their best performances together to bring the story of Dune to its fullest potential. Despite not getting enough of this world, Dune: Part Two still delivers a strong epic story with its beautiful landscapes and an incredible cast to lean on to have the film come to life. The second film of what may end up being a trilogy builds off on the first film with a rich and complex universe. The visuals, sounds, and musical score help bring the story alive as the film continues to tackle deep into faith and politics involving our hero’s journey. Even if the movie doesn’t feel like there’s any finality to it, Dune still has a bright future ahead just like The Spice.

Dune: Part Two is now out in theaters everywhere.

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