Dune: Part Two (2024)
Dune: Part Two (2024)

Genre: Sci-Fi Drama Running Time: 2 hrs. 46 min.

Release Date: March 1st, 2024 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Denis Villeneuve Actors: Timothee Chalamet, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Austin Butler, Florence Pugh, Dave Bautista, Christopher Walken, Lea Seydoux, Stellan Skarsgard, Charlotte Rampling

 


 

A

fter Baron Harkonnen’s (Stellan Skarsgard) ruthless purge of House Atreides to take control of planet Arrakis’ priceless spice-mining operations, only Paul (Timothee Chalamet), his mother Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), and his unborn sister remain alive. Fleeing into the unforgiving sands of Dune, the trio are taken in by the Fremen, a native population of warriors and survivalists. As Jessica attempts to cement the idea that her son is the messianic figure prophesied in Fremen religion, Paul chooses to live and fight alongside the people, learning their customs and cultures and earning their respect. After proving himself in combat on numerous attacks against enemy strongholds, Paul is accepted into the Fremen’s society and falls in love with the proud and fierce fighter, Chani (Zendaya). When the Baron entrusts his psychotically vicious nephew Feyd-Rautha (Austin Butler) with the task of quashing the rebellion, war breaks out. Enlisting both the clans of the north and south, Paul must lead a massive army into battle to decide the fate of a planet – and the future of a galaxy.

“This world is beyond cruelty.” To get around the overdone voiceover narration that Princess Irulan (Florence Pugh) – not seen in the last picture – might have been tasked with, here she records her thoughts on a computerized diary, which is certainly less clunky than in the 1984 adaptation (the rest of the film utilizes dream/nightmare sequences just like in the 2021 predecessor). Strangely, however, her vocal preface doesn’t include much at all about what happened in the first part of this massive tale, which means that audiences had better be well-versed in the previous two-and-a-half hours worth of content; virtually no reminders are in place for the specific events that led to Paul’s situation with the Fremen (and Chani), nor are there any clues about the interim undertakings of soldiers Lanville and Gurney, who reappear mysteriously.

Nevertheless, it’s difficult not to get wrapped up in the visuals; the way in which the Dune novel’s many signature characters and adventures are realized are simply stunning. With all of the creative costumes, customs, cultures, languages, technology, beliefs, politics, weaponry, gadgetry, vehicles, methods of survival, and even physical characteristics/mutations, this isn’t just world-building, it’s universe-building. And Denis Villeneuve is undoubtedly right for the job, handling this often-proclaimed unfilmable franchise with an admirable blend of inventiveness and sincerity. Yet while he sticks relatively closely to the source material, he forgets to edit for viewers both unaccustomed to Frank Herbert’s work and unconcerned with an open-ended conclusion for the sake of banking on further sequels. The closing shots here are a major misstep, sapping a considerable portion of the satisfaction found from the last lines of the book.

This second half does stay faithful to the first, as the music remains thunderous (though it’s once again a monotonic volume turned all the way up), the action scenes are intense (maybe even kicked up a notch from before), and the cinematography captures utterly striking imagery and framing. The villains tend to work against those highlights, however, with Rabban yelling his lines, Feyd-Rautha and the baron growling theirs or trading piercing stares, and all of the Harkonnen leaders killing subordinates to prove their nastiness. Plus, everyone from Giedi Prime dresses in high-contrast blacks and whites, surrounded by (or playing with) pointy things, like the bondage-enrobed demons from “Hellraiser.” A lot of it is almost comically weird and morbid, though the players tend to approach the scenarios resolutely; the casting definitely helps.

In the end, “Dune: Part Two” aptly handles the commentary on blind faith and fanaticism, and how they might be twisted and manipulated by largely unseen, widespread tinkerers. It’s a bleakly realistic, topical exposé on faith, as flames are fanned to warp and corrupt outcomes and pawns (the string-pulling of bloodlines is similarly arresting). Of course, it takes far too long, excising a couple of details that might have been revelatory for the personas (particularly Jamis’ wife, since she would have tied into the ending), and adding a few that absolutely didn’t need to be included (such as extracting baby sandworm bile). With enough sci-fi wonderment and fervor to neutralize the slow-going segments, however, the production is undeniably epic in its scope and visual achievements. It’s just a shame that it took two lengthy movies to relate the story, and that the anticipated, worm-riding climax isn’t nearly as much campy fun as in David Lynch’s jumble of an attempt.

– The Massie Twins

  • 6/10