Dune: Part Two Review - Rarely Is A Follow-Up Film This Invigorating And Immersive

A still from Dune: Part Two. (courtesy: dunemovie)

Everything that Dune was is visibly redoubled in Dune Part Two. The film is an amalgamation of Frank Herbert’s unique vision, director Denis Villeneuve’s penchant for finding variety and depth in the visceral, cinematographer Greig Fraser’s incredible eye for detail in large-scale compositions, production design of the highest order and a magnificent ensemble cast that is perfectly in tune with the spirit of a super ambitious cinematic project that does not leave a single speck of sand unturned.

The action-packed sequel to Villeneuve’s 2021 film is sci-fi filmmaking at its very best. The writer-director delivers a fully realised universe and a stunning visual canvas populated with perfectly etched characters. Rarely is a follow-up to a film this invigorating and immersive. Dune Part Two is a triumph of both staging and pacing. It is richly detailed and arrestingly structured.

With all the exposition having been taken care of in the relatively sluggish Dune, Dune Part Two hits the ground running and it keeps galloping at the kind of frenetic pace that ensures that even at nearly three hours it does not feel like a long movie.

Stray parts of Dune Part Two are inevitably confounding – it isn’t without reason that Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel was once thought to be unfilmable, a fact proven beyond an iota of doubt by David Lynch’s disastrous Dune (1984) – but Villeneuve is able to devise a method of delivery that never seems straining for effect.

Hans Zimmer’s score enhances the operatic rhythm of the film. It works not only as a string of compositions but, like the rhythms of the desert setting, as an integral part of the aural design of Dune Part Two.

What could be more exhilarating than the sight of Paul Atreides (Timothee Chalamet) taming a rampaging sandworm and riding it? Dune Part Two has no dearth of such surprises, not the least of which is the transformation of Austin Butler into a ruthless nephew of Baron Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgard) who thrives on wreaking havoc.

The film sweeps one away with its scale and spectacle, but its epic proportions do not snuff out the human elements embedded in the narrative. Villeneuve finds a very visual way of conveying his abiding interest in the characters and the setting.

Even in the most extreme of close-ups, the landscape, be it the desert bathed in a golden and russet glow or the Harkonnen home world bleached out by a black sun, isn’t removed from the visual equation. It always lurks in the background. The reverse is equally true – the people we see in the drama, whether they are merely talking or are engaged in grand and explosive action, never lose their centrality.

Dune Part Two kicks off in the immediate aftermath of the events seen in its precursor and evolves into a powerful and enthralling epic that brings the first novel of Dune series to a close. The narrative cauldron that Villeneuve rustles up crackles with energy. The characters, at least the ones at the centre of the action, pulsate with life.

Paul Atreides and his mother Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) seek to secure their well-being among the Fremen, inhabitants of the desert planet Arrakis, known for its spice, as they plan to settle scores with the evil Harkonnens. There are many smaller battles to be fought before Paul can well and truly claim his place under the sun.

Shaddam IV (Christopher Walken), the Emperor of the Known Universe, has teamed up with Baron Harkonnen and his family, which includes the pitiless Glossu Rabban (Dave Bautista), to help the latter wrest back control of Arrakis and hasten the fall of House Astreides.

The inhospitable Arrakis, home to the Fremen tribe, is a prized planet because it is the only one among thousands that produces spice. Harvesting the spice is tough and fraught with great risk because of the giant worms underneath the surface.

Stilgar (Javier Bardem), leader of the Fremen, believes that Paul is the outsider who is prophesied to bring peace and prosperity to his people. But not everybody is convinced. Not even Paul himself. He takes nothing for granted and seeks to assimilate himself with the Fremen to earn their trust.

Paul’s Bene Gesserit mother, part of an order of women who dream of power and control over the world that they inhabit – and places beyond the physical dimensions of it – has her own ideas. Friction ensues between the two as also between Paul and his mentor Gurney (Josh Brolin).

Dune Part Two revolves around the young protagonist thrust into a role that is far bigger than the individual he is. Paul must figure out for himself what he is ordained to be and play his part without succumbing to the imperfections that the human flesh is heir to.

Paul is hobbled by doubt but he is conditioned to keep fear at bay. Will he succeed is embracing his destiny? “Fear is the little death that brings obliteration,” Lady Jessica had said to him in Dune. A significant portion of Part Two is devoted to the young man finding his way forward even as misgivings snap at his heels.

In the process, Dune Part Two delivers ceaseless action. The screenplay by Villeneuve and John Spaihts not only gets totally into the spirit of Herbert’s dense, complex tale, it also punctuates the conversations and elaborate world-building with sharp character development on one hand and eye-popping, high-octane sequences on the other.

The coming-of-age theme of Dune continues here and, at an early enough juncture, gives way to a love story. Chani (Zendaya), seen mainly in visions that Paul has in the first film, steps forward and occupies a far larger stage in Dune Part Two. Zendaya figures prominently in the film’s most watchable parts.

Zendaya shines brighter than almost everybody else in the cast barring Rebecca Ferguson. The two actors convey a spectrum of emotions and psychological nuances that gives the action a wide-ranging register as well as recesses where it can stop awhile.

Two other women – Princess Irulan, the Emperor’s daughter played by Florence Pugh, and Lady Margot Fenring, a Bene Gesserit woman played by Lea Seydoux – have lesser roles in the film but they are second to none in terms of the impression that they make.

The ending of Dune Part Two is an improvement on the abrupt denouement of the first film, but it might still leave many in the audience a tad dissatisfied. On the positive side, it points to what Villeneuve has always had in mind – a trilogy.

That is a tantalizing thought – Dune Messiah, the second novel in the series of sci-fi books, is even less filmable. Given what Villeneuve has achieved with Dune and Dune Part Two, there is no reason to believe another visual treat isn’t on the cards.


Timothee Chalamet, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Austin Butler, Florence Pugh, Dave Bautista, Christopher Walken


Denis Villeneuve


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