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Movie Review - DUNE: Part Two


“What do you despise? By this you are truly known.” - Frank Herbert, DUNE

This is the kind of instance where I have to remind myself to keep things in perspective; to not let things become overly exaggerated or just downright absurd. This is where I tell you I’ll try my best but I can also say I make no promises that I won’t get carried away. With that said, my thoughts and analysis of Dune: Part Two.

I have seen what Denis Villeneuve is capable of many times over and I believe it is his command of this medium that somehow takes what I know about him and his abilities and surpasses it all with each new project he creates. Blade Runner 2049 is my favorite film of all-time and now having experienced DUNE: Part Two, 2049 may not even be his best work. Which in hindsight is melting my brain but once you see what I just saw, maybe you’ll understand. 

Someone I saw Part Two with said to me after it was over that if Part Three happens it could very well cement Dune as the greatest science fiction franchise ever made. I couldn’t agree more. Part Two is in rarified air where the sequel is better than the first in just about every way. What it does, and what the best sequels all have done, is to expand upon what worked about the first film but more than this it never relies on the falsehood that bigger is always better. It is bigger in scale but never sacrifices story or characters for outright spectacle. 

Part Two begins immediately where Part One left off with Paul and Jessica following Chani and the rest of the Fremen into the farthest reaches of the Arrakis desert where the Harkonnen cannot follow. At first Paul, his mother and the Fremen are on the defensive trying to maintain the secret of the true size of the Fremen’s presence on the planet. Before long Paul begins to assert his position as a Fremen warrior determined to disrupt the operations of the Harkonnen and ultimately take the war to their doorstep. Along his journey of revenge against those that murdered his father, he must navigate a complicated belief system among the Fremen that divides their tribe into two distinct factions - the believers and the pragmatists like Chani and the other younger members. 

It is the older leaders that continue the mythos that a messiah, awaited for centuries, is not only real but Paul himself is the Lisan al Gaib, which is Fremen for an off-world prophet. His dilemma is to discover the path his father spoke of before his death and whether it leads to a position of power and leadership or perhaps something more simple like a Fremen warrior and companion to Chani who sees the best in Paul but also the potential for great terror over the people of Arrakis and possibly beyond. Does he follow what has been laid before him by the manipulative Bene Gesserit or become the antithesis of what the old ways demand of him? 

Much of Part One is introducing who Paul is and what he may become if the prophecies are true. In Part Two his journey continues but unlike the first where much of the actions of the enemies of the House of Atreides are committed against them from the shadows, Part Two reveals the true enemies of the people of Arrakis and what is left of the Atreides. Christopher Walken as the emperor is a man of few words but emits a menacing energy determined to maintain the power he’s clenched for a lifetime. His daughter, Princess Irulan, is realized by Florence Pugh who puts forward a façade of inexperience but takes no issue to demonstrate her ability to be as ruthless as her father. It is in their subtlety that lies their tendency for merciless rule. 

The emperor’s greatest weapon has long been the control of the Harkonnen. As Beast Rabban loses his favor with his uncle, Baron Harkonnen, another family member begins his ascension. Austin Butler as Feyd-Rautha is sociopathic and murderous. He covets power and enjoys pain, both enduring it and delivering it. Through tremendous makeup effects and Butler’s unhinged performance make his character a true standout in a story with countless fascinating characters. He is a force to be reckoned with and a worthy adversary to Paul Atreides. 

One of the best aspects of Part Two is Paul’s character arc from timid and unsure to what he ultimately becomes by Part Two’s conclusion. He is determined to stay on the path of becoming a Fremen but as prophecy and reality begin to clash, his hand is forced and the result is complete madness and it’s seemingly only the beginning. He becomes formidable and builds his reputation as both a warrior and perhaps more terrifying, his position as the Fremen messiah or as Chani and like-minded Fremen see him, just the next outsider to attempt their enslavement. 

I spoke of what is carried over from Part One and a major aspect of this is the musical score orchestrated by the masterful Hans Zimmer. The massive sound that shook the earth continues in Part Two and somehow feels even bigger as we learn of new truths or when we watch Paul take his final step to become a Fremen by facing Arrakis’ most awesome force, Shai Hulud itself. Hans Zimmer’s score is once again earth quaking in its scale and epic nature. It is wholly enveloping to match the cinematography that is more grandiose and enrapturing as Greg Fraser delivers some of the most beautiful imagery in cinema of the last decade. It is truly a sight to behold from its quiet opening of lying-in-wait Fremen to the multi-world altering transfer of power.  

Part One possesses more of a meditative progression. With Part Two all hell is unleashed. The action is amped up tenfold and feels far more visceral. There is a tenacity to Part Two that is only really alluded to in Part One. There is a grace to the violence but it still manages to be aggressive and extreme. Despite its PG-13 rating, Dune: Part Two is unflinching in its portrayal of vengeance and committing to acts of cruelty and merciless prophecy.  

The politics of Dune become more murky as reality and faith mix in a lethal combination of chaotic confusion. As we see the two factions of the Fremen interact we see the grounded reality of one group as they watch the more fanatical side of the Fremen who believe in the loaded idea of a true life messiah sent to save them. So much of the time before Paul’s time on Arrakis was building to what is now transpiring and is seeming to do so all at once as if fate is suddenly in a rush to see prophecy realized. As Thanos, Brolin once said, ”...destiny arrives all the same.” 

Dune: Part Two is a science fiction masterpiece through and through. From the score to the cinematography it feels epic in every sense. The performances are award worthy and watching these characters interact and clash is a gift to anyone that watches movies. Villeneuve once again demonstrates why he is one of the best directors of all-time. He is a once-in-a-generation type of creator and we should be in awe of his work. I know I am. Dune is the realization of someone’s vision fully come to life in the most amazing, unimaginable ways that will leave anyone witness to its greatness left in stunned silence. This is the kind of experience in cinema that comes along once in a decade if we’re lucky. It demands your attention on the biggest screens available. My expectations could not have been higher and it surpassed them completely. It will leave you in wonder. It will leave you wanting more. It will act as a reminder of what makes cinema so special and enduring. 

Rated PG-13 For: sequences of strong violence, some suggestive material and brief strong language

Runtime: 166 minutes

After Credits Scene: No

Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama, Sci-Fi

Starring: Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Javier Bardem

Directed By: Denis Villeneuve

Out of 10

Story: 10/ Acting: 10/ Directing: 10/ Visuals: 10

OVERALL: 10/10

Buy to Own: Yes.


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