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Review: Dune Part Two (2024)

Dune Part Two (2024)

Directed by: Denis Villeneuve

Premise: A follow up to the 2021 film. Following the destruction of House Atreides by the Harkonnens, Paul (Timothée Chalamet) and his mother (Rebecca Ferguson) have joined the Fremen, the indigenous people of Arrakis. They mount asymmetrical warfare on the Harkonnens and some of the Fremen believe Paul is a messiah.

What Works: 2021’s Dune was an impressively mounted sci-fi fantasy that adapted the first half of Frank Herbert’s book. The second half of this story is a major improvement over the first. The previous movie suffered from being all setup and no payoff. Part Two picks up the story with Paul and the Fremen engaging in sabotage against the Harkonnen’s spice mining operations. It’s exciting but Part Two also has substance with the characters facing new challenges and growing in interesting ways while the story deals with weighty subject matter. A growing number of the Fremen believe Paul is a messiah and Paul is haunted by horrific visions of what will happen if he gains power. Part Two deals with the danger of charismatic leaders and the way myths and mass movements can spin out of control. Those ideas are dramatized in a story that is consistently engaging and succeeds as a piece of entertainment. Despite its nearly three-hour running time, Dune Part Two never feels overlong or bogged down. The story moves along briskly and it balances narrative with action set pieces; the political subplots have a lot of players but it’s all understandable and fits together neatly. The picture is also extraordinarily well crafted. Dune Part Two is frequently beautiful and the costumes and set designs are organic and lived in.

What Doesn’t: Denis Villeneuve’s movies tend to be emotionally cold. His pictures have a methodical and removed approach and the stories lack warm interpersonal relationships. Dune Part Two is among the warmest of Villeneuve’s pictures but its weakest element is the love story between Paul and Chani (Zendaya). This is not the fault of the actors. The film doesn’t dramatize their romance in ways that are meaningful and the end of their story doesn’t have the emotional impact that it’s intended to convey. Dune has a dense and complicated story world and the translation of Frank Herbert’s book to the screen loses some of the plot’s context. As a result, some of the story developments don’t make sense. For some reason, the Emperor (Christopher Walken) travels to Arrakis but there’s no need for him to go there personally. The prophecy subplot is also underdeveloped, especially among the supposedly fundamentalist Fremen. The indigenous people of Arrakis are generally pushed to the side and the film misses opportunities to delve into the complexities of their culture.

Bottom Line: Dune Part Two is a major improvement over its predecessor. It has the craftsmanship that distinguished the first movie but it adds an involving story with some substantive themes.

Episode: #988 (March 17, 2024)