By Elias Savada.

Dune: Part Two succeeds on its many storyline levels, big and small. Passion, power, corruption, oppression, romance, intimacy, and revenge all get their time in this sweeping spectacle.”

Okay, it’s been awhile since Dune (well, only a few hours in elapsed cinematic time), but the wait is over and Dune: Part 2 extends the epic organic-futuristic sci-fi adventure tale that began back in 2021, adapted from Frank Herbert’s acclaimed 1965 novel. Driven by grand intentions, an intensely constructed storyline, an immersive design, and fierce performances, genius director Denis Villeneuve boldly continues the adventures of Paul Atreides, whose family was mostly obliterated at the end of the first chapter, betrayed by the mercilessly malevolent Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgård, again dressed up as a bad uncle of Jabba the Hut). Revenge awaits. As does, in a few more cinematic seconds, a third, final film.

Villeneuve, from a screenplay with Joe Spaihts, one of his co-writers on the first installment, draws this adventure on a huge, sprawling widescreen tableau, taking the viewer deeper into the saga of the unsteady boy-man turning into a ferocious rebel leader. He’s the central piece in a prophecy that involves his family and the Fremen, the indigenous people fighting the evil overlords that are strip-mining Arrakis of Spice, a drug found on this mostly desolate planet.

Most of the characters whose lives did not take a fatal turn earlier, are back, Timothée Chalamet, as Paul, and Zendaya (upping her game considerably), as Chani, a Fremen fighter, are slow-stepping their relationship, realizing they have more important things that demand their attention, like the fate of the universe. Rebecca Ferguson is back as Paul’s mother, the mystical Bene Gesserit Lady Jessica, follows her own spiritual path. Among other returnees are Skarsgård, Josh Brolin (Gurney Halleck, trusted advisor to Paul’s murdered father), Javier Barden (as Fremen leader Stilgar), Dave Bautista (as the brute “Beast” Rabban Harkonnen, the Baron’s nephew), and Charlotte Rampling as Reverend Mother Mohiam, an Imperial Truthsayer).

New cast members to the big show include: Oscar nominee Austin Butler, shorn of his Elvis looks and locks, as the psychopath Feyd-Rautha, another of the Baron’s nephews, his voice full of crazy and sounding much like Sarsgård’s. Much of his performance is shot in contrasty black-and-white by cinematographer Greig Fraser. Oscar winner Christopher Walken offers a non-laughing role as Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV, the universe’s inscrutable ruler). His daughter is the brooding, calculating Princess Irulan Corrino (Oscar nominee Florence Pugh, who worked with Chalamet in Little Women). the protégé of Reverend Mother Mohaim. Léa Seydoux of James Bond fame plays Lady Margot Fenring, another Bene Generit sister who, like so many of the characters here, and plays out her agenda in broad chess moves. And speaking of chess, Anya Taylor-Joy has an uncredited cameo as one of Paul’s future visions of the sister his mother is currently pregnant with.

As a follow-up film to the well-respected original, it’s easy (and well deserved) to make favorable comparisons to other legendary second installments, especially in the Godfather, Star Wars (The Empire Strikes Back), and Batman (The Dark Knight) sagas. Make-believe worlds never looked so impressive, thanks to the expansive depth of Oscar-winning or -nominated talent, returning from the initial eye-opener. Aside from Fraser’s camerawork, there’s production designer Patrice Vermette, editor Joe Walker, visual effects supervisor Paul Lambert (making the sand worms truly majestic creatures), costume designer Jacqueline West, and Hans Zimmer with another impressive score that totally relates to the grimness and magnitude of the film. All should be in the running for a statuette at next year’s Academy Awards.

Like the original film, delayed by the Covid epidemic, this continuation was also postponed, by the writers’ and actors’ strikes of last year. Unlike Part 1, relegated mostly to the streaming world, this exhilarating beast is best enjoyed on a big screen. And yes, it’s best to watch (or re-watch) the first episode ahead of the new film. Positive word of mouth aside, drain thy bladder and get thee to an IMAX cinema for the near 3-hour booming undertaking that awaits you! And boy, is it LOUD!

Even beyond its sheer, jaw-dropping grandeur and the well-directed cast, Dune: Part Two succeeds on its many storyline levels, big and small. Passion, power, corruption, oppression, romance, intimacy, and revenge all get their time in this sweeping spectacle.

The one very personal gripe I have? This peeve, while not specific for this film, happens when there are several closeups of Timothée Chalamet’s hands… and his nails are manicured! Not perfectly, but enough to wonder does Paul Atreides carry a nail clipper in the dystopian future of Dune? Maybe he uses sand worms to trim his digits? Perusing the credits, no “manicurist” is listed. OK, I’m overanalyzing, and let’s just call those cuticle edgings creative license. It joins those other things we rarely see in similar movies…people going to the bathroom, their hair nicely coiffed, and men with clean-shaven faces while going weeks in a world of chaos.

Elias Savada is a movie copyright researcher, critic, craft beer geek, and avid genealogist based in Bethesda, Maryland. He helps program the Spooky Movie International Movie Film Festival, and previously reviewed for Film Threat and Nitrate Online. He is an executive producer of the horror film German Angst and the documentary Nuts! He co-authored, with David J. Skal, Dark Carnival: the Secret World of Tod Browning (a revised edition will be published by Centipede Press).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *