Dune Part Two

Posted by Eddie Pasa on February 28, 2024 in / No Comments


DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, Warner Bros. Pictures, Dune, Dune Part TwoAs David Lean once set audiences agog with the widescreen vistas of Lawrence of Arabia and the adventures of T.E. Lawrence in the desert, Denis Villeneuve takes the mantle with the second portion of his big-screen adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune. This continuation, Dune Part Two, picks up right where Dune Part One left us, and it does so on all accounts – a grand storytelling spectacle with timeless visuals backed by wave after wave of aural magic. We’re once again sunk into the arid world of Arrakis and its inhabitants fighting for control of both spice production and their very lives.

While some filmmakers fashion their sequels to be watched by fans and newcomers alike, Villeneuve smartly follows The Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson’s lead and treats his film like the second chapter in a filmic novel. It is an absolute must to have seen Dune Part One to enjoy what Villeneuve has to show you in Dune Part Two, something I did mere days before screening this new installment. Having only viewed the 2.40:1 scope-framed first film on 4K, I was not prepared for how much Greig Fraser’s wide-open IMAX frame would add so much to this experience. The large IMAX screen fully engulfs you in the orange-brown sands of Arrakis and the stark monochrome of Giedi Prime, the Harkonnen homeworld.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, Warner Bros. Pictures, Dune, Dune Part TwoFraser’s visuals – edited comfortably by Joe Walker, who thankfully leaves us enough time to appreciate every sight before us – are powerful in their artful languidness, firmly seating the viewer in each sequence and setup for maximum emotional immersion. Villeneuve and Jon Spaihts’ script likewise bears instant power, never intruding more than it needs to; their words tell the story with simple economy, never overbearing or oversharing. The characters speak what Fraser’s images cannot, filling in the nuances and sly machinations that drive or come as a result of actions taken.

Villeneuve and Spaihts make thundering menace of Herbert’s Christianity vs. Islam allegory, with the unwilling savior Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) refusing to step into his preordained role to lead the desert-dwelling Fremen in a holy war against their colonizers. As shadowy, portentous dreams pervade his waking life and begin coming true bit by bit, his fight to remain a simple Fremen warrior grows more difficult due to the pressures mounting on all sides. His mother, Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), stands as his prophetess, rebelling against the plans of the Bene Gesserit sisterhood by advancing Paul as the Kwisatz Haderach – a being that would become the master of past and present. Hardened by her experiences in the desert, Jessica bears more of a driven, near-sociopathic edge, taking great pains to ensure her own power through her son’s ascendancy.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, Warner Bros. Pictures, Dune, Dune Part TwoMeanwhile, Paul’s heart lies with Chani (Zendaya) and the Fremen, defending their home from the constant rotation of Houses who harvest the spice – a substance found in the sands and the air of Arrakis – for the Empire of the Known Universe. It’s at once a business and a move to bring the native population under the Empire’s heel, and Paul has gone from being a member of House Atreides (the previous House assigned to mine spice) to being presumed dead, the end of the Atreides bloodline, surviving only because of the Fremen, to which he has pledged his loyalty. But his conflict lies between his heart’s desire and his upbringing as the son of a Bene Gesserit sister whose plans may be coming to fruition through him.

The political intrigue of the Bene Gesserit sisterhood runs like a deep current, becoming both aid and obstacle to Emperor Shaddam IV’s (Christopher Walken) conspiracy, its first stage brutally executed toward the end of the first film. Jessica, Reverend Mother Gaius Mohiam (Charlotte Rampling), and the mysterious Margot Fenring (Léa Seydoux) are all coming at each other with their own plans, whether independent or part of the overarching Bene Gesserit plan to unleash the Kwisatz Haderach on the universe. They are the hidden hands placing chess pieces around the board to suit their purposes, simultaneously acting while waiting to be proven victorious.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, Warner Bros. Pictures, Dune, Dune Part TwoVilleneuve has a lot going on in Dune Part Two, juggling Paul’s reluctance to be part of his mother’s messianic prophecy, the troubles House Harkonnen experience with their spice mining, the fervently religious Fremen faction who believes that Paul is the chosen one, and the arrival of Feyd-Rautha (Austin Butler), a vicious, psychopathic member of House Harkonnen who kills as easily as one might breathe. All of these are bound by the fascinating details found in Villeneuve’s world-building, the little things that impart so much information as to how this universe functions. From something easy, like levitation suits or the Giedi Prime arena in which Feyd-Rautha battles the remaining members of House Atreides, to something damningly resounding and complex, like the origin of the Water of Life or how quickly Jessica obtains her stronghold over the Fremen, Villeneuve lays in all manner of objects, material, or subtleties which change life’s direction or perspectives for everyone.

This is science-fiction at its best and most challenging. Dune Part One laid the solid groundwork and infrastructure from which Dune Part Two absolutely springs. Denis Villeneuve maintains the exceptional quality established in the first while exponentially raising the stakes with his new masterstroke. With solid performances shot with care and backed by awe-inspiring visuals and sound design, Villeneuve shows us once again why he’s one of the most visionary directors working today, taking us with him on this wonderful journey into a terrifying and beautiful universe. By using every minute of the film’s running time to ensure motifs and messages stick, Dune Part Two distinguishes itself as a film that cuts smoothly with clarity, elegance, and purpose.

Rated PG-13 by the MPA for sequences of strong violence, some suggestive material and brief strong language. Running time: 167 minutes. Released by Warner Bros. Pictures.

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Eddie Pasa

Eddie is a member of the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA) and the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS). Since starting in 2010 at The Rogers Revue, Eddie has written for Reel Film News (now defunct), co-founded DC Filmdom, and writes occasionally for Gunaxin. When not reviewing movies, he's spending time with his wife and children, repeat-viewing favorites on Blu-Ray, working for rebranding agency Mekanic, or playing acoustic shows and DJing across the DC/MD/VA area. Special thanks go to Jenn Carlson, Moira and Ari Pasa, Viki Nova at City Dock Digital in Annapolis, Mike Parsons, Philip Van Der Vossen, and Dean Rogers.

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