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Dune: Part Two (2024) | Review

By Jack Carlile

Rating: 5/5

In a recent interview with The Times, director Denis Villeneuve expressed a lack of enthusiasm for dialogue in film, as he believes that “pure image and sound, that is the power of cinema.” While this might be a controversial statement, one only has to watch Dune: Part Two to perfectly understand what he means.

Image: dunk on flickr. License: CC BY 2.0 DEED Attribution 2.0 Generic

Dune: Part Two picks up shortly after the first film’s conclusion: as Paul and Jessica Atreides (Timothée Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson) begin to integrate into the native Fremen life of Arrakis, we stand alongside them—for better or for worse—through the sheer magnitude and overwhelming power of Villeneuve’s presentation of this world. It may sound like a ridiculous exaggeration to say that watching our protagonist mount and ride a gargantuan worm inspires enough awe to spring tears to the eye, but that is the might of this film. As might be the goal for any partitioned story in film, this second half brings the entire vision together, retroactively making the first film better for delivering on the promises of this iconic story that debuted in Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel. For years, the story was deemed unfilmable by audiences and readers for years, citing the disappointment of David Lynch’s 1984 adaptation and Alejandro Jodorowsky’s mammoth attempt which was scrapped after it ultimately became unachievable. Villeneuve’s duology, however, treats this attitude with triumphant defiance, wisely allocating necessary time to both character and plot.

As much as one can praise the visuals and technical mastery of the film, the true focus must not be drawn away from Dune’s story. While we may have to wait for a third film—based on the novel Dune: Messiah which Villeneuve has confirmed to be working on—to truly conclude this colossal adaptation, the film completely and resolutely honours the themes and intentions of the original book. In a reactionary culture that consists of some who glance at Dune’s plot, label it a white saviour, pro-colonial narrative and think no more of it, we are presented with a film that demands that we think. Herbert’s critique of the messiah figure, appropriation of indigenous cultures and how those in power wield religion and prophecy as a method of control is brought to the forefront and cannot be hidden from, no matter how much we may wish to root for our protagonists. One might struggle to recognise the people that our characters become, feeling frustrated that Paul isn’t our new Luke Skywalker—he is not a hero to be admired, but this makes him no less fascinating.

Don’t be fooled by his heroic riding of a giant sandworm into battle: you, the viewer, are very much meant to judge him according to his actions and character.

The impact and significance of this world would be truly incomplete without Hans Zimmer’s momentous score, piecing together the sombre and menacing alongside the grand and exhilarating. What begins as a visual experience becomes a physical one; the music engulfs the audience entirely and acts as the gateway to this other universe, achieving a deep and impressive involvement for the entire runtime. In a reflection of the film itself, the score’s grandeur can co-exist and mingle with its sense of tragedy, carrying the weight of what we see and the consequences yet to be realised.

Image: Robert Miller on flickr. License: CC BY 2.0 DEED Attribution 2.0 Generic

The film is truly held up by astonishing performances across the board, as Chalamet leads with a raw, commanding power that irrevocably cements itself onto the audience. His transformation from the young boy of the first film to the increasingly menacing and tyrannical leader of the second, demanding (and receiving) attention and power. At the heart of the drama is also Zendaya’s portrayal of Chani, who is consistently believable as a character we can become largely involved with – someone who will act as the opposer of Paul’s messianic reputation while standing by his side. Alongside Javier Bardem as the Fremen Stilgar, Austin Butler and Stellan Skarsgård as the psychopathic Feyd-Rautha and sadistic Baron Harkonnen, Josh Brolin, Dave Bautista and Florence Pugh just to name a few, the cast comes together in a harmonious, coordinated excellence that makes this greatly complex world far more accessible and entertaining.

As a piece of modern, big-budget, epic filmmaking, Dune is the new benchmark. While Villeneuve has gone beyond proving himself in the sci-fi genre with earlier works such as Blade Runner: 2049 and Arrival, this is the work that carries the most weight as to audience standards for blockbusters. In a period where audiences are beginning to tire of the manufactured, trite ‘mindless fun’ that studios still attempt to churn out without any vision, the most popular film on the planet is a $190,000,000 adaptation of the second half of a 1960s science fiction novel. Let this be undeniable proof that audiences yearn for something as intelligent, thoughtful, and (even still today) subversive as this story.

While we are all drawn in by the iconic worms and the scale of a war film stretched across a galaxy, Dune's true significance and impact lies in what it tells us; you simply have to be open to listening.

Dune: Part Two’s success is no mystery. Its status as a phenomenon requires no deeper analysis as to why these films work so marvellously. All it took was a filmmaker with a passion: someone who read the book as a teenager and wanted to place that world onto our screens even then. That dedication and adoration for the source material is dripping from every frame and every aspect of the film, making it impossible to resist being caught up in its narrative. Yes, allow yourself to indulge in the spectacle and vastness of this other world, but be prepared to peek behind the curtain and acknowledge the tragedy behind it.



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