14 June 2024
Dune: Part Two read our review

Film Review – Dune: Part Two (2024)

They always said it was the unfilmable novel. Unlike anything anyone had read before, Frank Herbert’s Dune caused quite a stir when first released in 1965 and was almost immediately eyed up for a big-budget Hollywood extravaganza with filmmakers such as Alejandro Jodorowsky and Ridley Scott attempting to bring the dense, somewhat overbearing story to the screen. In 1984, producer Dino De Laurentiis and director David Lynch finally achieved the feat. Still, the results were not what fans expected and after some judicious editing which saw almost an hour of the film cut away, it failed to capture audiences and was referred to by many as the “Heaven’s Gate of Sci-Fi”. Fast forward four decades and Dune has finally been given its cinematic dues thanks to Denis Villeneuve and his incredible filmmaking, not once, but twice.

After the explosive events of the first part, Paul Atreides (Timothee Chalamet) and his mother, Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), have successfully fled the ambush of the Harkonnen (led by Stellan Skarsgard’s Baron) and the murder of their father/husband Leto (Oscar Isaac). Now in the deep deserts of Arrakis, also known as “Dune”, they find themselves amongst the Fremen, a sub-culture of people who start to believe that Paul is the man who will fulfill their long-standing prophecy and lead them to freedom. The Harkonnen, meanwhile, believe Paul and his mother to be dead and prepare to reclaim the planet for themselves and call on the Baron’s psychopathic nephew, Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen (Austin Butler), to lead their charge, much to the dismay of Emperor of the Known Universe, Shaddam IV (Christopher Walken), and his daughter, Princess Irulan (Florence Pugh), the latter of whom theorises that Atreides is set to lead the Fremen into a full-blown holy war.

Part One, released in the still pandemic-ridden 2021, was risky for all concerned: a thoughtful, smart, and somewhat impenetrable film with a big budget that might not get general audiences’ bums on seats in a similar vein to Villeneuve’s similarly themed Blade Runner 2049 that had universal acclaim but didn’t spark at the box office. But the casting of Timothee Chalamet, Zendaya, and more helped cushion the blow and Part Two only emphasises this, with his two young stars proving beyond a doubt here their unique, undisputed talents. Tasked with bringing life to the heart and soul of the novel as Paul Atreides and Chani respectively, the Dune-namic duo (yep, did that) are wondrous together, feeding off each other’s gifts and energy brilliantly, making you truly feel their complicated love despite their somewhat opposing views on Paul’s prophetic status. Once again supported by the always magnetic Rebecca Ferguson in one of her best turns and the likes of Javier Bardem and Josh Brolin, it’s the additions who keep the second film energised: Florence Pugh shows her usual power and grace alongside on-screen father Christopher Walken, whilst Butler, still with a twang of Elvis, suitably menaces as the looming destructor of the Fremen, the yin to Paul’s yang.

From its very first shot to its last, you simply cannot take your eyes off the screen and continuously marvel at what Villeneuve and his team have wrought: their meticulous work in not just adapting Herbert’s work thematically but visually as well is nothing short of miraculous. If the first film laid the foundations for what was to come, Part Two builds out the rest of the extraordinary worlds with style, panache, and beauty, an arresting, intoxicating work of art that, while sounding cliched, truly has to be seen to be believed.

Whether it’s surfing on sandworms, furiously flowing through epic space battles, or focusing on its politically and religiously charged undercurrents, the film never stands still, always riveting and compelling in every ounce of its being and keeping us gripped by its astute, provoking and real-world themes of false gods and blind leaders, religious prophesies, political unrest, cultural desecrations and contortions, and climate change.

Such is Villeneuve’s handle of the material, alongside Greig Fraser’s stunning cinematography and Hans Zimmer‘s wondrous, booming score, there isn’t a wasted frame: no moment feels baggy, no word of dialogue perfunctory, no frame of photography not soaring across the screen with the majesty and awe that the best of cinema can provide us. Everything about Dune: Part Two screams magnificence and while it will take its place amongst 2024’s very best come year-end (and, perhaps, Oscar talk), it is also one of the greatest “second parts” this wonderful art form has ever produced. Glorious, profound, brilliant cinema.

★★★★★

In UK cinemas March 1st / Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Florence Pugh, Austin Butler, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Christopher Walken, Stellan Skarsgard, Charlotte Rampling, Dave Bautista, Souheila Yacoub / Dir: Denis Villeneuve / 12A / Warner Bros Pictures, Legendary Pictures


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