Dune Part Two - Main Art

Dune Part Two Review – Setting New Standards for Sci-Fi Cinema

Not for you if:

  • You’re not a fan of Dune
  • You prefer faster, more action-focused movies
  • You don’t watch sci-fi-fi in general
10

For the longest time, Frank Herbert’s Dune was considered to be unfilmable. Even David Lynch (Twin Peaks) stumbled in adapting the 1965 epic to the big screen, often citing it as one of his greatest failures as a director. Enter Denis Villeneuve, an auteur director with an impressive track record comprised of Sicario, Arrival, and Blade Runner 2049. 

Villeneuve’s dream was to adapt Dune but on his terms, without studio mandates that would compromise his vision of the story. The decision was made to adapt the first book of Dune in two parts, to let the story breathe and to split it into two halves naturally. Dune Part Two arrives in theatres 3 years after the first, with both movies clocking in at almost 3 hours in length. 

They are the antithesis of modern cinema, asking the audience to pay close attention to visual storytelling and not be content with the “cheap thrills” of modern media. So how does Dune Part Two compare to the first? Is it a satisfying follow-up and how does it deal with the burden of being what’s essentially a prologue to a much larger saga of Paul Artreides?

TL;DR

Dune Part Two is a magnificent conclusion to Denis Villeneuve’s two-part sci-fi epic. It’s a satisfying, bombastic, and sometimes heartwrenching tale of prophets and their followers. We only hope that Villeneuve will continue adapting the Dune saga on the big screen.

Picking Up Where We Left Off

The story of Dune Part Two picks up where the last movie ended. House Atreides is destroyed by the House Harkonnen and Paul, along with his mother and unborn sister, is fleeing into the desert with the Fremen, Arrakis’ natives. There is no “previously on” for those who skipped the first movie, so you best give it a watch on HBO Max or another streaming service depending on your regional availability. Dune Part Two’s cast includes:

  • Timothée Chalamet as Paul “Muad’Dib” Atreides
  • Zendaya as Chani
  • Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica
  • Josh Brolin as Gurney Halleck
  • Austin Butler as Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen
  • Florence Pugh as Princess Irulan
  • Dave Bautista as Glossu Rabban Harkonnen
  • Christopher Walken as Shaddam IV
  • Léa Seydoux as Lady Margot Fenring
  • Stellan Skarsgård as Baron Vladimir Harkonnen
  • Javier Bardem as Stilgar

The story in Dune Part Two is much bigger and more expansive than in Dune Part One. Villeneuve set up the chess pieces in the first movie and now, it’s time to move them around the board. We are quickly introduced to new characters in the form of Christopher Walken’s Emperor Shaddam IV, his daughter, and the Harkonnens on Giede Prime. 

The severity of their betrayal of House Atreides is felt throughout the Empire, and the Emperor makes no move or announcement regarding the event. This makes people suspicious, as it would mean that the Emperor knew something bad would happen on planet Arrakis in advance.

With Paul now one of the Fremen, it’s his job to prove himself a worthy leader, a prophesied messiah who would lead them to a “Green Paradise”. This religious conundrum is at the heart of Dune Part Two, as Paul struggles with his identity and the fact that he now belongs to two different worlds–the noble House Atreides and the Fremen of Arrakis.

Slow and Steady Storytelling

Dune Part Two is not an action movie. Right from the start, the movie assumes you’ve watched Dune Part One yesterday and are ready to pick all the story threads up immediately. Unlike something like Guardians of the Galaxy 3, this is a slow story filled with dialogues, visions of the future, and landscape shots of Arrakis. This might put some viewers off because it’s so unorthodox in 2024, where TikTok culture has led to shorter attention spans and a want for instant gratification.

Appropriately, the director himself stated that “movies have been corrupted by television” in recent years, and that he prefers traditional storytelling rather than abide by runtime, scheduling, and other production mandates. Dune Part Two is proof that this approach works. It’s a long movie that doesn’t overstay its welcome and it’s paced perfectly considering the density of its original text.

Following (False) Prophets

Dune Part Two doesn’t shy away from exploring sensitive religious topics. Messianic figures are always dangerous, and they are especially dangerous when they are alive and able to influence their followers directly. Paul reluctantly falls into his role as the chosen prophet of the Fremen, their Lisan al Gaib. He struggles with coming to terms with the fact that by accepting their ways, he strays farther and farther from the world he once knew.

On the other side of the coin, we have the Fremen, the people who waited centuries for their saviour to arrive. In Dune Part Two, they also struggle with the realization that their prophet might just be the foreign child that just arrived on their planet. Chani, wonderfully played by Zendaya, is the bridge from one world to the other. She is Paul’s guiding star and a voice of reason whenever he’s confused or scared.

The Fremen are truly given a spotlight in Dune Part Two, as their religious beliefs and way of life become influenced by Paul’s arrival as their potential messiah.

Denis Villeneuve’s Visual Style

Denis Villeneuve has established himself as a director with a particular visual style. His movies are very easy to “read” visually and aren’t cluttered to the point of oversaturation. The same can be said for Dune Part Two, which uses a minimalist approach to visual storytelling. 

Arrakis looks and feels alien, especially with Fremen and Harkonnen people speaking in distinct languages. You’ll spend a lot of time in Dune Part Two reading the subtitles because these alien humanoids don’t always speak English. English is mostly reserved for scenes focused on Paul, the proverbial foreigner in this world. 

Juxtaposing Arrakis, Giede Prime is a remarkable planet as the home of House Harkonnen. It orbits a black sun and everything on it is black and white. At night, the colour palette reverses and what was black, is now white. It’s a simple yet remarkable way to show just how alien these characters are. So for example, it then starts to make sense why the Harkonnens never get exposed to Arrakis’ sun directly due to their pale complexion. The movie is full of these small details that are never “in your face” but they’re right there if you wish to focus on them.

Grandiose Scale of Arrakis

We cannot discuss Dune Part Two without addressing Arrakis’ main attraction – the sandworms of Dune. Sandworms have become synonymous with the book series, representing the imposing alien force that Paul needs to tame to become the prophetic leader. 

Thanks to Denis Villeneuve’s directorial approach, these creatures are given the spotlight they deserve. They are gargantuan, towering over the dunes and allowing the Fremen to quickly travel across the planet. They don’t appear often to remain mysterious, but when they do appear, you know that it’s to establish who the true rules of Arrakis are.

Apart from the sandworms, the mechanical forces of House Harkonnen are just as dominating on the screen. Their flying machines, sand crawlers, as well as architecture, all get a chance to shine in Dune Part Two. It showcases just how outclassed and disproportionately equipped the Fremen are. What they lack in firepower, however, they make up in numbers, and with their prophesied messiah at their side, they aren’t afraid to take risks.

Is It a Good Adaptation?

The question that’s on everyone’s mind is whether Dune Part Two is a good adaptation of the original story. If Dune Part One was anything to judge by, then the answer is a resounding ‘Yes’. We can safely say that Dune finally has a worthy adaptation for those who are not big fans of reading. Or, for book fans who want to see their favourite story on the big screen.

While Villeneuve made some creative choices to streamline and focus the story a bit, the majority of Dune remains intact here. Dune Part Two is also filled with hints about Paul’s future, setting up a potential third movie that may happen sometime later. They are subtle and don’t detract from the story, serving as small rewards for those who spot them. It’s one of those movies that, if you’ve read the book, you won’t feel negative about any of the changes or adjustments made here–you’ll actually welcome them.

Léa Seydoux shines as a Bene Gesserit, arriving on Giede Prime to influence their politics.

Conclusion – Should you Watch Dune Part Two?

From a storytelling perspective, Dune Part Two is a movie from a bygone era. It respects the viewer’s attention and rewards it with plot twists and action scenes, unlike any other sci-fi movie in the last few years. Big modern franchises such as Star Wars pale in comparison to it, as they have become diluted and lost their identity over the years.

It’s a true wonder that Villeneuve managed to put this story on the big screen in such an uncompromised way. With the director expressing wishes to adapt the following book, Dune Messiah, as Part Three of this story, we can only hope we won’t wait too long for that to happen. As it stands, Dune Part Two is a landmark movie and a worthy successor to Part One. It’s definitely worth your time if you’re a fan of sci-fi or have been a long-time fan of the books but were afraid of watching its movie adaptation. 

You can watch Dune Part Two in Village Cinemas or your local cinema right now.

Rastislav Filip

Posts published: 45

Professional copywriter, full-time nerd, and a loving husband. Loves playing JRPGs and story-driven games, binging TV shows, and reading sci-fi/fantasy books. Probably writes content in his sleep.