Review: ‘Dune: Part Two’ is a 2024 sci-fi spectacle

By Bryan Doan, March 19, 2024

“Power over spice is power overall.”

Director Denis Villeneuve worms his way in “Dune: Part Two,” the long-awaited sequel to the box office success of its predecessor “Dune: Part One.” Villeneuve perfectly showcases what an extravagant science-fiction movie looks like within Dune through the use of compelling storytelling and appealing visuals.

In “Dune Part Two,” Paul Atreides joins forces with the Fremen to seek justice for his family’s downfall. As he grapples with the weight of his destiny, Paul must make a pivotal decision: to prioritize the love of his life or the fate of the universe. With his unique foresight, Paul navigates a dangerous journey to alter the course of history and prevent a catastrophic future.

Following the events of the first film, the survivors of House Atreides, Paul Atreides, played by actor Timothée Chalamet, and his mother, Lady Jessica, played by actress Rebecca Ferguson, are on the run hiding from the Harkonnens. Their journey starts after a devastating surprise attack on the spice planet of Arrakis, where their father, Leto Atreides, was murdered along with their entire army overnight, leaving the production of spice in the hands of the Harkonnens.

In the first act Paul and Lady Jessica find refuge with the blue-eyed Fremen, the planet’s Indigenous population. Among those are Chani, played by actress Zendaya, and Stilgar, played by actor Javiar Bardem, freedom fighters trying to liberate the Fremen from occupational rule.

From there, Paul and Lady Jessica journey as outsiders to integrated members of the Fremen. Paul successfully performs the rite of passage – surfing on a giant sandworm – and Jessica take over as a religious leader known as the Reverend Mother.

Part Two is a cinematic sensation. Unlike many contemporary films that rely solely on CGI, “Dune” stands out for its impeccable fusion of CGI and practical effects. This blend brings the universe of the film to life in a breathtakingly realistic manner. This attention to detail elevates the film beyond imagination, making the film authentic and immersive.

The most captivating part of the film was the attention to detail in costume design. Each planet displayed its unique style, with the Harkonnen utilizing a brutalist and gothic aesthetic, while the Bene Gesserit presented a beautiful modern interpretation of medieval fashion.

The outfits worn by Princess Irulan, played by actress Florence Pugh, stood out as some of the most striking throughout the movie by incorporating the silhouette of a Catholic nun inspired by medieval armory.

The sound design felt meticulously crafted. The deep pounding sounds of the thumpers, the sound of sand rattling in the desert and the equipment and machinery had their own distinctive notes of a futuristic audial experience.

In contrast, the soundtrack and score were weak and unmemorable in Part Two. Even though it was composed by Hans Zimmer, known for his exceptional work in films like “Interstellar,” the music in this installment fell short of expectations. Apart from the main theme that was carried over from Part One, the soundtracks throughout the film felt minimalistic and lacking in depth for a movie of this intensity.

The first act had a slow start with lighthearted and occasionally comical scenes depicting Paul immersing himself in Fremen culture along with special moments hinting at the relationship between Chani and Paul.

But it was necessary for what came in the next two acts. This deliberate pacing was essential for establishing Paul and his relationship with the Fremen people and most importantly with Chani.

The scene that stood out most in the movie was on Giedi Prime, home world to the House of Harkonnen. Bathed by the “black sun,” which absorbs all color, a beautiful imagery of black and white is created. The world is emphasizing their constant vision for power and greed. According to an interview, the scene was filmed by mixing infrared and color cameras together.

Austin Butler’s portrayal of the sadistic and unhinged psychopath Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen is striking. As he slays his foes, his chilling expressions and chaotic demeanor evoke a sense of terror. Butler fully embodies the chaos of Feyd-Rautha, overflowing with a terrifying aura. His performance during moments of senseless violence is eerie and impressive, leaving a lasting impact on the audience.

Chalamet’s performance in Part Two is very much like a sandstorm, leaving a mark on the audience with his presence. Most notably in the final scenes and his character’s evolution throughout the film, revealing the nuances of his character’s internal conflict that continues to gnaw at him.

Portraying as Paul, viewers can see his desire for revenge toward the Harkonnens and longing to be with Chani, to his notable shift on becoming a frightening war-mongering Messiah. Chalamet was menacing, being able to command an entire planet with the power to wield military and political influence to wipe out multiple nations is no easy feat.

Serving as the heart of Part Two, Zendaya’s performance evolves subtly throughout the film, but it is in the third act where her portrayal truly shines. Being the only character unfazed by religious prophecies or the desire for power, she emerges as a determined and independent figure.

In relation to Fremen characters, Bardem’s portrayal of Stilgar is underrated. Many will joke about his moments of his devotion early in the movie, yet his character is the glue that holds the characters and the film together.

“Dune: Part Two” pushes the boundaries of its genre of science fiction. Villeneuve crafts an intimate exploration of power, prophecy and destiny.

Feature image courtesy of Warner Bros. 

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