Dune: Part 2 | Review by: Amanda Guarragi

 There’s a feeling that comes with watching a film on an epic scale that is indescribable. Not only has Denis Villeneuve done this three times in his career, but each film has become grander than the one before it. Villeneuve has mastered the sci-fi genre as he expertly weaves the human condition into space wars and the exploration of planets. He grounds his films with human emotions and universal themes anyone can relate to. Villeneuve’s vision for Dune: Part Two has set a new precedent for sci-fi filmmaking. Frank Herbert’s novel is dense with political jargon and the exploration of religion with the Fremen. Villeneuve expertly dissects the conflict in the book series in lament’s terms, so it’s not as difficult to follow. It may feel that Dune: Part Two is too straightforward, but the performances take this tragic story to another level. The journey we go on with these characters is transformative and alters the way of life of the Emporium for the future. 

Paul Atreides (Timotheé Chalamet) is learning the ways of the desert with the Fremen people. His mother, Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), knows her place among them and seeks ultimate power despite being pregnant with Paul’s sister. While the Fremen fight against Harkonnen warships slowly destroying their planet, Paul takes on the name Muad’dib and fights alongside them. Stilgar (Javier Bardem) puts his faith in Paul and believes he is the prophet meant to lead his people to paradise. There is a divide among the Fremen that Villeneuve explores as faith being the most influential factor in uniting people. Chani (Zendaya) is a non-believer and sees Paul as a human trying to survive this prophecy thrust upon him by the Bene Gesserits. Paul must navigate his duty to his people and the prophecy while building a relationship with Chani. He gets caught up in avenging his father and loses sight of who he is. In turn, Chani attempts to ground him so he doesn’t forget who he is. The more Paul steps into his role of the Lisan al Gaib, the more he questions the Bene Gesserits and their true intention in creating his mind. 

The first half of this film has Villeneuve building the relationship between Paul and the Fremen. Paul was humble and did not want to take advantage of the alliance, so he let Chani and Stilgar lead. Chalamet gives a nuanced internal performance as Paul begins to understand how to use the prophecy for political gain in the Emporium. This is Chalamet’s best performance since Call Me By Your Name because of how layered and complex the role of Paul becomes. It is one of the darkest roles he has played, and he transforms into someone lethal by the end of this second instalment. The slow build of Paul Atreides into the Kwisatz Haderach gave Chalamet so much to work with in the second half of this film. And every other performance was elevated by the drastic change in Paul. Zendaya’s performance is emotionally grounded in the fact that Chani truly loves him and doesn’t want to lose him to the prophecy. So when that final moment does happen in facing the Emperor, the tension between Chalamet and Zendaya is palpable. Villeneuve may have created a sci-fi epic on the grandest scale, but he let his scenes breathe through silence on screen. The most powerful moments were because of the reactions from the characters and not so much the rich dialogue. 

While the Fremen fight the Harkonnens, Baron Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgård) appoints his other nephew Feyd-Rautha (Austin Butler) to take over Beast Rabban’s (Dave Bautista) post because he isn’t killing the Fremen fast enough for the Harkonnen’s to inherit the spice production. The introduction of Feyd-Rautha was one of the best parts of the film. Butler was unhinged in this role, and audiences saw how brutal of a character Feyd-Rautha is in one battle sequence. Even having Princess Irulan (Florence Pugh) narrate diary entries of the Emperor’s (Christopher Walken) political strategies was just enough to understand the power of the Emporium. Villeneuve created a distinction between the three houses, and when switching from the Harkonnens to the Fremen to the Emperor, the cinematography by Greig Fraser was immaculate. The texture, lighting and colours used to depict each house became visual cues for the audience. The warm, earthy tones were tied to the Fremen, the steely blues and greys to the Emperor and the dark shadows to the Harkonnens. Even the fight choreography on Arrakis, with the stealthiness of the Fremen, was a sight to see. Villeneuve built so much tension within the last forty-five minutes of the film with Fraser and, of course, the chilling score by Hans Zimmer. The three of them had this perfect marriage to create the greatest sci-fi epic of our generation.

Dune: Part Two is incredibly special and needs to be seen on the largest screen possible. Not only does it feel like a perfect sequel, it instantly becomes a monumental moment in cinema for Denis Villeneuve. Nothing will prepare you for the final act of this film because every actor delivers their best performance, and Villeneuve highlighted their strengths so well. Every component of this film, from the sound design to the editing, was perfect. They say there are no "perfect" films. However, there can be remarkable films that could be objectively categorized as “perfect.” It’s still early to say that this sci-fi epic is the best film of the year, but it’s impossible not to love it and label it as the top one of 2024 so far. Villeneuve crafted an intimate story about religion and political corruption and made a tragic love story with a complex lead character losing himself to the prophecy. If the next instalment were to be made, Dune Messiah would add another layer to the chaos of the Holy War. There is much more left to explore in Frank Herbert’s Dune universe. After the success of this sequel, audiences will want to learn more about these characters and what happens to them. 


Review by: Amanda Guarragi

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