Dune: Part Two (2024)

A darker, more brooding follow-up, Dune: Part Two will leave many an audience unsure as to how to feel, a delicious murkiness casting a dark pall over the narrative. There’s an unexpected foreboding that ekes its way throughout the veins of the filmthat might catch many a viewer off guard. The follow up to Denis Villeneuve’s 2021 sci-fi epic, Part Two establishes itself as one of the great sequels of cinema, sitting comfortably next to the likes of The Empire Strikes Back, The Godfather Part 2 and The Dark Knight.

Following the Harkonnen’s siege against House Atreides and their hostile takeover of the spice production on Arrakis, Paul Atreides (Timotheé Chalamet) finds himself on the run alongside mother Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) and a small band of Fremen lead by Stilgar (Javier). At first seen as an outsider, the Fremen are reluctant to welcome Paul among their people, that is until Paul helps to disrupt the Harkonnen’s spice production, enacting his own plan for revenge against the House that killed his father. Fighting alongside Chani (Zendaya), Paul is seen as the prophet Mahdi, who the Fremen see as “The One Who Will Lead Us to Paradise”, a mantle and mythology only bolstered by his Bene Gesserit mother. 

Where Dune: Part One did an immense amount of heavy lifting in order to set up Frank Herbert’s complex and layered world, Dune: Part Two is free to throw the viewer headlong into the deeper thematics that part one left on the table. Embedded amongst the Fremen, Paul becomes the centre of their internal religious struggle, between believers and non-believers, those that see the young Duke as their long awaited prophet and those who feel he’s an interloper and the mechanism for their undoing. It’s this heavier focus on the religious that makes this second entry near tonally different to the first, and a more complete story. 

Dune: Part Two is dense, sometimes insurmountably so. However, Villeneuve and co-writer, Jon Spaihts make the wise decision to depict a vast universe but focus in on a core group of key players. Where some films will be fascinated with the surface-level gloss, Part Two is far more interested in getting at the heart of the humanity (or lack thereof) of each central figure. As gigantic as this world might become, it feels more intimate, as the battles that each character faces aren’t merely on the sandy horizons of Arrakis, but inward. Paul, struggling with having lost his home and his father, must wrestle with the idea that he may be a Messianic figure to millions of the Fremen, or, if his dreams are indeed prophetic, the death dealer to billions more. As this internal struggle rages on for the film’s hefty runtime, you begin to forget about the whiz-bang sensory experience in front of you and, instead, hope beyond hope that the young Atreides decides against walking down a darker path. 

Much like the first, Villeneuve has assembled a team, in front and behind the camera, that are working at the top of their craft. From production design, cinematography, visual effects, score and sound design, there isn’t a single visual or audible element that isn’t spectacular. In front of the camera, everyone are varying degrees of superb. Chalamet, once again, brings a quiet confidence to his role as Atreides, which only grows, culminating in a surprisingly scary turn as Paul begins to fully understand his role as a possible prophet. Zendaya is pricklish but warm, with Chani’s spirit completely immersed in the fight for her world and her heart beating for her people. Stellan Skarsgard is just as grotesque as ever, electing a strong physical reaction every time his bloated Baron floats his way on screen like a meaty balloon full of bile and evil. But it’s Rebecca Ferguson who’s the surprise standout of the film. In Part One her Lady Jessica was a maternal, guiding hand for Paul, a beacon helping him find the right path. As the story of Part Two plays out, that softness makes way for the sinister, as the once mother and advisor becomes Paul’s herald, building his mythology as his battle against the Harkonnens rages on. It’s a near terrifying turn as you watch her slowly lose her humanity and become a shadow of her former self as she works tirelessly to galvanise the various factions of the Fremen towards a possible Holy War lead by her son. 

Impressive is an understatement when it comes to tracking the path of Villeneuve’s career. More-so that he’s found a comfortable home in something as deeply complex as humanistic sci-fi. To be able to take. the genre to the heights that he has demonstrates a fundamental understanding of the heart. His fascination and reverence for the humanity of the stories he tells elevates Dune: Part One and Part Two as some of the finest examples of sci-fi cinema the genre has to offer. 

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