Dune: Part Two – Film Review

In the year 10191, the most valuable resource in the galaxy is ‘Spice’. A hallucinogen, Spice is required for interstellar travel but can only be found in one source, the hostile desert planet of Arrakis. “The Spice must flow” and whoever controls the mining of Spice, controls life throughout the universe.

When we last saw Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) and his mother Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), their royal house had been wiped out. House Harkonnen led by the vile Baron Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgård) had stolen back control of Arrakis through a decisive night-time assault. Seeking refuge in the inhospitable desert, Paul and Jessica had made contact with the Fremen, natives of Arakis who have survived in the sand for generations. Biding their time, Paul learns the ways of the Fremen people from warrior woman Chani (Zendaya) and the deeply religious Stilgar (Javier Bardem).

Joining their fight, Paul aids the Fremen in their war against Harkonnen mining operations. They begin seeing him as their “Kwisatz Haderach”, a prophecy seeded long ago by the Bene Gesserit (a superhuman sisterhood to which Jessica belongs). With Jessica stoking these flames of superstition, Baron Harkonnen enlists his psychotic nephew Feyd (Austin Butler) as commander to wipe out the Fremen. Wishing to avenge his family, Paul must now decide between his love for Chani or becoming the “chosen one”. Should he take that step, he will gain terrifying power but there will be no turning back once he does…

To say that Frank Herbert‘s 1965 sci-fi novel ‘Dune’ had a lasting impact would be an understatement as epic as the work itself. It went on to spawn sequels by Herbert before his son Brian, continued the now 23 book saga! The expansive story of warring houses in space has been compared to The Lord of The Rings and more recently, Game of Thrones. In 2021, visionary filmmaker Denis Villeneuve gave us his most ambitious film yet with Dune: Part One. Intended as a trilogy, he now presents us the next chapter in his unique take on Herbert‘s incredible story.

Villeneuve and Dune really is a match made in heaven. Rarely am I truly in awe of visual effects in film. With entire movies regularly being shot against green screen, the novelty wears off. But anyone who has watched Villeneuve‘s Blade Runner 2049 (not to mention Dune: Part One) can attest to his ability to create jaw dropping spectacles with a mix of real sets, CGI and miniature effects.

The director lends his distinct visual style to bringing this incredibly vibrant universe to life; mining trucks the size of skyscrapers, ships the size of cities! Not to mention, something I’m sure fans of Dune have been looking forward to with Paul proving himself in an iconic scene.

Accompanied by a rousing score by Hans Zimmer, there are moments of true brilliance. At one point, it’s a story of political conspiracy. At another, a hypnotic vision quest. Then later, a mesmerising and explosive planetary holy war. You can feel Frank Herbert‘s Dune as a tangible thing on a scale which before now, could only ever be dreamed of.

However, in many ways this is more Villeneuve‘s Dune than it is Herbert‘s. This middle act of the story picks up immediately after the finale of Dune: Part One and we follow Paul‘s journey closely. The first film did an impressive job setting the scene for the war on Arrakis and giving us a basic understanding of the politics involved. This film is much more action heavy than its predecessor and to that end – it is a thrilling experience.

But there have been changes made from the source material and I feel it leaves aspects of the film lacking. The Fremen and their society for their importance to the story don’t feel fully fleshed out as there’s simply not enough time to do so. Paul and Chani‘s entire relationship, his ascension to leadership, Feyd‘s introduction and other plot threads feel rushed. The odd decision to not include a time skip which is present in the original book (and all other adaptations) compounds these issues. With this entire epic story taking place over a matter of mere months rather than years.

Dune has always been a story so grandiose that it’s difficult to satisfactorily adapt to the silver screen. Knowledge of the book would definitely help one understand the story more but it isn’t strictly necessary, nor should it be.

Dune: Part Two is an exciting, visually stunning and mature film. It may have a few issues with pacing but this is the kind of ambitious blockbuster I yearn to see Hollywood make. Most definitely one which demands to be seen on the biggest screen possible.

Dune: Part Two is in cinemas now.

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