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‘Dune: Part Two’: The Sci-Fi Blockbuster of the Century

The highly anticpated sequel never drags or loses a grip on its immense scope.
%28Courtesy+of+Warner+Brothers+Pictures%29
(Courtesy of Warner Brothers Pictures)

 

When acclaimed director Denis Villeneuve set his sights on adapting Frank Herbert’s influential 1965 sci-fi novel “Dune,” many raised their eyebrows in suspicion. Time and time again, filmmakers attempted to capture the detailed world and story of “Dune” on the screen, and every time it failed. 

This was until Villeneuve’s adaptation was released in 2021 and blew audiences away, transporting them to a time and space completely foreign and seemingly unimaginable. Villeneuve had obtained the confidence of most viewers with his coverage of the first half of the book. Still, some fans had lingering doubts knowing the challenges the second half presented. The latter section of the novel is far larger in scope and doubles down on complex themes of genocide and religious extremism. To re-create this on film would be a thin, long tightrope to walk. So, did Villeneuve make it to the other side?

Yes. Yes, he did.

In “Dune: Part Two,” Paul Atreidies (Timothée Chalamet), joined with Chani (Zendaya) and the Fremen, seeks to take revenge on the forces that destroyed his home and family. Paul faces down the Emperor (Christopher Walken) and fulfills a daunting prophecy of war in the process.

Endlessly Engaging

Austin Butler in ‘Dune: Part Two’ (Courtesy of Warner Bros.)

One thing that is immediately recognizable from the first few sequences of the film is how expertly Villeneuve has simplified the book’s most complex aspects for the screen. This is not to say that he’s dulled them in any way. Rather, he’s brought them to their fullest clearest potential and made them digestible for all audiences.

By doing this, the film refrains from alienating the viewer, making for a seamless two-hour and 46-minute-long experience that feels tighter than its shorter predecessor. Whether it’s the circumstances of a brutal gladiatorial fight or the meaning of a hallucinatory vision of the future, the film shows the audience what they need to know so they can be locked into the intensity of the moment.

This is integral since there is not a minute wasted throughout the film. Moving at a lightning-fast pace, every scene is an event including introduction, build-up and execution. For example, when the proposition of Paul learning to ride a sandworm is made, the movie takes no time to get to Paul preparing to leap onto the back of a monstrous Shai-Hulud. For a lesser-constructed film, this could be an issue, becoming all filler and no substance. Because each event in “Dune: Part Two” is fundamental to the story and so intricately designed from top to bottom, the pace ensures the film never drags or loses a grip on its immense scope.

(Courtesy of Warner Bros.)

Stunning for the Eyes & Soul

The film’s enormous scope is in large part thanks to cinematographer Greig Fraser. While Fraser captured the otherworldly planets of Dune beautifully in the first film, here he has more fun. Fraser plays with shadows, deeper colors and unique imagery of the architecture littered across the lands visited. The best of this comes in the film’s action-packed third act as armies are devoured by worms, cities and warships are brought to flames and a knife fight determines the fate of the universe.

It would be amiss to not also mention the phenomenal production design. The film’s themes of spiritualism and violence breathe through the written-on walls of sacred temples and the looming towers of a monotone kingdom.

Where “Dune: Part Two” goes from being an amazingly pretty and entertaining epic to an all-time great science fiction masterpiece is with its willingness to lean into the tragedy of the story. Being the first big blockbuster of the year, and one that hopes to bring in large crowds, the filmmakers could have subdued the darkness of the book’s original ending. Yet, they didn’t. Instead, the movie is at its core the frightening tale of a figure rising to power through religious fanaticism and leading a world into endless slaughter.

There is some humor sprinkled in the first half of the film due mostly to Javier Bardem’s character. By the movie’s second half, however, it is all goosebumps and chills brought on by the awe-inspiring spectacle and the horrifying realization that you are watching the dawn of a new era brought on by genocide. Like all great scientific fiction, “Dune: Part Two” is a lesson on humanity’s worst tendencies. 

Stars That Shine

Courtesy of Warner Bros.

The tragedy of the film would not be translated as well if leads Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya weren’t as incredible as they are. Together, the two share a real romantic spark worth rooting for. This eventually makes the inevitable conflict between them difficult to watch.

A shared glimpse between the two during the finale explains the pain of the scene more than any words could. Alone, Zendaya’s passion as Chani is realistic and relatable. Her desperate determination to stay an individual in a community melding together is heartbreaking. Chalamet delivers his greatest performance, being a true powerhouse on the screen. His transformation from a confident but unsure teenager to a ruthless war leader and religious messiah is arresting and genuinely terrifying.

Actors Rebecca Ferguson and Austin Butler are also eating up their roles, the latter having arguably too much fun being the most evil, gross and despicable character to cross the big screen in recent memory.

Lastly, Hans Zimmer’s incredible score cannot be left unrewarded. His use of drums, synths and electric guitars defines the movie’s audio language and ties every aspect of the film together. His love theme for Paul and Chani is particularly magnificent and sounds like an auditory definition of what watching the film feels like. 

It may sound like hyperbole but “Dune: Part Two” is one of, if not the greatest, blockbuster to come out in the last two decades. With outstanding performances, visuals and storytelling, it’s hard to find a recent film that can match its truly unparalleled mastery. Gather who you can, buy your tickets and witness cinema history on March 1. 

 

[email protected]

@grahamcool8

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About the Contributor
Graham Jones, Arts Writer, News For U Producer
Graham Jones was born and raised in Portland, Oregon and moved to Utah to study film. Despite his passion for cinema, Graham joined the Chronicle to engage with the University of Utah community and pursue his love for journalism. Outside of the student media office, Graham can be found buried deep into the pages of a graphic novel or lip-syncing to the greatest hits of the 60s, 70s and 80s.

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  • A

    Andre MontoyaFeb 21, 2024 at 1:44 pm

    Great review Graham! It’s so cool that you got to go to the screening for the review. As if I couldn’t get more hype!

    Reply
  • J

    James RoachFeb 21, 2024 at 12:04 pm

    May thy knife chip and shatter

    Reply