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Film Review: Dune: Part Two

Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides in “Dune: Part Two.”

The Dune series seems to be cursed. From either unsuccessful or scrap adaptations in the 80’s to the book accurate, yet budget-limited TV series in the early 2000’s, Dune became heralded as an unadaptable series. Now, director Denis Villeneuve takes a shot at this beast of a book and, similarly, faced challenges as well due to both Covid-19 and the Writers’ Strike that forced both of his films to be delayed. Nevertheless, Dune: Part Two was recently released this year and I can confidently say that the film is just as good as, if not better than, the first film.

The film, just like the first part, is massive in scale. From the Sietch of Tabr to the entire industrial planet of the Harkonnen’s, the film is just leaping with history. Villeneuve yet again shows that you can create an entire new world from just the world around us and not from a simple green screen.

The sandworms sound and feel almost biblical when they move across the desert and destroy everything in their path. I never felt like I was watching something artificially designed, but instead something that I could touch and almost smell.

However, for such a grand scale, there seems to be a lack of creative design in the sets. The movie can be minimalistic to a fault where some scenes feel too empty in space to a point where it’s almost comical. Sometimes it works, like the amazing design of Sietch Tabr and any of the scenes involving the South.

Other times, it doesn’t work, like in some of the scenes in Geidi Prime and the Imperial throne room. The imperial palace of the emperor himself should feel decadent and filled with gold but is instead a decently sized room with stone stairs that lead to a pathetically small throne. This extends to some of the costumes where characters that are supposed to represent imperial power are wearing drabs that you would wear when going to bed. As scrutinized as David Lynch’s Dune was, it was bustling with intricate sets that screamed personality. In Part Two, that’s sadly not the case.

Dune: Part Two - First Poster Is Released, Trailer Drops Tomorrow
Dune: Part Two promotional poster (BleedingCool, Warner Bros).

However, the characters in Part Two have more personality. Instead of the stoic and subdued nature of most characters in the first film, they actually feel like human beings that you can relate to. A notable shoutout would be Stilgar (Javier Bardem) who adds a great sense of levity to what is basically a war movie. He’s legitimately funny and is always acting his heart out.

Gurney Halleck (Josh Brolin) also feels more tangible as he actually has motivation and isn’t just looking annoyed for the entire movie. The newcomers of the franchise like Austin Butler and Florence Pugh give strong performances as well (Austin Butler specifically, who will definitely be the highlight of the film for most people). Christopher Walken is probably the only member of the cast that I thought was just okay, but that was more because he lacked great writing and was barely in the film compared to the other cast.

The relationship between Chani and Paul would probably be the biggest drawback I have with the film. The characters themselves aren’t bad and both Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya give great performances, but the relationship itself doesn’t feel earned. They barely talked to each other in the last movie, and they also barely talked to each other in this film before they started to hit it off.

There’s always a sense that there were scenes that were cut between them as I never fully believed in their dynamic together, which is a problem since that’s one of the most important aspects of the film. It makes the last 5 minutes of the movie feel a bit dry compared to the heartbreak that you were supposed to feel because they needed more time together for the audience to connect to them at a deeper level.

That aside, the film is a great spectacle that truly earns the right to be titled a sci-fi epic. Paul’s arc is satisfyingly poignant, the action is amazing (if sometimes a bit short), the music is alienlike, and the characters are a step above what they were in the original. It’s not perfect and the ending isn’t as strong as it needed to be, but it’s still a must-see film that everyone, sci-fi fan or not, will enjoy. 4/5.

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