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Dune: Part Two (R) ★★★★

By March 17, 2024March 18th, 2024Backstage Pass

Once in a while, a sweeping saga masterpiece comes along, such as 1977’s “Star Wars,” retroactively retitled “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope” by George Lucas or Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings trilogy” 2001-2003 or James Cameron’s (2009) “Avatar”— “Dune: Part 2” is most definitely in the same league.

It not only continues the brilliance of the first film it sets a new bar for just how good sci-fi films should be. With an engaging story and a cast at their very best, along with stunning visuals, this is a masterpiece. As with the Oscar-winning first instalment, Villeneuve shows visual mastery of scale and scope, along with impressive cinematography.

Viewing the film in an IMAX theater with Dolby sound brought back memories of the prior films listed above. As a result, I recommend seeing it on the most giant screen possible. Based on Frank Herbert’s idolized sci-fi novel, some have said the movie could never be made due to the book’s complexities and the visual science fiction effects. I’m here to tell you it’s been done as director Dennis Villeneuve has succeeded in a colossal way.

Part 2 follows the journey of Paul Atreides (Timothee Chalamet) very closely after the first one ends, as he unites with Chani (Zendaya) and the Fremen, who are not free men. He’s also on a path of revenge against those who destroyed his family, with the help of a Fremen tribal leader named Stilgar (Javier Bardem), who is convinced that Paul is the chosen one. Stilgar believes the mythology points to Paul as the savior, the Emo King. Paul tries to blend with the Fremen, forming a relationship with a young warrior named Chani. He passes several tests given by the Fremen. He takes the tribal name of Muad’Dib, vowing vengeance against the Harkonnens for control of Arrakis and revenge for his father’s death.

During the combat scenes, watching bodies fall from the sky as colossal ships burst into flames appears virtually like an opera when looking at a film’s style. As Rabban Harkonnen, Dave Bautista is a wartime leader whose situation has exceeded his abilities, while Stellan Skarsgard has shades of Jabba the Hutt. I also enjoyed Bautista’s performance as he dug deep into the role, and it is eerily believable. You’ll feel immersion into vast worlds of endless sand that are only traveled with precise movements. Also, in a parallel scene, on another planet, Emperor Shaddam IV (Christopher Walken) and his daughter, a Princess, Irulan (Florence Pugh), speak with Bene Gesserit’s Reverend Mother (Charlotte Rampling) about the state of affairs. Irluan provides voice-over or narration to keep audiences up to speed on what is happening.

You may be wondering about Austin Butler’s psycho-path role as Feyd-Rautha, the evil villain and the star of the movie’s most haunting set, the Harkonnen’s home planet of Giedi Prime, shown in nearly all black and white with infrared imagery. There’s a Gladiator-style stadium that serves as an arena for maintaining his champion status as a butcherer of drugged-up prisoners. Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, the ultra-evil humongous blob, tests his worth by sending former Atreides soldiers to fight. Again, all of Butler’s scenes are filmed in black and white, delivering the feeling of everlasting doom and horror. He’s the sociopathic nephew of the Baron, who gives a realistic, organic performance.

I enjoyed seeing all of the famous stars in the film; Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Austin Butler, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Javier Bardem, and Florence Pugh are all fantastic in their roles. Ultimately, Chalamet is the most transformed, taking on his new role of a leader with some surprises along the way. He rises to the occasion, speaking with astute confidence and determination; his transformation and stellar acting are exciting to view as Paul chooses between the love of his life and the fate of the known universe as he attempts to prevent a horrific future that only he can foresee.

If you haven’t seen “Dune: Part 1”, I’d suggest watching that first, as most of the characters are set up, especially Paul and his family’s transition. You will be blown away by “Dune: Part 2”, as it reminds you that a broad-scale blockbuster can be done with artistry and flair. You may also have flashbacks to other masterpiece-epic films of the past.

Denis Villeneuve director of “Dune: Part Two”

On a side note, I was invited to a Zoom Press conference with Denis Villeneuve, and found it very insightful. Especially when he was asked about the epic scope of the film yet keeping the emotional heartbeat.

He replied: It’s everything epic and the action, and that is not something that is that difficult to do. The thing that is difficult to do is to make sure that we don’t lose focus on the intimate relationship more precisely, the story between Paul and Chani. That’s the heartbeat, it’s like their relationship will unfold all drama of the film. Through the eyes of Chani and Paul, we feel the political pressure, the cultural pressure, the oppression. I really constructed the movie focused on the tension between them. I knew that and I kept saying to my crew, “If we don’t believe in their relationship, we don’t have a movie.” And that was my main focus during the whole shoot, to take care and to be as close to them as possible.

Directed By: Denis Villeneuve

Screenplay By: Denis Villeneuve and Jon Spaihts

Based On: The novel Dune by Frank Herbert

Produced By: Mary Parent, Cale Boyter, Denis Villeneuve, Tanya Lapointe and Patrick McCormick

Executive Produced By: Joshua Grode, Jon Spaihts, Thomas Tull, Herbert W. Gains, Brian Herbert, Byron Merritt, Kim Herbert, Richard P. Rubinstein and John Harrison, with Kevin J. Anderson serving as creative consultant

Starring: Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Josh Brolin, Austin Butler, Florence Pugh, Dave Bautista, Christopher Walken, Léa Seydoux, Souheila Yacoub, with Stellan Skarsgård, with Charlotte Rampling, and Javier Bardem

Rated: PG-13 for “sequences of strong violence, some suggestive material and brief strong language.”

Run Time: 166 minutes (2hr 46min)

Sarah Knight Adamson© March 18, 2024