Dune: Part Two

Now that Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) has not only been accepted by the Fremen, but thought by many, especially Stilgar (Javier Bardem), to be the Mahdi who will save the spice producing planet of Arrakis, he must choose between his own desire and the fate of the universe in “Dune: Part Two.”

Laura's Review: B-

If you haven’t seen Part One of “Dune” since it came out over two  years ago, you may want to revisit before viewing Part Two as cowriter (with "Part One's" Jon Spaihts)/director Denis Villeneuve jumps right back into the action where it left off with no exposition to allow one to catch one’s breath.  If the first part was full of intrigue, politics and betrayal, the follow-up is its ponderous playing out as Atreides fights against the Harkonnen ravishing Arrakis for Spice with the Fremen who live there while his expectant parent Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) defies tradition to become a powerful Bene Gesserit Reverend Mother.  Gurney Halleck (Josh Brolin), last seen disappearing into the fog of war reappears to Paul’s great delight and the Fremen’s distrust.  And once again, the film ends with a cliffhanger, a third installment all but guaranteed.

This one has two big things going for it.  Director of photography Greig Fraser has made the sand dunes of Arrakis truly stunning, the film far more of a visual feast than its predecessor (special effects are also notable, Villeneuve going for sweep with his Fascistic Harkonnen army and their massive firepower).  And in this one, Timmy surfs a sandworm, a rousing scene and great effect that cements his status with Stilgar and is repeated alongside multiple Fremen, including love interest Chani (Zendaya), near film’s end.  But while many may be impressed with the introduction of Baron Harkonnen’s (Stellan Skarsgård) sociopathic nephew Feyd-Rautha, as played by a bald Austin Butler (“Elvis”) he seems little more than a black and white special effect, albeit a visually interesting one.  More disappointing is our introduction to the Emperor, Christopher Walken’s slack-jawed, one note performance suggesting senility, his daughter, Princess Irulan (Florence Pugh), presenting as the real power behind the throne.

Another “Part Two” introduction is Léa Seydoux’s Bene Gesserit Lady Margot Fenring, sent to seduce Feyd-Rautha before his big arena scene against a slave gladiator.  Anna Taylor-Joy’s much commented upon cameo is one of Paul’s glimpses into the future.  In fact, most of “Dune: Part Two’s” intrigue involves its female characters, from Lady Jessica training with Reverend Mother Ramallo (Giusi Merli) and attaining power ingesting the ‘Water of Life’ to the big emotional moment involving Atreides, Irulan and Chani near film’s end.  Reverend Mother Mohiam (Charlotte Rampling) is in one foul mood indeed.

Fans of the Frank Herbert novels may be well pleased as punch, but despite this one’s cinematic grandeur, I found its story telling over two hour and forty-six minutes mostly tedious.

Warner Brothers releases "Dune: Part Two" in theaters on 3/1/24.