Film Review- Dune Part 2


This is a proper thrill of a movie which faithfully represents the book while keening towards making as exciting a film as possible. It sets a different pace from the first part being dynamic and exciting where that was thoughtful and moody while succeeding in painting a place that seems realistic. Even though there are plenty of digital effects they are rendered to fit in with the picturesque locations. The book is famously knotty, filled with the internal thoughts of many of the characters and this film captures that aspect even better than the first part without resorting to endless narration. There are also some of the most thrilling battle sequences you’ll see peppered through the film. If part one had a stillness, part two barely stops for breath and is certainly the zippiest two and three quarter hour film I’ve seen. At the end I felt like I had sand in my shoes.

Spoilers follow in this review...


The action picks up more or less straight away from part one as the Fremen somewhat reluctantly allow Paul and Jessica head for shelter in the South. With murmurings of resentment over the death of Jamis at the end of the first film and some suspicion over tales of a prophecy Paul has a lot to prove before he can join the counter attack to the Harkonnens. Along the way both he and his mother experience major changes that move them closer to the respective destinies. Meanwhile the endless attacks drive Baron Harkonnen and the Emperor to employ increasingly drastic measures so that they can rid themselves of this thorn in their side.

It is a much faster paced film than the first punctuated by numerous action sequences each with their own inventive turn. One of the highlights is the first time Paul rides a sandworm in which the visuals and sound becomes cacophonous making for a real immersive experience and terrifically exciting.  And these enigmatic sand dwellers will prove to be the ultimate element of surprise later on during the breathtaking climactic battle which is about the most epic thing you will ever see!

Everything from the sandscape to the combat is visceral and hard edged, especially a centrepiece tussle between Paul and Feyd Rautha which is brilliantly choreographed and shot to make you gasp at what looks like real jeopardy. Arrakis continually seems like the most dangerous place in the Universe! The saturated colour palette brings out the grain and muted décor so well and we’re even treated to a monochrome sequence that looks stunning. All the action is supported by Hans Zimmer’s very loud atmospheric symphonics which cement the strangeness of the movie. It is a blockbuster for sure, but every frame is treated with the care you’d see in a much more low key indie or arthouse film.

It’s not all spectacle either, there’s a real sense of relevance to the material which examines religious manipulation, destiny and warfare from different angles. Of course the parallels with many real historic situations and even things in today’s news looms over this story. Are the Fremen terrorists or freedom fighters?  Even our hero Paul has to become a less likeable character to achieve his ends. With several other sub plots involving people on both sides manoeuvring for position not to mention the hovering presence of the Bene Gesserit there are a lot of stands.

The film does, as the first did, omit some long sequences yet everything we need to know is here  Just as the Fremen seem at one with their desert environment- some scenes show them leaping out of hiding from under sand- so the Bene Gesserit are in their element when shaping events yet just as vital amidst the spectacle are the character moments that allow us a similar insight into each person as the book .It can be a look or a movement but the camera picks it all up.

As he acquires friends, supporters and finally worshippers (as well as a slew of names) Paul finds he has to change yet he remains reticent to step into the prophecy until t becomes inevitable.  He way he is gradually moves from being a stranger to a leader to a mythical figure is well presented. I’m not always a fan of fiction that leans too much on the idea of `prophecy` or `destiny` but this story is persuasively played and we see different attitudes to Paul’s ascent. Paul’s rise is often orchestrated by other people’s perception of him and he himself says he wants simply to be part of the Fremen rather than their leader, much less their God. He knows too that if he takes the steps prophesised he cannot stay with Chani. Is this just a white saviour story though? Technically perhaps but it is not Paul’s prophecy, he is a reluctant messiah at every step.

All of which is so well performed by Timothee Chalamet whose undoubted charisma is tested as the narrative progresses and he is definitely up for the challenge. He and Zendaya’s Chani also have great chemistry and her role in this film is to challenge him while at the same time caring for him. When he makes a big decision at the end, the look on her face tells you exactly what she is feeling. Austin Butler’s feral Feyd Rautha is a terrifying character amidst a film that contains several dangerous people – the actor’s animalistic movement and expression really makes an impact. It is not just Paul who changes, his mother Jessica undergoes a ritual called the Water of Life (basically drinking the water from a sandworm) to become a Reverend Mother and her parental protectiveness so evident in the first film is replace by a cold calculating demeanour which Rebecca Ferguson is able to show despite a face covered in lettering and behind a veil. Incidentally however spooky the Bene Gesserit look in their high hats, I couldn’t help but wonder about the practicalities. Presumably they never visit a planet with low ceilings!

From such a densely plotted and inhabited story Denis Villeneuve has superbly filleted the key moments and thus the movie is easy to follow even for anyone who didn’t see the first one. It Is one of those films that transcends its genre to become a must see experience – an epic in every sense of the word! Now they’ve got to film Dune Messiah surely…



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