Dune: Part Two

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ based on 1 review.

tl;dr: A masterclass in narrative, action, and – in particular – design. 




Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

There's always some concern with a sequel to something as epic as Dune was. It's definitely been a while since a film series has been this captivating and immediately beloved. Thankfully, Part Two (despite the incredibly dull name) manages to both live up to the original and arguably improve on it. There's no denying that this is a bit of a bridge film, but as a conclusion to the major themes and arcs of its predecessor, it does a great job.

The cast remain exceptional across the board, though some serious props have to go to both Zendaya and to newcomer Austin Butler. I thought Zendaya masterfully tread the line between love interest, antagonist, and voice of sanity, really hammering home the key criticisms of a "white male saviour" narratives and the lessens that should be learned from historic abuses of religious ideology and tribalism by colonialist interests. These are not new motifs – they're very much a key part of the original book – but the film does a cracking job of highlighting them, without tiring them out. Butler, on the other hand, is just pure acting chops. He handily matches up to Chalamet and the rest of the more experience cast, and I feel like he very much elevated his character. Feyd-Rautha could have easily been a one-note psychopathic villain – dude has a triplet of cannibal brides after all! – but his subtle interactions, combined with some clever camera work, ensure that his intelligence and cunning are very much front-and-center. I'll be honest, I didn't even clock how well he was able to mimic Skarsgård's incredibly distinctive accent, but I think that just further cements how brilliant this performance was.

But Dune is much more than just an exceptional cast and stellar direction. Much like the first film, the design work here is breathtaking. The monotone birthday celebrations on the Harkonnen home world are mind-bending, and left me desperate to understand how much was CGI and how much was in-camera or even on-set trickery. Either way, this implosive fireworks? 👩‍🍳😘 And that moment when the worms are revealed within the sandstorm? A perfect action beat, brilliantly framed.

Speaking of action, I haven't seen a fight sequence as fresh and anxiety-inducing as the finale between Butler and Chalamet. It managed to balance the visceral reality that a knife fight inherently has with a kind of poetic beauty, all whilst staying grounded and incredibly tense. The way the actors moved felt not just realistic, but realistically practised, creating a truth of their intense training during their respective upbringing. But the moments it really shone were when one or both of them had to react instinctively. A leg block here, and shove there, a desperate pivot away from an unexpected jab. They kept the fight feeling gritty yet also deeply entertaining and unexpected. A masterclass in choreography!

So what else is there left to praise? The narrative delivered on all of the promises of the first film, whilst deftly heightening the stakes and expanding the world-building, particularly of the Fremen people. The new characters were nicely introduced, alongside new mysteries. And Paul's ascension to the status of a Messianic figure was dealt with really well, with as much push back as he could manage, desperately trying to find another way, which only made his character more likeable.

Aside from one minor plot niggle – why not just launch the nuclear attack immediately, if he wanted to avoid going south so much? – my only real concern is looking ahead. With the fight on Dune now complete, Paul's order for the loyal Fremen to take to the stars and fight for him against the other families is the first moment we really see how far he has fallen. But more than that, it marks a shift in the narrative focus, from this relatively tightly-knit tale of two families and the indigenous people caught in the crossfire, to one of galaxy-spanning proportions. And I don't know if I want or need that? I guess we'll find out whenever the third film drops.

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