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REVIEW – ‘Dune: Part Two’ is a Stunning Return to Arrakis

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Director Denis Villeneuve’s Dune of 2021 is one of the most critically acclaimed sci-fi movies ever. The film garnered ten Oscar nominations at the 94th Academy Awards, winning six of them in 2022. The film is an adaptation of Frank Herbert’s book of the same name, but adapted only half of the first novel. Dune: Part Two brings to life the latter half of the book, and has been one of my most anticipated films for years. At the screening I attended, Villeneuve briefly spoke to the audience and explained that Dune: Part Two is not a sequel, but a second half to this story. 

That perspective makes perfect sense, as Dune: Part Two begins shortly after the end of the last film. Dune (2021) largely sets the stage for characters and interstellar politics in the world of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi epic, doing so with much exposition. Part Two however, doesn’t have to deal with that hurdle. The audience is now familiar with Arrakis as well as the antagonizing forces, such as the Harkonnens and the threat of the emperor, who is physically present this time around. Emperor Shaddam is played by the iconic Christopher Walken, who is joined by Florence Pugh, who plays Shaddam’s daughter, Princess Irulan. The two fan favorite actors add to the already powerhouse ensemble cast, many of whom are reprising their roles from the first film.  

Dune: Part Two releases March 1st in theaters. Tickets are on sale now.

(L-R) TIMOTHÉE CHALAMET as Paul Atreides and ZENDAYA as Chani in Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “DUNE: PART TWO,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Copyright: © 2023 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved. Photo Credit: Niko Tavernise
(L-R) TIMOTHÉE CHALAMET as Paul Atreides and ZENDAYA as Chani in Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “DUNE: PART TWO,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Copyright: © 2023 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved. Photo Credit: Niko Tavernise

REVIEW – Strong Performances and More Action

Timothée Chalamet is a star. Every actor in this film is a scene stealer, yet Chalamet manages to shine above the rest in his scenes. Following the fall of House Atreides, Chalamet’s Paul Atreides is taken in by the Fremen, and he is learning their ways and customs while seeking revenge for his father’s death. As we saw in the first film, Paul picks things up rather quickly; for example perfectly putting on a stillsuit, to the amazement of those around him. As the prophecy states, “He shall know your ways as if born to them,” which is viewed as a sign that Paul is a messiah on Arrakis. This leads to one of the most fascinating aspects of Dune – The ideas of prophecy and faith. 

Dune (2021) explains that the Bene Gesserit planted the seeds so that the Fremen would see Paul as the “Lisan al Gaib”. The Bene Gesserit have plans and prospects spanning thousands of years, even going so far as to create religions and prophecies to serve their goals. Although Paul and his mother are not initially welcomed among the Fremen, a large group come to “see these signs” and are won over to Paul’s side over the course of the film. Among them is Javier Bardem’s Stilgar. It is revealed that Fremen from the south, such as Stilgar, are more religious and hold onto tradition more devoutly. Chani (Zendaya), as well as some other younger people, aren’t so convinced. She believes the Fremen are to be freed by themselves, not by an outsider. It is interesting to see the younger generation being wary of blindly believing that Paul as their savior, or even making jokes during a spiritual ritual. Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) says to Paul, “We gave them something to hope for.” Thanks to the machinations of the Bene Gesserit, some of the Fremen are quick to rally behind Paul and believe in him, but what will Paul do with this power? How does that affect his newfound relationship with Chani? These are the central questions of Dune: Part Two.

Zendaya’s Chani is the emotional heart of the story. She is teaching Paul about the Fremen and their customs. She also grounds the viewer in this story by being our viewpoint into this culture. This film spends a great deal of time developing the relationship between Paul and Chani, who have an incredible love story. They are stunning on screen together, and the pair shines amidst this epic struggle against the oppressive Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgård), his forces, and subsequently the emperor. As Skarsgård mentioned in our interview, after Beast Rabban’s (Dave Bautista) failure to control Arrakis, the Baron is in search of a new heir, whom he finds in Feyd-Rautha (Austin Butler). 

(L-R) TIMOTHÉE CHALAMET as Paul Atreides and AUSTIN BUTLER as Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen in Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “DUNE: PART TWO,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Copyright: © 2024 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved. Photo Credit: Niko Tavernise
(L-R) TIMOTHÉE CHALAMET as Paul Atreides and AUSTIN BUTLER as Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen in Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “DUNE: PART TWO,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Copyright: © 2024 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved. Photo Credit: Niko Tavernise

Feyd-Rautha is the nephew to the Baron, and also one of the Bene Gesserit’s prospects. He is haunting in this film. He is as intimidating as Dave Bautista, but has even more of a psychotic energy, and has a commanding on screen presence. Feyd-Rautha brings a dark, menacing energy that is terrifying, but you can’t look away. He is seen fighting in an arena in the trailers, and his fighting style is violent; he enjoys getting the kill. Butler is sure to be celebrated for this performance and his Feyd-Rautha will go down as an iconic film villain. 

Fans of the book will know where the story in this film is going, but the tension and pacing are well done, and keep fans on the edge of their seat. Nearing the final battle, the pacing slowed down for a moment and I found myself hoping it would pick up soon; thankfully, it did. But before this point, the movie did start to feel a little long, as it approached the stunning climax. The fight sequences are also much more intricate and captivating in this installment. Towards the middle of the film, there is one fight sequence that has one long shot. The camera was a little shaky, giving it an almost handheld feel, which gives the audience the experience of being there live as part of the action. 

Author Frank Herbert was greatly influenced by Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) culture for his Dune books, even including Arabic words in the text. These films are also largely inspired by MENA culture and clothing, while disappointingly not having Arab actors in major roles. Souheila Yacoub, who is of Tunisian descent, is one of the newcomers to the cast as the Fremen warrior Shishakli. Yacoub is amazing and has some very welcome comedic moments in the film. Shishakli also creates some important tension in the earlier parts of the film by not being quick to accept Paul. It is great to see this film add an actor of Arab descent, a trend that will hopefully continue as the franchise progresses.

ZENDAYA as Chani in Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “DUNE: PART TWO,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Copyright: © 2024 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
ZENDAYA as Chani in Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “DUNE: PART TWO,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Copyright: © 2024 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

The first film received much push back for erasing the MENA influences and nuance from Frank Herbert’s original novel. Much of Herbert’s social commentary was absent from the 2021 film, and one such article that was very eye opening to me personally was written by Haris A. Durrani and published in The Washington Post. Given that I am not of MENA descent, my perspective on whether or not the representation was handled better this time around is limited. However, there was one scene that felt hard to watch, as it depicted the Fremen being subject to an attack by the Harkonnen, and the imagery was disturbing. Watching predominantly white characters (House Harkonnen) bomb the Fremen (who are inspired by Arab culture) was uncomfortable. More broadly, the social commentary is not as poignant as it could have been in this movie, but the dangers of Paul as a messianic figure are definitely explored. It will fall on the next film to further delve into the message, and hopefully the it will do a better job including Arab and MENA voices in front of, and behind, the camera. I will certainly be educating myself more on the MENA influences in Frank Herbert’s Dune, and that which have made it into these two films thus far, in preparation for the third Dune film. In the meantime, all fans would find their experience and knowledge of these stories enriched by seeking out Southwest Asia and North Africa (SWANA) and MENA voices and opinions for this film.

RATING – 4/5 Pocky

Pocky Rating 4
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Jorgie is a pop culture fan and contributor at POCculture.com. He loves learning about visual effects, production, film, and art, and how they all come together to make films like Star Wars.

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