Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune: Part Two”: A visual spectacle & sci-fi triumph

"In a thrilling adventure, Villeneuve takes viewers on Paul’s journey of acceptance, revenge, and emotionally conflicting decision-making." - Arts & Entertainment Editor / Al Harmon.

The second installment of the franchise, “Dune: Part Two” brings the second half of Frank Herbert’s iconic 1965 sci-fi novel “Dune” to life, a book that has long been considered the epitome of science fiction literature.

The sequel comes almost three years after the first “Dune” was released in theaters and on HBO MAX in October 2021 – a practice that became the norm for film releases in the heat of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Dune: Part Two” is rightfully getting released only in theaters, allowing viewers to reenter the dry, sandy planet of Arrakis and once again be immersed in the in-depth universe that Director Denis Villeneuve has translated onto the big screen. 

A visual spectacle featuring beautiful cinematography accompanied by a powerful and emotional Hans Zimmer score, “Dune: Part Two” replicates all the assets that made the first one so great but this time focuses on the more entertaining side of the story.

For those who saw the first “Dune,” know that it wasn’t exactly a fast-paced film. With a two-hour and 35-minute runtime, it felt like the first three-quarters of the movie was exposition and world-building–a dragging feeling that is all too relatable for those who read the “Dune” novel.

Like getting past page 300 of “Dune”, the plot quickly began to pick up speed and it seemed that the movie ended right when it was starting to get good. Luckily, “Dune: Part 2” wastes no time jumping right back into the action where the first film left off. “Dune: Part Two” is a little longer than the first with a runtime of two hours and 46 minutes, but it is noticeably more enjoyable and easier to follow.

While those who didn’t see the first film or don’t have an understanding of the “Dune” universe may not agree, “Dune: Part Two” is a well-executed sequel that builds off the story the first movie built–high praise that leads acclaimed director Christopher Nolan to draw comparisons of “Dune: Part Two” to the likes of the beloved Star Wars sequel “Empire Strikes Back”. 

The story picks up with the forcefully removed Atredies family living off the grid amongst the Fremen, or the native people of Arrakis, in the desert led by Stilgar(Javier Bardem). Thought to be dead by House Harkonnen after their army kills Duke Leto Atreides(Oscar Isaac) during a siege, the rightful Duke of Arrakis Paul Atreides(Timothee Chalamet) has shown signs to be the religious anomaly known as the Kwisach Haderach or the “Lisan Al-Gaib” by the Fremen, a religious messiah sought to take them to paradise and restore Arrakis to a green utopia. 

His mother Lady Jessica(Rebecca Ferguson), the pregnant Bene Gesserit witch turned Fremen Reverend Mother who bore this alleged prophecy, works to convince the Fremen that Paul is their savior to seek revenge on the family who killed her husband–an idea Paul’s lover Chani (Zendaya) despises and Paul’s mentor Gurney Halleck (Josh Brolin) encourages her to accept.

This film also introduces us to two key characters. The first is the the evil ruler of Arrakis Baron Vladimir Harkonnen’s (Stellan Skarsgård) deranged and disturbed nephew Feyd-Rautha (Austin Butler) whose barbaric war tactics replace the failed leadership of Glossu Rabban (Dave Bautista) to wipe all Fremen off Arrakis. The second is the wise and witty daughter of Emperor Shaddam IV(Christopher Walken) Princess Irulan(Florence Pugh), an inevitable piece in Paul’s political game of justice for his family and freedom for the Fremen.

In a thrilling adventure, Villeneuve takes viewers on Paul’s journey of acceptance, revenge, and emotionally conflicting decision-making. Delving right back into the complex universe built by the first movie, “Dune: Part Two” can showcase exciting and engaging storylines and moments without the need for excessive world-building and character introductions.

While a third project hasn’t been greenlit by Warner Bros. Studios, Villeneuve is currently working on a script for a third film based on Herbert’s sequel novel “Dune: Messiah”. If it proves to be as grand as the first two adaptations of Herbert’s work, fans can expect nothing less from Villeneuve in his quest to make “Dune” into a successful trilogy.

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