'Dune: Part Two' review: Spectacular spice-powered sci-fi


This Chosen One actually doesn't mind sand, unlike a certain one from another sci-fi saga. — Photos: Handout

Dune: Part Two
Denis Villeneuve
Cast: Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Zendaya, Charlotte Rampling, Javier Bardem, Austin Butler, Florence Pugh, Christopher Walken and Léa Seydoux.

There is a moment late in Denis Villeneuve’s sweeping sci-fi epic Dune: Part Two, when the camera lingers on a hand emerging out of desert sand, forming into a fist.

It’s a small but apt visual metaphor for this sequel’s story, written by Villeneuve and Jon Spaihts, which takes all of the foundational exposition carefully laid in Dune: Part One, and kicks the plot of Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel into spice-powered motion.

In Dune: Part Two, power, and violence, rise from the desert sand of the planet Arrakis, where young Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) has found his true path among the desert people known as Fremen.

This film is a spectacular feat of science-fiction filmmaking, marrying immersive world-building with engrossing storytelling. It thrums and vibrates, the giant booms of Hans Zimmer’s score rumbling underneath the breathtakingly monumental images crafted by cinematographer Greig Fraser.

The visual effects and production and costume design are seamless; simultaneously organic and mechanical, both uncanny and utilitarian. The colour, the sound, the sheer weight of it makes for a visual and sonic feast laden with lore.

The latest episode of 'Worms Gone Wild' was a pretty big deal.The latest episode of 'Worms Gone Wild' was a pretty big deal.

But it is also a simple story about destiny, with which Paul wrestles, wondering if he can jump off a wheel of fate that churns unrelentingly. In the wake of the Atreides massacre, he takes up with the Fremen in the desert of Arrakis, running guerrilla terrorist raids on Harkonnen spice harvesting operations, learning to ride giant sand worms and falling in love with a tough warrior, Chani (Zendaya).

For a time, it’s fun, games, and warrior names, with the jocular bunch, but his future looms large. His nightmares become terrifying visions; his mother, Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) is now an esteemed Reverend Mother who wants to call forth the long-planned heir of the Bene Gesserit; and in the eyes of Stilgar (Javier Bardem), his Fremen mentor, Paul might be the Lisan al Gaib, the prophet for whom they’ve been long waiting. He is both, and he is everything, but he is also just Paul, caught in a centuries-long, swiftly-moving rip current of belief.

On another planet, his dark counterpart is not plagued by any such doubts. Feyd-Rautha (Austin Butler), the young Harkonnen na-Baron, sharpens his blades on the organs of his underlings in preparation for his birthday bloodbath jamboree.

The sleek brutalism of the Harkonnen planet Giedi Prime, drained of color, is a sharp contrast to the warm, dusty tones of Arrakis, rendered in russet and ochre, and Feyd-Rautha’s gladiator arena celebration is a fascist display that looks like an industrial metal concert meets a War Boys rally as directed by Leni Riefenstahl.

Wait, weren't you on one of the episodes of 'Buffy The Vampire Slayer'?Wait, weren't you on one of the episodes of 'Buffy The Vampire Slayer'?

The aesthetic difference reflects the philosophical divide between these cultures: one group is a spiritually motivated indigenous tribe to whom every drop of life is sacred, the other faction is blindly obsessed with achieving power through indiscriminate murder.

His head shaved bald, skin powder white, teeth blackened, Butler is captivating and unsettling, brilliantly expressing Feyd-Rautha’s inhuman quality in a nearly reptilian performance. He moves like a serpent, keenly observing his prey, smiling and laughing inappropriately, an apex predator lacking any other instinct but to kill.

The Arakkis edition of 'Where's Wally' was called 'Where's Chani?'.The Arakkis edition of 'Where's Wally' was called 'Where's Chani?'.

Paul, who takes the war name Muad’Dib, clings to the humanity and purpose he finds in the Fremen cause, his own mother hidden behind layers of robes and headdresses, speaking only in prophecy.

His moral compass is Chani, who remains skeptical of any fundamentalist belief system. Her eyes burn with alternating desire and fire, torn between her love for Paul and love for Arrakis, and in the end, they both must choose.

Chani is the heart of the film, though Bardem, with warmth, humor and unwavering faith, is stealthily the most valuable player in an ensemble that includes Josh Brolin, Florence Pugh as Princess Irulan, Stellan Skarsgard, Dave Bautista and Christopher Walken.

Anyone want to tell him that is no country for old Fremen?Anyone want to tell him that is no country for old Fremen?

We look to genre fiction, to sci-fi and fantasy, to tell us about ourselves in a safely exotic setting. Though Dune is rife with strange names and places, on screen, it is the same as our world, where precious resources are violently extracted from vulnerable populations by forces both nakedly evil and those that purport to be benevolent but remain in the throes of capitalistic power. It is a story of genocidal colonization, on which our own countries have been built, which we see on the news every day.

"Spice", oil or minerals are ripped from the earth with blood and brute force on the backs of innocents, while repression and religion make for a heady stew that threatens to boil over into chaotic violence.

Dune: Part Two is a stunning achievement of masterly craft and storytelling, and an utterly transporting experience that brings us back to Earth with a renewed perspective on what’s important. It is still a story only partially told, but it resonates deeply with real world relevancy and emotion. — Katie Walsh/Tribune News Service

10 10


A visual and sonic feast laden with lore.

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Timothee Chalamet , Zendaya , Dune Part Two


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