Dune: Part Two Review

Denis Villeneuve’s Dune: Part Two is stunning. If a third film is made, this might become the great sci-fi trilogy of our generation.

PLOT: Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) continues his war against the Harkonens. But, he realizes that the Fremen consider him more of a messiah than a leader and is tormented by not only the prospect of defeat but of victory too. 

REVIEW: Back in the dark days of the pandemic, one of the true moviegoing tragedies was that enough people didn’t see Denis Villeneuve’s Dune: Part One on the big screen. With many of the set pieces being shot for IMAX, it was an altogether different experience in cinemas than it was streaming. Had it come out at a different time, it would have made at least double the still impressive $108 million it made domestically. With the sequel hitting theatres, this will likely be the first time a huge chunk of the audience is seeing Villeneuve’s adaptation of the Frank Herbert classic the way it was meant to be seen, with the desert vistas of Arakkis all the more stunning on a giant IMAX screen. As such, I’m expecting a massive box office jump for this, especially with the two young stars, Timothee Chalamet and Zendaya, being significantly bigger now than they were in 2021.

Quality-wise, Dune: Part Two is a stunning achievement. A much more action-driven story than the exposition-heavy first film, it wastes no time plunging us directly into the war between the Freman and the Harkonens, picking up in the immediate aftermath of Paul’s knife fight with the Freeman warrior Jamis. Many are comparing it to The Empire Strikes Back, and that’s pretty fair, as it picks up in the middle of a chaotic war and has a conclusion that leaves us anticipating a third film (which is to be based on Dune Messiah). 

Indeed, I can only think of a handful of times in recent years when I’ve been so immersed in a film. I don’t think it ever really happened to me last year outside of maybe Oppenheimer, and the scale and verisimilitude of Villeneuve’s work is staggering. By design, it feels like half of a bigger whole with the first film. Even still, I think those who might have found the first Dune too talky might find this the kind of quality jump The Dark Knight made from Batman Begins. It really grabs you right off the bat and doesn’t let go until the end credits.

Villeneuve has shot the entire film with IMAX cameras this time, giving it a staggering visual look that needs to be seen on the biggest screen possible. This might be the best-looking film Greig Fraser has ever shot, and that’s saying something considering his filmography. The cast is uniformly excellent, from the returnees to the new additions.

Dune 3, Zendaya

Timothée Chalamet was always ideally cast as Paul Atreides, and in Dune 2, he makes a convincing transition, as he has to go from the boy duke of the first film to a leader crushed under the weight of destiny. The theme of this film makes it much different from David Lynch’s adaptation of the same material. That was a heroic take on the messianic themes of the novel. By contrast, Villeneuve’s movie shows the devastating cost to Paul, with him a more reluctant leader here than we’ve seen before. 

Chalamet is expertly supported, with Rebecca Ferguson’s Lady Jessica more of a schemer this time with an unhinged lust for power that doesn’t make her all that different from the Harkonens, putting her at odds with her heroic son. Zendaya’s Chani grounds him, with her evoking both her character’s deep, almost star-crossed love for Paul, as well as her bittersweet knowledge of the fact that Paul’s destiny may take him far away from her or make him a different man than the one she fell in love with. Physically, she and Chalamet look amazing together, with the fight scenes the two are in expertly shot, with the moves perfectly complimenting each other in a way that shows the character’s connection even extends to the battlefield. 

Meanwhile, Javier Bardem and Josh Brolin are touching as Paul’s two pseudo-father figures. Bardem is Stilgar, the Fremen leader convinced Paul is the messiah they’ve been waiting for, while Brolin’s Gurney is his last connection to the House of Atreides. Both men give the impression of being willing to sacrifice everything, including their lives, for Paul, making their performances tremendously affecting. Bardem also finds a few moments of humour here and there to lighten the mood a bit, as overall, this is pretty heavy stuff.

As far as the baddies go, Dave Bautista and Stellan Skarsgård have bigger roles this time, even if, in terms of menace, they can’t help but be eaten alive by the saga’s newest addition. Indeed, Austin Butler’s Feyd-Rautha may be the role that finally gets people to stop looking at him as Elvis, with him playing a sadistic baddie who’s about as far removed from The King of rock n’ roll as you can get. His intensity and sadism push the boundaries of the PG-13 rating, and the final confrontation with Paul will likely rank highly among the best action scenes of the year.

Meanwhile, other new additions to the cast, including Christopher Walken and Florence Pugh have comparably less screen time as the Emperor and his daughter. Still, both convey the scheming, calculating natures of the characters with aplomb (Pugh is set to have a much larger role in the sequel). The casting in the entire saga has been impeccable all the way through. Plus, the score by Hans Zimmer remains the perfect soundtrack for what – should it get a third instalment as expected – may well end up being the great sci-fi trilogy of our generation, being up there with the original Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.

In this day of assembly line blockbusters, it’s a miracle that director Denis Villeneuve has managed to get not one but two incredible, uncompromised epics like this through the studio system. It works as a tentpole blockbuster, but Dune Part Two is also filmmaking at the highest level. It’s a real cinematic event everyone owes it to themselves to take in and hopefully won’t be forgotten come Oscar time. It’s a masterpiece. 

Dune: Part Two, first reactions

Dune: Part Two



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About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.