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  • Writer's pictureBrad Gullickson

We Have Wormsign! 'Dune: Part Two' Delivers on its Scale

We review the next chapter in the cinematic Dune universe and find a deeply challenging and troubling confrontation with religious prophecy. Ya know, Dune.

Dune Part Two Review

Yup. Dune Part Two is precisely that, the second part of Frank Herbert's Dune. Plus, there are some tweaks from its director, Denis Villeneuve, and co-writer, Jon Spaihts. It begins where the last one left off. The House of Atreides has fallen, the desert planet is again under Harkonnen rule, and Duke Leto's son and concubine find refuge with the indigenous Fremen

A love for a movie can grow from any number of sources. Plot rarely takes me over the edge. I've swooned over The Dark Knight Rises merely watching Christopher Nolan pit hundreds of extras against each other, silent movie style, nearly toppling Gotham's Gomorrah. Tom Hanks unabashedly embracing the Colonel Sanders aesthetic that the Coen Brothers slapped atop him forever fastens The Ladykillers to my heart. A rug can really tie a room together.

Dune Part Two is massive, wearing its budget like that slab of medals recklessly adorned by Jason Isaacs' Field Marshal in The Death of Stalin. Mere minutes into the movie, a smile spread across my face, and sat there until the credits rolled. Science fiction spectacles have too often felt so cheap of late, even when studios pour buckets of green paper into them. These Dune endeavors feel strenuous, and that excruciating labor pulsates under every frame like a sandworm. The vibration indicates a danger for other productions but an infectious excitement for this one.

Villeneuve accomplishes his Lord of the Rings, his 2001, and his Lawrence of Arabia. And like in those films, the victories achieved by the story's central hero suggest future horror and catastrophe. Unless more sequels are realized, are audiences left pondering the doom perpetrated by Timothée Chalamet's Paul, or did they merely watch a badass revenge flick? One of those movies is interesting, the other is much less so.

But there I go, getting caught up on the plot, the most boring gift Dune offers. My joy for the work rests in Greig Fraser's cinematography, Patrice Vermette's production design, Jacqueline West's costumes, Hans Zimmers' score, Frank Herbert's source novels, and the numerous departments that gave everything of themselves to realize this universe. Sure, a few shots here and there dropped me from its reality, but more often than not, I felt myself standing on the sands of Arakkis and in the halls of Arakeem, its capital city. I stood amongst the Fremen, I hung for dear life upon the Shai-Hulud, and for a second, I bought into the prophecy.

When Dune: Part One concluded, many felt the loss of the novel's second half. For me, it was enough, as I wrote in my original review. However, now that we have the rest of the story, I'm no longer satisfied with the narrative. And it's a weird, weird feeling, and I may not reckon with it until I get a rewatch or until Dune: Messiah gets its greenlight (if it gets its greenlight). Without the sequels, Dune Parts One and Two are gorgeous, monumental achievements worthy of our awe. They're also rather problematic explorations of a weaponized religion that turns on its maker but still perpetuates heinous, apocalyptic violence.

Is Paul the Chosen One? Are his visions legit or drug-induced fantasies? How you answer those questions places you on a particular plane. How you react to the answer to those questions will also factor into how you enjoy Dune Part Two's climax. Should we be cheering Freman on their worms? Do we engage a fist pump at the end of an expertly choreographed knife fight? How does the movie want us to feel? Does the movie's wants or intent matter?

Quickie Review: Dune Part Two left me struggling with several adaptation choices, presumably done to speed up the story and include threads from where it's ultimately going. Thankfully, the plot is just the plot. Denis Villeneuve has assembled so much more with these two films. They're staggering beasts that strum primordial spots in my person. My basest places were satisfied through and through.


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