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  • Nate Adams

'Dune: Part Two' review: The spice flows in exhilarating, masterful epic


Courtesy of Warner Bros.

 

Digging up the sandworms on the desert planet of Arrakis and continuing the saga of Timothée Chalamet’s prophet in the making, Paul Atreides, “Dune: Part Two” see’s filmmaker Denis Villeneuve stunningly best his 2021 entry at every spice-dusted turn. Based on the sprawling, dense, and expansive Frank Herbet novels that challenge both “Lord of the Rings” and “Game of Thrones” in terms of depth, “Dune: Part Two” rectifies most of the issues “Part One” suffered from. The pace is more steady, the stakes have been considerably raised, and the exploration of this sweeping universe yields some jaw-dropping discoveries. It also has the added benefit of a maniacal Austin Butler performance who stands among one of the best on screen baddies in recent memory. 


The wild David Lynch version of “Dune” our parents grew up with this is not. 


Instead, Villenevue has crafted this generation's version of “The Lord of the Rings,” or, in some respects, “Star Wars.” He steers the ship with immaculate detail, right down to the gargantuan sized sandworms the characters ride as if they were horses in a western. He was methodical and concise in “Part One,” but that laid the pathway for where “Part Two” eventually lands and it never disappoints. The film is outfitted with a stunning visual palette, incredible special effects, and a deeper thematic examination of the bridges between colonialism and religion. 


“Part One” did a solid job getting its beak wet in the desert planet of Arrakis, or better known as planet Dune. Just as young Paul (Chalamet) was on the path towards his birthright as leader of the Atreides house, an attack was executed by the sniveling Baron Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgard) and his massive army. Paul and his mother, Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), a member of the shady sisterhood known as the Bene Gesserit, barely made it out alive and are now living and fighting alongside the Indigenous Freman population, which includes Chani (Zendaya) a woman who Paul has seen in several of his visions. 


Everyone thinks Paul is the messiah they’ve been reading about for centuries, though conflicting parties suggest otherwise and that’s the driving force behind “Part Two.” Freman leader Stilgar (Javier Bardem), with the help of Chani, teaches Paul the ways of being one of them. From corralling sandworms to surviving in harsh desert conditions, slowly he begins exhibiting signs of his destiny, but there are others who question if he is the chosen one. His ascension brings forth new challengers, including the sadistic nephew of the Baron, Feyd-Rautha (Butler) who is appointed as the governor of Arrakis. 


There are bigger games at play and ulterior motives hurled behind closed doors as Paul and Feyd-Rautha battle for ultimate supremacy of ruling the universe. While we did get our fair share of political gambits in “Part One,” it becomes the most gripping aspect of “Part Two” and Villeneuve manages to seamlessly interweave new characters into the mix without overwhelming an already long 165 minute runtime. There’s Christopher Walken hamming it up as the aging Emperor, Florence Pugh is lively playing his daughter Princess Irulan, and Leo Seydoux’ stars as Lady Margot, a member of the Bene Gesserit. 


Villenevue doesn’t mince words when getting into the trenches of up-close blade fights (one of them executed in pristine black-and-white) and gorgeous space battles. The Canadian-born filmmaker lets the images linger and keeps us invested by delivering a story that’s fleshed out. Chalamet understands Paul as a conflicted leader who is caught between two worlds, and the actor’s chemistry with Zendaya keeps things grounded as he contends with fate and an evil governor who will stop at nothing until his head is on a pike.


The lore and mythology of the novels notwithstanding, we’ve seen how “Dune” can be handled in the wrong hands or with studio meddling. It’s a bold risk for any company to fork over large sums of cash on a franchise that’s far from a sure thing. And it’s a refreshing change of pace in a year that’s been riddled with mediocre content that a bold, visual interpretation of a sci-fi novel with sandworms stands tall. I always worried that whenever a major series ended (or gave the illusion they were ending) ala “The Matrix,” “Harry Potter,” or the aforementioned “Lord of the Rings” films, that we might never see a comparable franchise. With this second installment, “Dune” has now etched its place next to those films in the throes of cinematic history. 


Grade: A


DUNE PART TWO is now playing in theaters. 


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