Review: Dune: Part Two

Score: A-

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Cast: Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Javier Bardem, Austin Butler

Running Time: 167 Minutes

Rated: PG-13

Bigger, bolder and more satisfying, Dune: Part Two triumphs over its predecessor. The former had a sprawling cast, jaw-dropping effects and an all-timer score by Hans Zimmer. But due to the length of Frank Herbert's novel, it had to end just as its momentum picked up. And while there's a bit of that here, this adaptation is finally complete and stands as one of the decade's great achievements.

As our story begins, Paul (Chalamet) and his mother Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) still haven't fully earned the trust of the Fremen, the indigenous people of Arrakis. But as Paul continues to prove himself in battle and Jessica accepts her role as the tribe's religious leader, their stature grows. While Chani (Zendaya) remains skeptical, tribal leader Stilgar (Bardem) comes to believe Paul is the fulfillment of centuries of prophecy: the Muad'Dib who will lead their people to paradise.

One of this sequel's greatest assets is its allegory for the lethal danger of combining religious fanaticism with military-grade weaponry. Worship a man and give him an arsenal of nukes and now he's ready to start a massive coup, no matter the casualties. Riling up his army's fervor, Paul goes from noble warrior to horrifying dictator with ease. But Villeneuve and co-writer Jon Spaihts make sure to show us this transition can't happen without even more powerful people pulling the strings. In the first film, Jessica seemed mysterious but well-intentioned. Here, her unchecked ambition reveals how prideful and wicked she really is.

Parallel to Paul's rise is the ascent of Feyd-Rautha (Butler), the youngest nephew of Baron Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgard). In an absolutely stunning introduction, Feyd-Rautha entertains his fellow Harkonnens with a gladiator match, violently dispatching the few remaining Atreides prisoners. It's shot in black-and-white, producing a surreal experience. (While also disguising the amount of blood on display so Warner Bros. can keep that PG-13 rating.)

All of this necessary world-building and character introduction eats up nearly two hours of runtime. That means the big climax on Arrakis - complete with sandworm attacks, a satisfying death and an ultimatum for the Emperor (Christopher Walken) - can't help but feel a bit rushed. Still, it's a major accomplishment, one that literally rattled my seat with its incredible sound design.

It's been a long road for Villeneuve's complete vision to make it to the screen, but it was worth the wait. This is genre filmmaking at the highest level, and should be experienced at the best possible screen you can find.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.