review

Dune Part Two review: Timothee Chalamet and Zendaya’s thrilling, rip-roaring spectacle

Headshot of Wenlei Ma
Wenlei Ma
The Nightly
4 Min Read
Dune Part Two is is a rip-roaring spectacle .
Dune Part Two is is a rip-roaring spectacle . Credit: Warner Bros

When director Denis Villeneuve released his epic adaptation of Dune in late 2021 some audience members walked out confused. They didn’t know it was only half the story.

Villeneuve took the tale of Paul Atreides to the midpoint of Frank Herbert’s dense book with the view that if the Timothee Chalamet-led sci-fi film was successful, they would get the money back to make the second half.

Dune was a critical and commercial hit thanks to Villeneuve’s command of visual scale and compelling storytelling. It also won six Oscars. The money followed and so now has the sequel.

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An operatic saga of ambition, religious fervour, prophecy, revenge and love – it has it all – Dune Part Two is a rip-roaring spectacle packed full of action set-pieces and is more accessible than its predecessor.

But more accessible is not necessarily an improvement.

The sequel, while an impressive accomplishment, loses the restraint and elegance of the first film, leaning more towards a blockbuster experience. Everything here is monumental, including the emotions, and the quiet confidence of Part One has morphed into unshackled bravura in Part Two.

Everything is bigger and it is a lot.

Dune Part Two is in cinemas on February 29.
Everything is bigger in this second instalment. Credit: Warner Bros

Plot-wise, Dune Two picks up moments after we left Paul (Chalamet) and his mother Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) in the desert, having connected with the Fremen, the native peoples of the unforgiving planet of Arrakis. Paul is making puppy love eyes at Chani (Zendaya) and comes to view Stilgar (Javier Bardem) as a replacement father figure.

Paul says he wants to learn from the Fremen, to be one of their fighters to seek revenge against the Harkonnens (Stellan Skarsgard, Dave Bautista), who killed his father. “I want to be equal to you,” he says to Chani.

His mother Jessica, a member of the Bene Gesserit guild, has other plans. She is convinced Paul is the saviour (the Lisan Al-Gaib) foretold in the prophecy created and seeded by the Bene Gesserit for centuries.

Dune Part Two delves deeper and more explicitly into the power moves made by various factions and interests in its world. The Bene Gesserit (“We don’t hope, we plan”) has placed its members at the epicentre of the royal houses, including Princess Irulan (Florence Pugh), the daughter to the ageing Padishah Emperor (Christopher Walken) who made the call to eradicate House Atreides in the first film.

The Harkonnens also have ambitions for the throne with the Baron putting on the board his psychopath nephew Feyd-Rautha (a sly and formidable Austin Butler who is having more fun in the role than his one-note book counterpart).

Timothee Chalamet and Zendaya.
Timothee Chalamet and Zendaya. Credit:

Through Paul, Dune Two explores faith, fundamentalism and the unerring belief in a messiah who will lead the marginalised Fremen to paradise. It’s a role Paul rejects, having seen a desolate and deadly future if he accepts the title. The film is also playing with the trope of the foreign white saviour coming in to rescue a population of non-white indigenous peoples.

Chani, who is given more agency than in Herbert’s book, becomes the counterpoint to what could be a problematic narrative. She’s adamant the Fremen must be freed by one of its own people, even though she is clearly becoming entangled with Paul. She is never completely comfortable with the figure he is “prophesised” to be.

Zendaya was barely in the first film, but she now comes into her full power as the character, and she and Chalamet have a charged chemistry with their intimacy showcased in fluid close-ups. That relationship is an exquisite reprieve from the more imposing action and manoeuvring of the film.

Dune Part Two is in cinemas on February 29.
The cinematography is stunning. Credit: Warner Bros

Visually, Dune Two is beautiful to look at, thanks in large part to the graceful camera work of Australian Greig Fraser’s cinematography. There are more than a handful of moments when it pushes into a fierce hero shot of Chalamet, Zendaya or Brolin that makes you go, “phwoar”.

There is so much power in how those characters are framed.

Similarly, Patrice Vermette’s production design – the organic grit of the Fremen world and the stark German Expressionism-cum-brutalism of the Harkonnen spheres – is a feast to take in.

In terms of pacing, there is both a lull and then an abrupt jump that doesn’t quite land, but the climax with its grand and kinetic action scenes ends the film on a high note.

But, be warned if you were one of those who didn’t know Part One wasn’t the full story. Part Two also ends at the start of something, so you will have to wait for a not-yet-confirmed Part Three to see where it goes next.

As long as Villeneuve returns, which he has indicated he will, so will we.

Dune Part Two is in cinemas on February 29

Rating: 3.5/5

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