Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Dune: Part Deux

Director Denis Villeneuve's first Dune film set up the world of Arrakis, galactic politics between houses, and a religion spanning across space and time. With his house destroyed, Paul (Timothée Chalamet) has journeyed into the desert with his mother (Rebecca Ferguson). The second film deals primarily with Paul's life among the Fremen, fighting his destiny to become a religious icon to them, and his attempts to rally them against House Harkonnen,

For all but 20 minutes of the film's 166-minute running time, Villeneuve succeeds in delivering an epic adventure as we follow Paul's journey from visitor, to member of the Fremen, to becoming the Kwisatz Haderach and both the savior to the Fremen and boogeyman to the Harkonnen known as Muad'Dib. Refusing to accept the death and loss tied to his destiny, Paul fights it as long as he can until his only choice is to embrace it, despite the personal cost, forging a war not only on Arrakis but also across the galaxy (where the next film will lead).

The only real stumbling block to the film is when it chooses to leave Arrakis and check in on the Harkonnen. This section of the film is of importance really only to introduce the psychotic character of Feyd-Rautha (Austin Butler) and confirm the Bene Gesserit are continuing to work their own plans as to the fate of the galaxy. We're give various sequences involving Lady Margot Fenring (Léa Seydoux) discussing the psychotic to the Reverend Mother (Charlotte Rampling), seeing the depravity of Feyd's life on Harkonnen behind closed door, and an extended sequence within a gladiator arena, which are all meant to build up the character as a threat (which given Paul's evolution is only marginally successful). The sequence is easily twice, if not three times, as long as needed, on a world where apparently color doesn't exist, and where the film can't quite skirt the more absurd nature of some of Frank Herbert's work (and this is a film where an unborn baby reaches out telepathically from the future to talk to her living brother).

Javier Bardem gets a bigger role this time around returning as Stilgar who accepts Paul's destiny long before he does. Bardem is having a blast here, providing many fun moments about how Paul's refusal to accept his destiny only helps prove himself as the messiah. The two notable new characters, other than Feyd, are Florence Pugh as Princess Irulan and Christopher Walken as her father the Emperor. Neither gets much screentime this time around, but are important in Paul's plans and his final confrontation with the Harkonnen.

If there's a character who draws the short straw here it's Zendaya's Chani. While crucially important in terms of plot for one specific scene, she barely appeared in the first film, is largely pushed to the side in this one as a minor character compared to Paul, and given the direction of the next film isn't likely to have much if any screentime there either. While she manages to steal a scene or two in the film, mostly either championing or questioning Paul's actions, the script simply doesn't have the capacity to offer her much more to do outside that defining relationship given the restraints of its running time.

Even given a sequence where the film falters enough to jolt me completely from the film, Dune: Part Two recovers well-enough to offer a strong follow-up to the original film and set up a third film likely taking our characters out into the galaxy. With such a blemish, I can't call it great, but it is still quite good. As with the original, the film is top-notch in terms of filmmaking from production and special effects through to the performances on-screen, although there are some confusing aspects here and there (like why are the new Harkonnen harvesters are so wildly different in this film than those they left behind in the previous film just weeks before?). It' certainly worth a look (and has a built in House Harkonnen length restroom break for audience members with weak bladders).

Watch the trailer
  • Title: Dune: Part Two
  • IMDb: link

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