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Dune: Part II

Updated: Apr 14

Dennis Villeneuve's retains cinematic scale and expands the thematic layering



To create a transporting cinematic spectacle of the likes of Ben Hur (1959) or Lord of the Rings in today’s cinema is becoming harder. Marvel and television’s rise has allowed for segmented stories to take hold, and for meta commentary and winks to the real world to take stead of immersion. One can still find intriguing and transporting stories in smaller films, yet to find this storytelling in a studio feature is a true discover, one that Dune: Part II (2024) has achieved.


Dune: Part II takes off where the first film finished, Paul Atreides (Timothee Chalamet) recently banished into the desert with his priestess mother (Rebecca Ferguson) by the conniving Harkon family, led by the Baron (Stellan Skarsagard) plots his revenge. Paul joins the native people of the desert planet of Arrakis, the Fremen, in their rebellion against their Harkon colonizers. The Fremen believe Paul to be a messianic figure of prophecy, something Paul struggles with in deciding whether to exploit this perception for his benefit or not.


Dune: Part II is once again directed by Dennis Villeneuve, who brings back his technical team and delivers another unique cinematic experience. Every element, from the cinematography to the score from Hans Zimmer, and sound and special effects is made to a scale, dedication, and originality that demands it be seen on the biggest screen. Villeneuve and his team’s ability to create author Frank Herbert’s world, from the most detailed analysis of the costuming to the logistics of desert worm riding, is truly astounding and admirable, lending a passion and authenticity to each brushstroke that made the film.


Villeneuve, who also co-wrote the adapted screenplay, decides to focus this second film on themes that proved so key to the book; the corruptibility of power and the politics of religion. Villeneuve balances these thematic explorations with satisfying character arcs, with Paul going from a sincere and sweet teenager to a fearsome power-hungry despot. The same character progression is carried out with many supporting players, from Chani (Zendaya) as the love interest to Paul, to the Fremen leader Stilgar (Javier Bardem) who becomes a blind devotee. Villeneuve also brings a believable romance between Chani and Paul that never feels saccharine and earns the emotional stakes demanded towards the finale.


The “Dune” novel had been considered one of the most difficult to adapt since its publication, splitting it into two films was an advisable choice from Villeneuve. However, Dune: Part II also finds itself falling into redundant beats that hammer the passage of time across, but end up padding the nearly three-hour runtime to the detriment of many viewers’ bladders. This leads to a slowing of the narrative and a stagnation of certain characters that could have used more attention, such as the imperial princess (Florence Pugh) or psychotic Harkon villain Feyd-Rautha (Austin Butler). Nevertheless, Villeneuve had his reasons for keeping his story focused on the journey of a select group of characters, and his long runtime gratefully never drags.


Dune: Part II expands what had already been an impressive cast into one that rivals those of Oppenheimer (2023) and Barbie (2023) last year. Pugh, Butler, Lea Seydoux, and more join the stacked cast, with Butler delivering an unrecognizable and deliciously sadistic villain that truly trumps the interpretation Sting brought in the David Lynch version. Zendaya, with a larger role in this film than in the first part, brings a lived-in chemistry to Chani that helps audiences latch onto the more rational and atheistic side of the Fremen culture. Chalamet in the lead role is demanded a more radical transformation than in the first film; forced to shed the coming-of-age story arc for a Macbeth-like progression that led him to command each scene and speech with a menace and power that will astonish those accustomed to his subtler performances.


In the end, Dune: Part II is an impressive cinematic experience, bringing the thrills and scale alongside a thought-provoking political and religious commentary. The lived-in quality of the world, technical achievements, and stellar cast help make Dune: Part II a required big screen viewing this year.

8.5/10

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About Young Critic

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I've been writing on different version of this website since February of 2013. I originally founded the website in a film-buff phase in high school, but it has since continued through college and into my adult life. Young Critic may be getting older, but the love and passion for film is forever young. 

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