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Dune: Part Two movie review & film summary (2024)

If the interstellar politics aren’t enough, writers Villeneuve and Jon Spaihts inject a nice dose of religious fanaticism for the inevitable think pieces too. Lady Jessica becomes a powerful religious figure of her own among the Fremen, guiding her son’s ascendance in a manner that feels nefarious and unsettling. “Dune: Part Two” is not a traditional hero’s journey in that it’s constantly questioning if being led by an outsider from another culture is the right move—Chani sure doesn’t think so, and Zendaya subtly finds notes to make viewers wonder what a happy ending would be for these characters. As Jessica and Paul learn more about Fremen history and culture, they threaten not to lead it as much as dismantle and own it. There’s a big difference.

While the plotting in “Part Two” is undeniably richer than the first film, its greatest assets are once again on a craft level. Greig Fraser, who won the Oscar for cinematography the first time, tops his work there with stunning use of color and light. It’s in the manner the sun hits Chalamet’s face at a certain angle or the wildly different palettes that differentiate the Harkonnens and the Fremen. The browns and blues of the desert culture don’t feel arid as much as grounded and tactile, while the Harkonnen world is so devoid of color that it’s practically black and white—even what look like fireworks pop like someone throwing colorless paint at a wall. Hans Zimmer’s Oscar-winning score felt a bit overdone to me in the first film, but he smartly differentiates the cultures here, finding more metallic sounds for the cold Harkonnens to balance against the heated score for the Fremen. Finally, the effects and sound design feel denser this time, and the fight choreography reminds one how poorly this has been done in other blockbuster films.

As for performers, Chalamet is likely to be the most divisive element, often feeling a bit flat for someone believed to be the Neo of this world. However, those choices add up in a way that makes thematic sense, enhancing the uncertainty of Paul’s rise. Zendaya is solid—although she lacks chemistry with Chalamet that would have helped—but it’s Ferguson’s slippery performance and Bardem’s playful one that really add flavors here that weren’t in the first outing. Finally, Austin Butler leans hard into the exaggerated role of Feyd-Rautha, playing the sociopathic nephew of the Baron with all the scenery-chewing intensity that a character like this needs to work, finding the emotional void to balance out against Chalamet’s tempestuous inner monologue.

“Dune: Part Two” has been compared to “The Empire Strikes Back” in the run-up to its release, and that’s not quite right. The better comparison is “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers,” another film that built on what we knew about the characters from the first film, added a few new ones, and really amplified a sense of continuous battle and danger. Like both films, a third chapter feels inevitable. Critics will have to come up with a new synonym for massive.

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