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Dune: Part Two

- for sequences of strong violence, some suggestive material and brief strong language.
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Starring: Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Christopher Walken, Florence Pugh, Austin Butler, Dave Bautista
Running Time: 2 hours, 46 minutes
Theatrical Release Date: March 1, 2024


Plot Summary

Paul Atreides unites with Chani and the Fremen while seeking revenge against the conspirators who destroyed his family. (from IMDB)

Film Review

As someone who has never read the original Frank Herbert novel this film series is based on, my first viewing of 2021's Dune was largely unfavorable. Pairing Denis Villeneuve's artistic vision with a brand new sci-fi world for me to enter into, I was pretty lost during my first viewing. I also found Hans Zimmer's booming score, although brilliant, to drown out a lot of the dialog, leaving me even more in the dark. After a follow-up viewing at home (with subtitles on), and after having a friend who's a fan of the book give me a rundown of the story (as well as my watching the home release special features which explained even more), I finally could appreciate what Villeneuve accomplished with the movie. It's a truly impressive feat.

The long-awaited sequel, Dune: Part Two, is finally out, after having been delayed from its late 2023 release to early 2024 because of last year's writers' and actors' strike. And while I can't say I've exactly been chomping at the bit for a continuation, I have to admit, it's been worth the wait.

Dune: Part Two picks up where Part One left off... almost immediately. We pick up Paul Atreides' story right after he's joined the desert people, and they're still carrying the body of Jamis on their way back home. Meanwhile, we get to finally meet the long-talked-about Emperor (Christopher Walken) and his daughter (played by Florence Pugh). It's pretty much imperative to rewatch Part One before seeing Part Two (which I'm grateful I did), since there isn't really an exposition dump to recap events so far, even though some references are scattered about for you. Much of Part Two assumes the viewer knows the events of what came before, so I definitely don't recommend going into this one without doing your homework.

Villeneuve seems to feel much more comfortable in this world, as does Timothée Chalamet, who really comes alive in this chapter as Paul. I initially felt Chalamet's portrayal was pretty dry and lacked charisma in the first entry. Chalamet is much more confident this time around, and it lends greatly to the overall story. Zendaya's character, Chani, who was really only teased in the first part, has a major role this time around, but I kind of feel she may have been miscast in this part. She does okay, I suppose, but considering how absolutely important she is to Paul and his journey, Zendaya just kind of keeps channeling her moody MJ role from the Tom Holland Spider-Man trilogy, and she doesn't really seem to fit into this world so well. I'd really be interested to see an actress with more range and personality in such a meaty (and emotional) role. Even Rebecca Ferguson's return as Jessica is about as intense as you'd expect from the actress. She's an incredible performer, and she really keeps the audience on their toes as to where exactly might her character's allegiance lie. Getting a beefier role this time around, too, is Javier Bardem's Stilgar, who only had minutes of screentime in the previous film. He's fantastic here, and brings some needed levity to the proceedings.

I have to say the special effects are also absolutely incredible. Where many movies rely heavily on CGI to create characters and scenery and can often look more cartoony than realistic (the upcoming Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire immediately comes to mind), Dune: Part Two's effects are near perfect. There was really only a moment or two where it looked like a character is set against a green screen, but in most cases, everything blended so well that it really leant to the immersiveness of this visual world.

The overall story of Dune deals largely with the idea of there being a "messiah" / "chosen one" that has been prophesied about. Many parallels can be drawn to Christianity or Islam, but I'm hesitant to say it's done in any kind of directly blasphemous way. Given its fantastical, other-worldly setting within a universe not much like our own, it feels more like a fairytale than something that conflicts with our own beliefs. But, with that said, I wouldn't be surprised if the frequent references to Paul being a messiah and sort-of "savior" to the Fremen makes some believing viewers uncomfortable. I'm not sure if Frank Herbert was using his book Dune as some kind of religious commentary, but I wouldn't be shocked either way if that was his intention or not. (I also haven't read the book, so I don't know how the story concludes in relation to this subject matter. I can only judge the story these movies are presenting.)

Much like the first film, Dune: Part Two is pretty rough when it comes to violence. Director Denis Villeneuve does seem to make an effort to hide some of the more gruesome visuals from the screen, but he also doesn't in a few startling scenes. One that immediately comes to mind is when Austin Butler's Feyd-Rautha tests a new knife blade by slicing behind him in an unexpected motion, slitting the throat of a woman standing by his side. We see quite a bit of blood running down her neck before she collaposes. He then turns to stab another one multiple times, but his body blocks our view of the graphic details. Later, there's an arena knife fight between Feyd-Rautha and three bare-chested men. Thankfully, Villeneuve allows any bloody cuts or stabbings to be hidden by the action or the way a victim falls. We still very much get the gist of the violence here in both sequences, but he makes sure not to show us the bloody results. During the climax of the film, and some of the violent moments leading up to it, we see varying degress of victims with blood on their faces and such, while a brutal knife fight is surprisingly not so visually bloody, aside from some blood on the fighters' faces. (We do, however, see a victim pull a knife from their body slowly and partially see the blade as it's coming out.) Another character meets their demise with a blade to the neck, but it's largely bloodless. There are also two disturbing moments where piles of dead bodies are set on fire with flamethrowers. A view of this is the first thing we see when the movie opens, and then we see it again near the end of the movie, bringing it full circle. For language, there's almost nothing (especially for such a long movie), but there are 2 uses of the "S" word, 2 uses of "p*ss" (for urine, and one of them is written as a subtitle), and 1 use of "h*ll." Lastly, there is a scene where we see Chani and Paul in a bare head-and-shoulders shot as she's on top of him and they talk while out-of-breath, clearly taking place right after sex. It's not graphic, but it's also not too subtle what they were doing just moments before. (And I can't say it was necessary to use that moment to showcase that dialog, but I can imagine Villeneuve just really wanted to portray how intimate and close these two are, in contrast to events that were soon to unfold.)

I had the pleasure of seeing this film on IMAX, and I must say it was worth it. The movie is optimized for IMAX and it's got the kind of visuals that just beg to be shown on a large format screen. Sequences like the worm riding, battle sequences, and any number of beautiful desert shots are incredible on IMAX. Also, Hans Zimmer delivers another fantastic score, with every bit of Villeneuve's work being enhanced by the mood-building that Zimmer provides. Yes, sometimes the clarity of the dialog is compromised, but it happens infrequently, and the rest of the movie certainly benefits from the intensity of the sound.

If there's anything that detracts from Dune: Part Two, it would be its near-three-hour runtime. While we do live in the age of binge-watching hours of a favorite TV series - so long viewing is not foreign to many - sitting in a movie theater for 3-plus-hours straight (when you take previews into account), can certainly be a challenge. The length of Part Two never feels frivolous, as there is a lot of character development to be made, and story to tell, but it did feel a little like it could have ended sooner than it does (especially since it sets up an eventualy Part Three). With that in mind, an at-home viewing of the movie will definitely be more convenient. The other detractor would be some of the violence and the dark nature of the film. To each their own, of course, but Dune is hardly Star Wars (which I know has its own inspirations from the original Dune book); it's much more mature in nature and themes, and the violence is more gritty. Also, some of the spiritual content is a bit dark in nature too, which will certainly unsettle some viewers.

When all is said and done, Dune: Part Two is a cinematic triumph. It's rare to get a movie this epic in scale and that has such strong acting, artistic direction, a memorable and moving score, and a story that sticks with you. While it certainly isn't a perfect movie, it's still a truly great one -- even if rewatching it may call for some serious dedication of your time in the end.

- John DiBiase (reviewed: 3/1/24)



Parental Guide: Content Summary

. Sex/Nudity: We see Paul and Chani in a head-and-shoulders shot talking with each other while she is on top of him and they are both out of breath. It's clear that they just finished "sleeping" together; Lady Margot Fenring seduces Feyd-Rautha. We see her sitting when she calls him over to her. It then cuts to the next scene where she tells other women that the bloodline is secure because she is carrying his child; Baron Harkonnen kisses his nephew on the lips. His nephew then kisses him on the lips in return; We see the baron's nude backside as he's rising from his bath, but it's dark so we don't really see the nudity.
. Vulgarity/Language: 2 "S" words, 1 "h*ll," 2 "p*ss" (with one of those being written in subtitles)
. Alcohol/Drugs: The fictional spice in the story has a hallucinogenic effect; A couple characters drink a poisonous blue liquid.
. Blood/Gore: Some women with Feyd-Rautha apparently eat the organs of people. He uses a knife to slice one of the girls' necks and we see quite a bit of blood on her throat before she collapse and he offers her, and another girl he stabs', bodies to the other women to eat; Paul sees a vision of an atomic bomb going off and him holding Chani whose face is scarred badly and bloody; A main character has a lot of blood on his head during a one-on-one knife fight. The other character has blood on his mouth from under his nose; A kid stumbles out of a cave with blood all over their head and face; A captured woman kneels with blood on her face; Another character has blood on his head after an attack; blood is often seen on knives and swords.
. Violence: The movie opens where piles of dead, clothed people are set on fire with flamethrowers. We see this again later in the movie; Paul and Jessica fight and kill a couple of soldiers; A soldier is killed with a rock to the head/helmet off screen; The dead bodies of several soldiers are hit with injection devices that remove their body water; Beast Rabban slams a man's head into a console repeatedly in anger; A woman is forced to drink a poison and we see her convulsing intensely on the ground. She ends up surviving; Several Fremen attack harvesters and blow them up. They also stab and slice enemy soldiers. Several Fremen are also shot and killed; Some women with Feyd-Rautha apparently eat the organs of people. He uses a knife to slice one of the girls' necks and we see quite a bit of blood on her throat before she collapse and he offers her, and another girl he stabs', bodies to the other women to eat; Feyd-Rautha fights three men in an arena, stabbing and killing all of them in the process; Ships attack a mountain, destroying the living space inside it; Large worms are ridden into battle. There's a large-scale battle between two armies with lots of slicing and stabbing; A man stabs another man in the neck during a fight, killing him; Feyd-Rautha slices a man's throat, but there isn't any blood. He's then carried off to be offered to his women who eat human flesh (which is never seen); A kid stumbles out of a cave with blood all over their head and face; A man drinks a poison and dies. He's then brought back to life; A captured woman kneels with blood on her face (she's then torched to death off screen); A man is attacked from behind and is left struggling on a flight of stairs. Another man approaches him and stabs him in the side of his neck, killing him; A main character has a lot of blood on his head during a one-on-one knife fight. The other character has blood on his mouth from under his nose. A character is stabbed in the side and we see the handle sticking out of the impact. They struggle over the second knife and a character is stabbed and killed while the other has the other knife sticking out of their shoulder. The survivor slowly pulls the knife out of the wound (which we see); and quite a bit of other sci-fi action violence.


Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.

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