Dune:  Part Two  (12A) |Close-Up Film Review

Dir. Denis Villeneuve, US/Canada, 2024, 167 mins

Cast:  Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Austin Butler

Review by Carol Allen

Denis Villeneuve’s vision knocks run of the mill sci fi spectaculars based on comic book characters and such  into a cocked hat, because Dune 2 and its predecessor are so  intelligently imaginative in their vision. 

Central character Paul (Timothée Chalamet) is now fully committed to siding with the Fremen people, native to the planet Arrakis, and to the Fremen woman Chani (Zendaya) with whom he is in love.  He is supporting them in the battle for their planet against the corrupt Harkonnens, who want  control of the coveted Spice, which the planet produces and which is guarded by the fearsome sand worms.   The planet’s largely sandy desert landscape and the robes and headdresses of the Fremen are interestingly reminiscent of the Bedouin people, while Javier Bardem as their leader Stilgar, who hails Paul as the Fremen’s long awaited saviour adds a somewhat biblical feeling to the situation. 

The film has a terrific cast to tell its story. In addition to  those already mentioned, Rebecca Ferguson returns as  Paul’s mother, member of a mystical female sect.  Creepily at one point she is forced to drink the powerful “water of life” – which is not Scotch whiskey but the blood of a sandworm, which will either kill her or give her further powers. 

Then there are the Harkonnens – leader of their forces Stellan Skaarsgaard, buried under a mountain of prosthetic blubber as the Baron and Austin Butler,  formerly “Elvis”, excellent in a totally contrasting role to that.  He plays the Baron’s evil punk nephew Feyd-Rautha, who at one point engages in single  combat with Paul in the style of the Roman Empire.  The Harkonnens are all bald as eggs, both men and women, and the only power they acknowledge is that of the Emperor played by Christoper Walken with a fine head of hair.  So could one say in the country of the bald, the hairy man is king or this case, one up on that?

Villeneuve’s imagination and his whole team’s skill in creating this alternative universe are much to be admired.  But however much you  create spectacularly original  weapons, costumes, sets and make up, the concerns of the story and indeed the very appearance of those artefacts are limited by our human culture, our  mythology and our experience and concerns, such as love, greed and power.   The furthest Villeneuve got away from that limitation was in his 2016  film  Arrival, when we neither saw nor heard the alien lifeforms that had arrived on earth and had to find another way of learning about them. 

Having said that though, Dune 2 is an immensely enjoyable sic-fic spectacle, which seems certain to repeat or even exceed the success of Part One.  While the ending of the film indicates that there will almost certainly be a third film.   Because the story is by no means over.