Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Movie Review: ‘Dune: Part Two’ is a Sophisticated Sci-Fi Masterpiece


Director: Denis Villenueve
Writers: Denis VIllenueve, Jon Spaihts, Frank Herbert
Stars: Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson

Synopsis: Paul Atreides unites with Chani and the Fremen while seeking revenge against the conspirators who destroyed his family.


Nerds unite! Hollywood has turned to one filmmaker to bring his brand of smart, sleek, and ultra-cool science fiction epic storytelling from Frank Herbert into all of its glory. That man is Denis Villeneuve. Dune: Part 2 continues the French Canadian maestro’s perfect streak of creating great films and he still never made a bad one. (Yes, all of us Enemy stans stand up and cheer!) Villeneuve’s follow-up to the opening chapter has complex characters, an indescribable mood, visually captivating aesthetic, intense atmosphere, and meticulous attention to detail that transport the viewer to another time and place.

When I saw the first chapter of Villeneuve’s Dune, it took time to wrap my head around it because I had never read the book and had not fully appreciated the sheer accomplishment of bringing Dune to life. It was a necessary first step to something better. And boy, Villeneuve delivers an epic film with jaw-dropping action sequences, visually stunning images, and the type of world building that most can only dream of. 

In short, Dune: Part 2 takes its place with The Godfather Part 2, Empire Strikes Back, and The Dark Knight as one of the greatest sequels ever made. It’s the science fiction epic that will blow you away and is the one we have been waiting for.

In other words, Mr. Villeneuve, I will love you as long as I breathe. 

Villeneuve picks up where the first film left off. Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) forms an alliance with the Fremen, along with his mother, Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), after Paul wins his way in by winning a fight to the death against one of Stilgar’s (Javier Bardem) men, Jamis. Along with—literally—the woman of his dreams, Chani (Zendaya), Paul begins to develop a plan to avenge the deaths of his father, Leto (Oscar Isaac), and his mentor, Duncan (Jason Momoa). Paul and Jessica, under Stilgar’s protection, assimilate into the Fremen society. As Paul says, half of them think he’s their next Messiah. The others feel he must be a false prophet who must pay for Jamis’s death.

The story’s villains remain, but they have brought in some friends. Glossu Rabban (Dave Bautista) angers the Baron (Stellan Skarsgård) because he can’t stop the band of uprisings and continues gathering the planet’s most valuable asset, spice. The Baron’s nephew, Feyd-Rautha (Austin Butler), is being groomed as his replacement and calls upon him to right the ship. Watching closely is the Emperor (Christopher Walken) and his daughter, Princess Irulan (Florence Pugh), who has a surprising stake in the outcome.

Dune: Part 2’s script, by Villeneuve and Jon Spaihts, crafts an immersive and detailed environment that brings an extraordinary world to life. The world-building enhances the expansive and rich narrative by drawing upon source material that feels authentic and unique. The second installment is essentially an epic war film that pays extra special attention to the romance between Chalamet’s Paul and Zendaya’s Chani. I would love to say their love affair creates more heat on the screen than Arrakis at high noon on a scorching summer day. However, the romance is gentle and slowly develops into something sweetly innocent and curious.

These elements make Dune: Part 2 a well-rounded film that morphs into a sweeping saga with a grand feel, giving the experiences an emotional depth that leaves an impact. This is especially evident as the film slowly becomes more of a political chess match in its third act. That’s where Chalamet begins to grow up in front of our eyes and delivers a rousing speech that we didn’t know he had in him. He provides a powerful and authoritative performance and, dare I say, a James Dean rebellious quality that’s magnetic. This is Chalamet’s graduation day, and he can be cast in any role from this point forward.

We want to avoid specific spoilers, but there are moments and scenes in Dune: Part 2 that are so purely cinematic they will be watched and talked about for generations. For example, you have Paul riding his first worm in front of the Fremen through the scorching expansive desert sand. The awe-inspiring House of Harkonnen gladiator matches under the black sun. And, of course, that spectacular opening wave at the Battle of Arrakeen. These scenes will be known as classics that parents will show their children, as many do with Raiders of the Lost Ark; they are that good.

Dune: Part 2 is the year’s first great film, and you won’t see a bigger or better blockbuster all year. From the stunning sun-burnt visuals from cinematographer Greig Fraser and Hans Zimmer’s heart-pumping alternative-operatic powerful score to the embarrassment of riches when it comes to the deep bench of actors, Dune: Part 2 is a sophisticated sci-fi masterpiece, an instant classic, and an unprecedented sequel. 

Again, Mr. Villeneuve, I will love you as long as I breathe.

 

Grade: A+

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