Dune: Part Two (2024) Review

Writer’s note: The second paragraph of this article (just below the first image) contains a basic outline of the film’s premise. There are no spoilers that weren’t already inferred in the film’s own trailer. However, if you want to completely avoid potential spoilers, skip over the second paragraph.

Frank Herbert’s Dune has proven to be an increasingly difficult book to adapt for film. Alejandro Jodorowsky famously tried to bring it to screens in the mid-1970s, while David Lynch failed to win over audiences with his underwhelming version in 1984. All of that changed with Denis Villeneuve’s Dune (2021), which garnered both critical acclaim and box office success. Villeneuve focused on the thematic drama, depicting it with the same kind of verisimilitude found in an old Hollywood war epic. This made all of the human elements ring true, while also making the wild science fiction feel grand and opulent instead of silly. Most importantly, Villeneuve recognised that compressing over 800 pages into one film would harm the storytelling, opting instead to cut the novel into two parts. There’s always a chance that slicing a single story into two films would disservice both, but the newly released Dune: Part Two (2024) has put all those worries to bed.

Florence Pugh as Princess Irulan.

Following the events of Part One, Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) and his mother Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) are now integrated within the indigenous people of Arrakis, known as the Fremen. Stilgar (Javier Bardem), the ruler of the tribe, has an unshakeable belief in the prophesied messiah known as the Lisan Al Gaib, who is said to lead the Fremen to paradise. The Fremen see the signs of the coming prophet in Paul, which is no coincidence as Lady Jessica and her order of nuns, known as The Bene Gesserit, have been seeding religious zealotry across the universe for 1000s of years. Paul’s ability to see the future makes it very likely that he is indeed the Lisan Al Gaib, but every vision he has shows that a genocidal Holy War will be raged in his name should he ascend to power. He and his Fremen lover Chani (Zendaya) are wary of this eventuality, but Paul’s quest to enact revenge on Baron Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgård) for the murder of his father, as well as liberating the Fremen from the emperor Shaddam IV (Christopher Walken), may make it an impossible future to avoid. 

Like its predecessor, Dune: Part Two is a cinematic epic, yet it manages to achieve that height in a very different manner. Part One focused heavily on wide shots of the spectacular locations, as well as action sequences and dialogue exchanges geared towards explaining who’s who and what’s what. With all that exposition out of the way, Part Two focuses more on character motivations, development and emotion. The epic scale is less about the splendour of world building, but more about the decisions characters make, highlighting the meaning of every choice, and the eventual consequences. To be clear, Part Two is much larger than Part One, yet it also feels more intimate. Villeneuve has exemplified Dune’s many comparisons to Lawrence of Arabia (1962), as the first half of the story is entirely about reeling in the viewer with endless grandeur, while the second half is a series of epic battles with a very existential mindset. 

Austin Butler as Feyd-Rautha.

Even with its character centred story, Part Two is still a feast for the eyes. Villeneuve along with cinematographer Greg Fraser, have delivered a near perfect blend of gorgeous location shooting and groundbreaking visual effects, with many of the film’s most striking images likely to become instantly iconic. The extended sequence introducing Austin Butler’s villainous Feyd-Rautha being the most notable example, showing the staggering depths of the filmmaker’s imagination. Just as classic Star Trek was a source of inspiration for scientific innovation, Dune: Part Two will likely be so as well. The visual presentation is so beautifully constructed, that even the bombastic action sequences feel like they are artistically establishing dramatic mood and tone, as opposed to being gratuitously explosive.

With that in mind, it’s rather fascinating to see that this action packed war film doesn’t feel like an action film at all. While there are certainly plenty of knife fights, shoot outs, and massive battles between warring armies, Villeneuve isn’t overly concerned with creating typical ‘action movie’ tension. In most cases, action films make the viewer fear for the protagonist’s safety, creating a feeling that the heroes could be killed during a confrontation. Dune: Part Two never plays that game, as its goal isn’t about making us question who lives or who dies. Instead, Dune: Part Two delivers action sequences which makes the viewer think about why these events are happening, and what it could mean for the wider world if the heroes succeed. The tension is about the grander implications, not the violence occurring in the moment. None of the conflicts are satisfying when the day is won, as many of these sequences turn out to be unnerving instead of gratifying.

Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica.

This brings to light what makes Dune: Part Two so special. Namely, the fact that its ‘heroes’ are barely heroes at all. The story of Dune isn’t about good versus evil, but rather about people on all sides with various personal, political or religious agendas. We see how these opposing motivations infect each other, ultimately creating chaos. Frank Herbert’s original intention was to show how blindly following charismatic figureheads, world leaders, or religious figures could lead to disaster, and Dune: Part Two holds true to that message. These characters are locked in a battle which determines the fate of billions of people, yet their actions only satisfy their own needs. It’s a powerful lesson, and one which works to greatly enhance the film’s narrative engagement.

As an added bonus, Part Two is safe in the knowledge that there will be a Part Three. Part One was a bit of a gamble, as they cut the story in half not knowing if they’d have the chance to complete it. With these Dune films now a certified hit, Villeneuve confidently lays the groundwork for the next chapter, knowing he can take certain risks with characters and critical scenes. Most importantly, Villeneuve has recognised elements of the future films which need to be set up now, thus altering some key plot point from the book. In a way, Villeneuve has the benefit of hindsight which eluded Frank Herbert, meaning that this series of Dune films may one day become the best and most refined version of this epic tale.

The Worms of Arrakis.

After 60 years, Dune has finally been brought to the screen in a near perfect form. Part One was already nearing the status of being a modern science fiction classic, but it’s Part Two’s success which has cemented that legacy. While it may be too early to proclaim it as one of the best films ever made, Dune: Part Two has the potential to become The Godfather: Part II (1974) for a generation of young moviegoers.

9.5/10

Best way to watch it:  In a double feature with Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979)

Dune: Part Two Poster.
Share my post

About the author

Robert Fantozzi

Passionate filmmaker. Proud Italian-South African. Total Nerd.

View all posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *