‘Dune: Part Two’ is a Fully Realized Sci-Fi Spectacle (Review)

by | Feb 21, 2024


The spice overflows with awe in this bigger, better sequel that we’ll be talking about for the rest of the year. 

When Dune came out in 2021, audiences got a taste of the desert planet Arrakis and what it had to offer in addition to the valuable substance spice at the center of it all. While we got to meet and know the young protagonist Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) alluded to in a prophecy, it was the start of his journey that only scratched the surface of the world audiences got swept up in; as Chani (Zendaya) famously said with the last line in the film: “This is only the beginning.”  

And with Dune: Part Two, its predecessor truly was just the beginning and merely a taste of what was to come in Part Two, where director Denis Villeneuve’s vision for this story is fully realized on an even grander scale, thanks to a cast of memorable characters, layered political and personal conflict, unparalleled world building, and jaw-dropping action sequences. All of these aspects make for one of the best sci-fi movies in years – bar none. 

Dune: Part Two picks up almost immediately after the events of its predecessor, where Paul and his mother Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) unite with the Fremen, led by Stiglar (Javier Bardem) in the deserts of Arrakis. As Paul begins to learn the ways of the Fremen in an effort to seek revenge on those who destroyed his family, he also becomes close with Chani and struggles with visions and being the prophet the Fremen have foretold: Muad’Dib. 

While Dune delved into the houses at the center of the conflict, Dune: Part Two goes deeper into the main players here, seeking their own gains and the spice that connects them all. Paul and his mother struggle with their new roles amongst the Fremen while the Harkonnens who took down House Atredis in the first film and then took over the spice operation on Arrakis, continue to fend off Fremen. The emperor (often mentioned throughout Dune and partially why you should revisit the first film before seeing Part Two) and his daughter are trying to figure out what to do from another planet, and the Fremen that are the only non outsiders in this story are trying to survive while trying to determine whether Paul is who the prophecy foretold them would come save them. Oh, and let’s not forget about young romance either between Paul and Chani. That’s quite important as well. 

While it’s easy to get swept up in the spectacle of Dune: Part Two, the story as written by Villenueve and his screenwriting partner Jon Spaihts presents personal and political conflict that goes beyond just good versus evil. Without spoiling anything, the character progressions of Paul and Lady Jessica drive the narrative of Part Two with actions that affect everyone involved to the point of where you might say, “Are there any winners in this story?” While some of the storytelling may feel dense at times, films that challenge viewers and the morals of the characters presented in these stories and are meant to immerse us in new worlds beyond our own are the ones we often leave the theater thinking about more so than others.

From the opening scene until the credits roll, Part Two is a feast for the eyes and ears. The world building we saw in the predecessor is further developed, with more locations and set pieces that make you feel immersed in the world. The action scenes, which some felt were few and far between in the predecessor, are more frequent and exhilarating than just more sandworms (which to be fair is also a welcome addition) throughout the entire film. And add in that two of the best in their respective roles with cinematographer Greig Fraser and composer Hans Zimmer are back, along with the film’s immaculate sound design, and you won’t find many other theatrical moviegoing experiences that compare. In addition to all this, Part Two was shot in IMAX and demands to be seen in this premium format. 

Dune: Part Two doesn’t work, however, without its brilliant cast, which is an all-star lineup of both up-and-comers and veteran actors. Timothée Chalamet fresh off the wonderful Wonka movie from the past holiday season continues to show us why he’s a star in Hollywood; as Paul, he commands the screen every time he’s shown. Zendaya, whose character is given a bigger role this time around, chews up every scene she appears in (and has great chemistry with Chalamet). Veteran actors Rebecca Ferguson, Josh Brolin, Dave Bautista, and Stellan Skarsgard are all back in the sequel and are great in their respective roles, in addition to Javier Bardem and Christopher Walken, who seem to be having the most fun in this feature. But two new characters, played by Florence Pugh and Austin Butler, to a greater extent shine brightest in Part Two. While Pugh’s character, the daughter of the emperor, is another great addition to the young actress’ great portfolio, it’s Butler as a young, psychotic Harkonnen warrior who almost steals the show here.

When we go to the movies, we hope to be immersed in realms that help us briefly forget about the outside world we currently live in. And since the COVID-19 pandemic, the moviegoing experience has faced challenges to keep that theatrical participation we all encounter in dark rooms with strangers, together, alive and well. The theme of Dune: Part Two throughout its marketing campaign has been, “Long live the fighters.” And while this mantra may be at the center of Part Two, director Denis Villeneuve said something a few weeks ago during the re-release of Dune leading up to next week’s debut of Part Two that has stuck with me since and plays a just as a pivotal a role as the mantra: “Long live cinema.” Dune: Part Two, a technical masterpiece that is part of a story that is this current generation’s live action Star Wars, is another beaming example of why the theatrical experience will live on for generations to come despite what others might say. “Long live cinema,” indeed, Denis.


RATING: ★★★★★

(out of five stars)