Movie Review: ‘Dune: Part Two’

Any film that has the brilliant actor Stephen McKinley Henderson in it is tops in my book. 

Timothee Chalamet as Paul in Dune: Part Two
Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

Hats off to director Denis Villeneuve who’s managed to help create a new science fiction franchise in Dune. One that I think is on par as one of the best since the original Star Wars trilogy. I mean, seriously… What other franchise (beyond the Marvel films, I suppose) can you say this about?

Dune: Part Two picks off where last one ended. Now that the House of Atreides has been decimated and Emperor Shaddam (Christopher Walken) and Baron Harkonen (Stellan Skarsgard) assured of the family’s death, spice production on Arrakis has ramped back up, as well as the attempted destruction of the Fremans.

But, not so fast folks, because Paul (Timothee Chalamet) and his mother, Lady Atreides (Rebecca Ferguson), survived and are now living among the Freman. Paul slowly begins to ingratiate and gain their confidence – thanks in no small part to Chani (Zendaya) and Stiglar (Javier Bardem), who insists that the young Atreides is the answer to all their troubles.

When the Fremans take it up a notch and begin destroying the spice production, Baron Harkonnen calls upon his psychopathic nephew, Feyd-Rautha (Austin Butler), to take them out like “rats.”

There’s a huge amount of story and characters that Villeneuve and co-writer Jon Spaihts have packed into the two and a half hour run time, but everything is coherent and easy to understand, unlike some other films that are wanna-be sci-fi epics. A lot of those films seem like they’re more concerned with building worlds and checking off plot points. Villeneuve is putting character development and story first, because he knows that’s what draws audiences into the story and makes one more invested in the film.

Chalamet, coming off the heels of the fun Wonka, is terrific as we watch young Paul grow from someone with no home and affiliations to a man who is reluctantly treated like he’s the prophecy that’s been predicted. And by the way, he’s got one of the greatest heads of hair in all of Hollywood. What I wouldn’t give for a hair like that.

Zendaya has that rare quality of being a huge star while also shining as an actor. There are moments where Villeneuve keeps the camera on her and you can see a thousand emotions flickering through her eyes.

Butler is the big bad of the film and man, does he dial up the scare and creepiness factor to eleven. With his bald head and pristine white skin, he’s able to slice someone’s neck open like a box of paper clips that Amazon just delivered. It means nothing to him. The way he speaks, in a gargled and guttural voice, his cocked head and quick lumbering walk makes him a screen villain for the ages.

Bardem’s Stilgar is like that crazy uncle spouting nonsense at Thanksgiving dinner but when the time comes, you know you want him on your side. He’s super fun here too, watching him go from kook to dead serious and back again, while knowing that he’s got Paul’s best interests at heart (and his own too.) And when Josh Brolin’s Gurney  re-enters the fray, he brings some needed balls to the film just when it needs it. Skarsgård is, again, appropriately disgusting, and I mean that in the best way possible. He looks like I feel after a good long vacation of eating and drinking. And hey, any film that has the brilliant actor Stephen McKinley Henderson in it is tops in my book.

The cinematography is as good, if not better than the first. And the effects? I’ve never wanted to ride on a sand worm until I saw this film.

Bring on Part Three!

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