April 18, 2024
Dune part two

If David Lynch’s 1984 film “Dune” rushed through the novel, the second half of director Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation moves as if it’s trudging in sand, both figuratively and physically. Still visually stunning and overpowering in its scale, “Dune: Part Two” becomes immersed in the political denseness of author Frank Herbert’s universe, moving unevenly through this section of the novel before suddenly ending.

Much has changed since the original film was released in theatres and on streaming during the height of the epidemic (a choice that the director harshly criticised), and the reloaded ensemble remains plenty starry, with Zendaya playing a meatier part in this round.

The technological prowess that garnered the 2021 film six Oscars lends itself well to big-screen consumption, and Warner Bros. (like CNN, a Warner Bros. Discovery branch) could profit handsomely this time around.

Still, whereas the first film meticulously established the pieces and players, the latest film serves as an extended origin story for Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) as he lives among the Fremen, learns to ride giant worms, and gradually accepts his destiny as the warrior messiah they call Mahdi.
Dune
To gain vengeance, Paul must first be accepted by the Fremen in their guerrilla war against the invading Harkonnens, led by the bloated Baron (Stellan Skarsgård) and his repulsive nephews, the Beast Rabban (Dave Bautista) and Feyd-Rautha (Austin Butler, having happily shed his “Elvis” vocal affectation, as well as his brows).

Butler, like Sting before him, makes the most of his character as a smirking psychopath whose cruelty leads the Baron to unleash him on the Fremen in order to assure the continuous supply of spice, the galaxy’s most valuable resource. Other newcomers include Christopher Walken and Florence Pugh as the Emperor and his daughter, Léa Seydoux, as well as Anya Taylor-Joy, who appears briefly.Timothée Chalamet Florence Pugh zendaya
Villeneuve is at his most effective when conveying the Harkonnens’ fascistic authority and their huge military machine, with to composer Hans Zimmer’s strong soundtrack (and overall sound).

At the same time, the tempo is more slow, especially in the opening hour or so of this 166-minute extravaganza, which delves deeply into the complexities of imperial politics and Fremen cultures, interspersed by skirmishes in the greater conflict.

That leisurely beginning stretch returns to haunt the film at the conclusion, when it feels as if Villeneuve (who shares screenwriting credit with Jon Spaihts) is racing towards a finale that delivers the message – or the hope – that this isn’t the last we’ll see of “Dune.”

There’s also the problematic decision to have Paul’s witchy mother, Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), communicate with her unborn daughter, who “speaks” to her from the womb.

Between this and “Wonka,” Chalamet credibly bears the weight of a character maturing from callow youth to commanding saviour, but those playing the villains appear to be having a lot more fun, with the exception of Javier Bardem’s Stilgar, whose faith makes him Paul’s biggest Fremen fan.

From a more earthbound standpoint, following a delay due to Hollywood’s twin strikes, the “Dune” sequel has emerged as the next glimmer of hope in Hollywood’s often-frustrating campaign to get people back into theatre seats, reaching the conclusion of a discontented winter with few bright spots.

Like the first half of “Dune” and the “Avatar” films, “Part Two” offers cutting-edge cinematic elements that reward indulging in its grandeur, at least for anyone who hasn’t completely lost the habit of coming to the movies. After the early promise, however, the picture only sometimes rises to the level of its lofty expectations, a rather ironic indication of how rapidly the worm may turn.

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