Director: Denis Villeneuve
Cast: Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Josh Brolin, Austin Butler, Florence Pugh, Dave Bautista, Christopher Walken, Léa Seydoux, Souheila Yacoub, Stellan Skarsgård, Charlotte Rampling, Javier Bardem
Runtime: 2 hrs 46 mins
Rating: PG13 (Some Violence)
Released By: Warner Bros
Official Website: https://www.dunemovie.com.sg
Opening Day: 29 February 2024
Synopsis: “Dune: Part Two” will explore the mythic journey of Paul Atreides as he unites with Chani and the Fremen while on a path of revenge against the conspirators who destroyed his family. Facing a choice between the love of his life and the fate of the known universe, he endeavors to prevent a terrible future only he can foresee.
Putting it out there first: There's going to be a part three.
Denis Villeneuve must be thrilled.
Conceived as a two-part movie project, the director initially pitched the idea of filming the two episodes together, but the studios preferred a more conservative approach of producing just one to gauge response. No doubt the $402 million earnings and positive buzz won Villeneuve his second chapter - and now, even a third (or more) to follow.
While pragmatic, the decision has served Dune: Part Two well on other fronts too. Perhaps unshackled from the need to perform, the sequel felt less self-conscious in its need to impress, allowing the second part to become a more cohesive production. What I mean, is that the pageantry was undeniable in Dune: Part One - so overt at times that the pomp felt almost desperate. And when so much emphasis on visual and musical artistry is placed beside writing, they inevitably showed up some of its weaker development, especially in terms of the characters and its last act. Dune: Part Two has managed to show more restraint, and better finesse. Villeneuve himself stated in interviews that he has grown plenty from his experience filming the first chapter.
So yes, Dune: Part Two is one of those rare examples when the sequel surpasses its predecessor. With the added gap caused by the pandemic and Hollywood strikes, Villeneuve and his team found time to finetune production elements, and what emerged is a mature creature that is more immersive and entertaining.
We return to see Paul Atreides (Timothee Chalamet) and his mother, Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), trying to endear themselves to the Fremans. While Paul demonstrates his natural capabilities as an outstanding leader, the pregnant matriarch moves towards a more spiritual arc by building local beliefs that he is the messiah, guided by conversations of her unborn daughter. Elsewhere, new players emerge in the universe to lay their claim. The Emperor and his daughter (played by Christopher Walken and Florence Pugh) attempt to quell the growing influence of Paul as the prophesied saviour, while the dreaded House Harkonnen adds a new bloodthirsty champion - Feyd-Rautha (Austin Butler) - to their cause in eliminating the resistance. All this while, the Bene Gesserit orchestrates their own puppeteering with Lady Fenring (Lea Seydoux).
It is through this dynamic that Dune: Part 2 comes alive. Action seekers will find the sequel to be a lot more satisfying in its thrills. There's a good mix of group battles and solo combat, and the director fully delivered on the Planet Arrakis's most compelling creatures - the sandworms - with scenes of wormriding. It's all very epic - especially so if you're watching it on IMAX, as Villeneuve intended. These act as counterbalance to the machinations between the nations, giving part two a formula more akin to the successful likes of Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings, and a more satisfying watch overall.
With this chapter, we also finally see the director's personal interest in the spiritual Bene Gesserit come to fruition. There is already a spinoff series (Dune: The Sisterhood on MAX) in the works, and Villeneuve places more emphasis on the priestesses in the new chapter with added lore and appearances. In fact, a Bene Gesserit kicks off the sequel with her narration, in the form of Princess Irulan, the Emperor's daughter.
My biggest peeve with the first movie was its mediocre script. It shuttles between being cryptic and expositional, and overall, just taking itself too seriously with our angst-ridden protagonist. I'm thankful that Dune: Part Two has eased off on that, with more time given to characters like Stilgar (the excellent Javier Bardem) to realise a dimensional world, and others like Feyd-Rautha upping the ante in its villainy. There's still a tad too much close-ups on Timothee Chalamet and Zendaya (pretty as they are), and the latter just exhibits a wee bit too much petulance (enough to make some scenes feel like a teen rom-com), but I can sense that Villeneuve is adding some restraint and hope that future episodes will continue in this direction.
As always, Greig Fraser and Hans Zimmer deliver fully in their areas of cinematography and score. Through shifting sand dunes and vocal wailing, the journey remains stunning in these two aspects - an exotic sensory escape for almost 3 hours. It feels a lot more melded in its execution, beautifully supporting the story, and the design innovation - such as Harkonnen's globular fireworks - comes across wondrous and logical. While I was a little bit more wary of this chapter after watching the first, the path that Villeneuve is taking now is a promising one I'm now invested in.
(The maturing mythology and improved production synergy finally lets the story come into its own with this sequel)
Review by Morgan Awyong