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Review | Dune: Part Two
Review
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‘Dune: Part Two’: As solemn as the first, but more exciting

Its imposing spaceships, the haunting beat of Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack and its palace intrigues leave little room for yawning

Timothée Chalamet and Austin Butler in 'Dune: Part Two.'
Javier Ocaña

Frank Herbert’s original novel is not an easy read. Not because of his literary style, but because of that myriad of names, languages, planets, places, dynasties and relationships between characters one has to keep up with. Denis Villeneuve’s original film, corresponding to the first half of the book, was not easy to watch either, with its 155 minutes of gravity, its crushing solemnity, its browns, its grays and its total absence of liveliness or any sense of freshness.

However, Herbert’s book (which was later joined by five more novels) has amassed a legion of fans from several generations, and the Canadian director’s adaptation — overtaking Alejandro Jodorowsky’s failed attempt and David Lynch’s unsuccessful version from 1984 — was a hit with the public (grossing more than $400 million worldwide), with the critics and with the Academy (winning six Oscars out of 10 nominations). It is in this context that, after the initial caution (the second installment was only going to be made if the first one did well), Dune: Part Two arrives, with a similar cinematic flavor and almost the exact tone of sumptuousness.

Adult science fiction is (almost) always like this. Pomp and circumstance. And this movie has a lot of both in its perhaps unjustifiable two hours and 45 minutes, sustained by the visual prowess of the author of the superb Sicario, Prisoners and Enemy, by an excellent cast that oozes charisma and by the political and religious nuances of a story in which only the occasional interpretive wink from Javier Bardem adds a few drops of humor. Its spaceships, as imposing as cathedrals, the haunting beat of the strings and the percussions of Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack (in the press screening in Warner’s small room, the seats literally trembled) and the weight of its palace intrigues leave little room for yawning.

Timothée Chalamet, in 'Dune: Part Two.'
Timothée Chalamet, in 'Dune: Part Two.'

However, as was the case with Arrival and Blade Runner 2049, in spite of all the technical and artistic effort, Villeneuve still fails to deliver enduring images for the history of cinema with Dune (as he did with his spider from Enemy), partly because at times it seems like his best creations lack images of specific shots (the handling of tempo in editing), as if due to a certain impatience, and partly because some of the most fascinating ones are marred by digital obstinacy; the multiplication of crowds in the sequence where Austin Butler’s character’s fights in the coliseum serves as a paradigm in that respect.

The power of Herbert and Villeneuve and his co-writers to pen powerful phrases remains intact (“The mystery of life isn’t a problem to solve, but a reality to experience,” is one of many nuggets from the first installment). The same goes for the interesting parallels between Jesus and Paul Atreides, Timothée Chalamet’s role: that messiah who in the first part came close to rebelling due to his status as the chosen one and who, now more aware, must go through a series of trials in the dunes, just like Christ being tempted by the Devil in the solitude of the desert. Not to mention the suggestive similarities between the Fremen of the planet Arrakis of the year 10191 and any oppressed people in the history of humanity, which these days might bring Gaza to mind. A feeling further heightened by the Arabesque names and by those secret tunnels used to hide from the oppressor, which can also evoke the Viet Cong (don’t forget that the novel was first published in 1965).

Dune: Part Two is sometimes excessively severe, and between the trials in the desert and the final battle, lots of footage could have remained on the editing room floor. But it is also a solid, attractive film, more exciting than the first installment. It seems like Villeneuve intends to continue adapting Herbert’s novels; he has enough for a whole career, and some for his heirs’, too. And watch out, because the following novel, Dune Messiah, turns the oppressed into the oppressor. Which also sounds like the present time in the Middle East.

'Dune: Part Two'

Director: Denis Villeneuve.

Cast: Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Rebeca Fergusson, Javier Bardem.

Genre: Science fiction. USA, 2024.

Runtime: 166 minutes.

Release date: March 1.

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