‘Dune: Part Two’ delivers a haunted messiah that you may not be ready for

By Ben Konuch

“Power over spice is power over all.”

Three years after Denis Villeneuve unveiled his first chapter of a vast adaptation of Frank Herbert’s legendary sci-fi novel “Dune,” Villeneuve returns to the sands of Arrakis to bring the next page of his adaptation to life. With “Dune: Part One” serving as an overwhelming financial and critical success, snagging a total of six Oscars at the Academy Awards and introducing new fans to the mystical and militaristic future of its story, the hype around “Dune: Part Two” was on a level I hadn’t seen since “Avengers: Endgame.” While I walked into an opening night IMAX showing with high expectations and even higher anxiety that I might be disappointed, I walked out with a gaping mouth and the realization that I just witnessed a cinematic event the likes of which we seldom get in modern film.

In short, “Dune: Part Two” delivers on every hope I had for it after the first film. Villeneuve once again demonstrates that he’s a master of his craft as he weaves complex philosophical and moral musings into the form of a narratively satisfying blockbuster. This film delves more into the religious and mystical sides of the world, as Paul seeks refuge with the Fremen to learn their ways to exact his revenge against House Harkonnen. This takes him directly into the prophecies and manipulations of the Bene Gesserit, which his mother now seeks to exploit to turn Paul from vengeful warrior into triumphant messiah. Paul must grapple with his desire for revenge, new love and the fear of becoming a revered ruler at the expense of starting a holy war that may eradicate billions.

If “Dune: Part One” was large scale, “Dune: Part Two” is massive. This is a film you’ll want to see on the biggest screen possible, as the scale, scope and sheer spectacle of it eclipses its predecessor in almost every way. There’s intense, brutal hand-to-hand fighting, large battles of armies clashing, taming of sandworms that could swallow entire buildings and a tense, ever-ticking time bomb of religious fanaticism threatening to destroy the young hero we’ve begun to root for. Its action is the return to the large-scale, biblical epics of film that we seldom see made by Hollywood in the last decade.

But where “Dune: Part Two” truly shines is in its quieter moments. Like the first film, this one isn’t all action and has a much more slow-burn aspect than viewers may expect from sci-fi films. This is “Dune: Part Two’s” strength, as these quieter moments of connection between characters give the film a raw, emotional center. While the emotional focal point of “Part One” comes in the family and destruction of House Atreides, “Part Two” delivers a blooming love between Paul and the Fremen warrior Chani that could either save his tortured soul or drive it to tyrannical measures to protect. These scenes between Paul, Chani, Lady Jessica and even the other Fremen are captivating to watch and fantastically acted. The way these scenes are filmed contrast the typical wide shots of the normal cinematography with a signature close-up camera view that brings the eyes and faces of these personal connections into front and center.

Chani serves as the heart and soul of the film

But with these new allies and companions come new enemies, as House Harkonnen wages a war on the Fremen and the last survivor of House Atreides, although Paul’s identity remains a secret through most of the film. Stellan Skarsgaard once again returns as the disgusting and imposing Baron set on controlling Arrakis, although this time, he has new help. Austin Butler joins the cast as the terrifying and revolting Feyd-Rautha, a character that was so well-designed and well-acted that I genuinely felt physically uncomfortable every time he was on screen. Feyd-Rautha is the perfect antithesis to Paul, with all the strength and cunning yet none of the compassion and honor. As the two continue down their own paths toward an inevitable conclusion and an inevitable war, the tension and anxiety radiating from the screen is almost palpable.

More newcomers round out the cast, such as Christopher Walken as the feared Emperor and Florence Pugh as his wise yet ruthless daughter. It’s hard to explain how well every cast member in this film contributes to its story and quality in a short review, but even smaller players in the grand plot have a purpose and bring a unique dynamic to the film, such as Josh Brolin or Javier Bardem.

It is important to note, however, that “Dune: Part Two” is a significantly darker and more mature story than its first half. Villeneuve has foun

d a fantastic balance of proposing uncomfortable themes and concepts without showing them or focusing on them more than needed. The film could have easily been rated R, especially with the brutality of the Harkonnens, and yet “Part Two” only shows and discusses what absolutely needs to be. It’s an admirable and respectable way of presenting intense themes, content, moral dilemmas and philosophical ideals without becoming stifling or gratuitous.

A duel for the fate of Arrakis… and the universe

In short, “Dune: Part Two” is a worthy sequel in almost every way. It’s bigger, louder, more intense and more thought-provoking than the original. Personally, despite the focus on the quieter and emotional moments, I found the bond of family from the first film to resonate with me slightly more than the bond of romantic love in this one. That being said, it was no fault of the film’s and “Dune: Part Two” delivered something distinctly different from the first in this way that many people will love even more than the first film. 

If you can, watch “Dune: Part Two” on the biggest screen you can find. It’s an intense, emotional and exciting thrill ride full of beautiful cinematography and special effects. Yet when the credits roll, what sticks with you most is the question of whether or not “Dune’s” messiah has done what needs to be done or has chosen to doom a universe.

That’s how “Dune: Part Two” has made a blockbuster into something greater.

I give “Dune: Part Two” a 9.5/10

“Dune: Part Two” is currently showing in theaters

Ben Konuch is a junior Strategic Communication student and one of the A&E editors for Cedars as well as the social media lead. He enjoys getting sucked into good stories, playing video games and swing dancing in the rain.

Images courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

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