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Review: ‘Dune: Part Two’ loses faith in itself

Timoth%C3%A9e+Chalamet+and+Zendaya+reprise++their+roles+as+Paul+Atreides+and+Chani+in+Dune%3A+Part+Two.
Warner Bros. Pictures
Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya reprise their roles as Paul Atreides and Chani in “Dune: Part Two.”

“Dune: Part Two” is a frustrating movie, one that has moments of greatness but falters due to its lack of trust in the audience.

“Part Two” is hailed as just that, a direct continuation of the first “Dune” that sees Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) joining the Fremen to take down those who plotted against his family, all while trying to prevent a terrible future he sees in visions and dreams.

Right from the beginning, something felt off for me. The opening is a jumbled mess of introducing new characters, attempting to drum up excitement with a so-so action sequence and finally bringing viewers back to roughly where the first ended. Unlike the first “Dune,” which immediately brought me into its world and very rarely lost me, I was struggling to sink into the world of “Part Two.”

Director Denis Villeneuve seems unable to trust the audience to pick apart any nuance, and so this time around the characters all feel one note and far more distant than in the first movie: The Harkonenns seemingly have to kill someone in each scene to prove they are evil, Stilgar (Javier Bardem) is a fanatic who believes in the prophecy no matter the cost and Chani (Zendaya) is his direct opposite. Both Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) and Paul drink a special water that completely flips them into evil cliches. Paul, especially, transforms from himself in “Part One” (and much of “Part Two”), going from the boy unsure of his ability to lead House Atreides and unwilling to buy into the prophecy to the angry and evil Lisan al Gaib in the span of about two minutes. While I haven’t read the book, it is sections like these that make the movie feel like it is speeding through plot points in an attempt to reach the conclusion instead of letting Paul’s corruption through greed and power and fate build there naturally. 

Villeneuve also seems unable to trust in the audience’s attention span. He recently stated in an interview his preference for pure images over dialogue, which makes it a little bizarre how much of “Part Two” is focused on boring, dry dialogue and exposition while cutting away from any interesting image he conjures up. A great example of this is the much-hyped Sandworm riding scene, shown off in trailers and in the special preview released beforehand. It’s one of the few scenes where I really got a sense of what Paul was feeling through image alone, as he struggles to successfully orient himself on the worm. Throughout the scene, the camera focuses exclusively on Paul, and I felt a sense of awe and excitement as he inevitably succeeds. But then, the camera has to immediately cut away to reaction shots, seemingly in an attempt to make sure the audience isn’t bored having to sit with any single shot for more than a few brief seconds. 

Across his career, Villeneuve has always been better at the smaller moments, which makes it such a shame how often he sucks the life out of the movie by going so large-scale. My favorite moments were not the random spacecraft or harvesting machines being blown to bits by giant lasers in a CGI explosion, but those shared by Paul and Chani in the sand. One of the very few scenes that illustrates these sides being balanced is the introduction of Austin Butler’s Feyd-Rautha. The monochromatic gladiator match is technically massive, but the core of the scene is relegated to up close hand-to-hand combat, and I immediately understood Feyd-Rautha as the weird-voiced psychopath that he is.

While “Part Two” is technically fine visually, it seems a bit on autopilot. Its images seem to lack any intention or artistry behind them, and there are very few shots I can remember being specifically impressed by. The visuals are far less interesting or memorable than even the original “Dune” directed by David Lynch. The dreams/visions in Lynch’s version are far more expressive and those were done 40 years ago.

I found “Dune: Part Two,” to be a poor follow-up to the first, which I loved. Villeneuve seems to betray all that worked about the first movie in favor of a “bigger,” but ultimately far more empty experience, one that seems to overcorrect with far too much hand-holding, simplified characters and no room for nuance. This leads to a boring, unengaging film that’s too afraid to divide or be daring in any way, which is not the kind of movie I want to see. It plays more like a plot delivery system than any means to a true emotional journey.

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About the Contributor
Mack Gowan
Mack Gowan, Opinions Editor
Mack Gowan is the opinions editor for Central Times. Mack is a senior and this is his third year on staff. He loves putting information all over his stories. In his free time, he enjoys solving puzzles, cooking and listening to Dolly Parton, Marty Robbins as well as Bladee. Mack wants to be a filmmaker when he grows up.
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    Alexander CombeJun 12, 2024 at 10:04 am

    Yes really disappointed with part 2 ,no substance, rushed, cartoon badies,hardly any worms ,lynch is still king .

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