Star Rating:

Dune: Part Two

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Actors: Timothee Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgard, Zendaya

Release Date: Friday 1st March 2024

Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Drama

Running time: 167 minutes

Following the events of 'Dune: Part One', Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) leads the warriors of Arrakis on a guerrilla campaign against the Harkonnens, with the aid of Chani (Zendaya) and Stilgar (Javier Bardem), while his mother Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) seeks to cement his power by fermenting the belief that Paul is the culmination of a religious prophecy. However, as the uprising on Arrakis continues, Baron Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgard) becomes increasingly desperate and dispatches his nephew Feyd-Rautha (Austin Butler) to assume control of the planet, as the Emperor (Christopher Walken) and his daughter (Florence Pugh) begin to fear for all-out war against the Fremen and Paul Atreides...

At just under three hours, 'Dune: Part Two' has a runtime that's almost as big as the sandworms that Timothée Chalamet and his co-stars are often seen riding across the plains of Arrakis. Previous adaptations of 'Dune' have been so-so TV movies and, of course, David Lynch's fatally mishandled attempt with Kyle MacLachlan way back when. Yet, in those near-three hours, there are wonders and sights beyond the realm of possibilities not seen in decades of cinema. 'Dune: Part Two' feels like an epoch moment in the same way that Stanley Kubrick's '2001' was for one generation, how 'Star Wars' was for the next, and right up to recent history with the likes of 'Lord of the Rings'.

The scale and size of 'Dune: Part Two' is hard to quantify, but what sets it apart from other movies of similar ambition is how it feels textured and almost real. The use of CGI may be there, but it's done with such an artful stroke and with the purposes of adding to the atmosphere and storytelling, rather than simply being a focus of attention. Likewise, the way in which Denis Villeneuve and cinematographer Greig Fraser makes deliberate choices in framing shots and sequences - like the harsh black-and-white introduction for Austin Butler's psychopathic princeling, or how each scene with Florence Pugh's Princess Irulan is accompanied by falling rain, itself a symbol of power in the worlds the movie creates. This artfulness and ingenuity marks out so much of what makes 'Dune: Part Two' so immersive.

What's always been so fascinating about 'Dune' as a novel and as a wider franchise is how its central character - Paul Atreides - is really an existential threat to the known universe. In 'Dune: Part Two', it's less about Timothée Chalamet's character finding his power and fighting against the possibility that he may one day become a tyrant, but rather how others around him react to it. For Javier Bardem's character Stilgar, it explores the fine line between loyalty and fanaticism, while Zendaya's character Chani draws it in more emotional, intimate terms. Rebecca Ferguson's character, meanwhile, has just as much impact as she did in the first one, now embracing both her religious significance and where she plays a role among her sisters in the Bene Gesserit.

Stellan Skarsgård's gargantuan Baron Harkonnen is relegated as a villain somewhat to bring forth Austin Butler's Feyd-Rautha, played with the kind of zeal you'd expect from a guy who walked around with an Elvis accent for nearly three years. Butler is unrecognisable in 'Dune: Part Two', much more of a physical presence than an identifiable character, but still terrifying when he's on-screen. Though they only meet in the movie's final moments, the sequence between Butler and Chalamet is tense, violent and sharply intimate, bringing the huge explosions and the massive battle sequences down to a human level as two warriors fighting knife to knife.

For a movie set thousands of years in the future in a wholly unique environment, 'Dune: Part Two' manages to retain a deep connection with humanity. It explores the ideas of religion, power, psychology, fanaticism, and ideology in a way that speaks to a deep understanding of their consequences and the terror they're able to unleash. The way that Denis Villeneuve is able to layer this with incredible spectacle, a star-studded cast, and some of the most awe-inspiring visuals you'll experience in a cinema speaks to his genius as a director, and why 'Dune: Part Two' may be his crowning achievement.

'Dune: Part Two' is a sci-fi colossus, the kind of movie that will be examined and re-examined for years to come, studied and inspired by for generations afterwards. See it on the biggest possible screen you can find.