Mon. Apr 15th, 2024

Photo: “Dune: Part 2” Poster via IMDb

This is quite possibly the most difficult review I’ve ever had to write. It may be cliché, but I genuinely don’t know if there are words to describe exactly how much I loved this film. “Dune: Part Two” (2024) truly is cinema at its grandest scale, having such rich storytelling and theme building to compliment its sweeping visuals. It’s the kind of movie that makes me grateful to be alive during the era of movies I am, and that’s saying something given the lackluster movies we’ve gotten so far this year. In my review of “Dune: Part One” (2021), I talked a lot about the themes of this world, so for this review, I’m going to focus more on the brilliant filmmaking on display in the sequel.  

To truly appreciate this film in all its glory, you need to view it in an IMAX theater (given that you are able to). Seeing the brilliant spectacles on the biggest screen possible was mind-blowing. At some points, especially during the scenes with sandworms in them, it felt like I was on a rollercoaster. But it wasn’t only the scale that had my mouth permanently gaped, but also the amount of creativity that went into each shot. There’s a sequence in the very beginning where the Harrkonens are hunting down the Fremen, and the whole sequence has an orange filter over it. It’s small but impactful choices like this that really make the visuals pop off the screen. And this may be one of the best movies I’ve ever seen when it comes to the use of CGI. There wasn’t any point in the movie where I didn’t fully believe what I was seeing on the screen, and to do that in the digital age is one of the more impressive feats of the past decade. But accompanied with these visuals, is an immersive and emotion-filled score.  

Hans Zimmer is quite possibly the most consistent and decorated person working in movies today. With every new movie he finds a way to make a gorgeous score that elevates every scene, and “Dune: Part 2” is no exception. Movie scores are so unique because they can serve so many functions. The score in “Oppenheimer” (2023), for example, almost serves as its own character, pushing the plot along and elevating each scene. In “Dune: Part 2,” the score serves to amplify the emotions of the character on the screen and does so masterfully. When we are on the home planet of the Harkkenons, the background music is disturbing and is cut up at an awkward pace, making the viewer feel unsettled. But when on Arrakis, it’s almost psychedelic and sweeping. There’s a moment on Arrakis where Paul (Timothée Chalamet) and Chanti (Zendaya) are having a fairly mundane conversation, but the music in the background brings their emotions to the surface — and then as the camera cuts away to a wide shot of Arrakis, the music swells to match the shot. Music has a way of conveying emotions like no other medium can, and Hans Zimmer’s understanding of this makes him one of the best composers alive today and ever.  

Now onto the performances, where Timothée Chalamet is doing something really special with the character of Paul Atredies. A characteristic of Paul that makes him so intriguing is that he doesn’t want to become the prophet he is destined to be, but truly just wants to be accepted as one of the Fremen. But he can never truly fit in because of his natural skills as a leader and his powerful and poignant aura. Through subtle-yet-brilliant acting, Chalamet pulls off an effect that reminded me of what Al Pacino did in “The Godfather” movies (not to say he’s necessarily as great of an actor as Pacino, just that he reminds me of him in this specific role). Whenever Pacino was in a scene, he commanded the attention of the viewer. Not because of grand and explosive actions, but purely because of his presence on the screen. Chalamet pulls off a similar calm gravitas, but that isn’t to say he doesn’t have his profound and epic moments. A monologue by Paul towards the end of the movie really shook me to my core. Many people going to “Dune: Part Two,” while recognizing that Chalamet was a great actor, were concerned whether or not he could be convincing enough as the intense, bold and charismatic leader that is Paul Atredies. I’d be lying if I didn’t think the same thing, purely because we haven’t seen him in any role similar to this. Well, it’s safe to say he proved everyone wrong, and this is the kind of role that’s gonna skyrocket him into superstar status.   

Alongside Chalamet was Zendaya, and she shined just as bright. I was curious to see where they would go with Chanti in this. In the book, Chanti is a very stereotypical female character to complement the main character, and I just couldn’t see a powerful and scene-stealing actress like Zendaya in that role. So I was delighted to see the changes they made to her character; Chanti is more skeptical of the Lisan Al Gahib and believes more so in the power of the Fremen than the legend. But by the same token, she is intrigued by Paul and believes in him as a person. This contradiction is fascinating to see throughout the movie, and Zendaya fully throws herself into it. One thing I’ve always loved about Zendaya is that with all of her roles, you always see the character she is portraying before Zendaya herself. That can be rare with big-name actors in today’s day and age. With actresses in particular, you always see Hollywood trying to fit them into a certain kind of role for their whole careers, but Zendaya is too great of an actor to put into a box like that.  

I briefly need to mention Austin Butler. He completely transforms himself, and the results are hauntingly good. Every time he was on screen, I squirmed a little bit because of how menacing his character is. To wrap up talking about performances, I was a tad disappointed by how little Florence Pugh and Christopher Walken had to do in this movie. I understand that it’s a huge cast, but I feel like there were moments where their characters could have shown a little bit more emotion.  

The last person I need to mention, the person who brings all of these elements together to make this landmark movie is the brilliant Denis Villeneuve. Villeneuve has quietly asserted himself as one of the best working directors today. “Dune: Part Two” feels like the movie he’s been working towards his whole career. When watching interviews of Villeneuve leading up to the release, you could see the passion he has for the original “Dune” books with every word he says, and this movie oozes this passion. Perhaps the most impressive thing about this movie is that despite the many differences from the source material, it gave me the same feelings I had when I first read “Dune” (1965) by Frank Herbert. And that’s the true purpose of an adaptation; instead of regurgitating the original word for word, it adapts the story to what that different medium requires while keeping its soul intact. If we use this definition, then “Dune: Part One” and “Dune: Part Two” may be up there with some of the greatest adaptations of all time, and that’s because of Denis Villeneuve.  

I would be very surprised if a movie came out this year that I enjoyed more than “Dune: Part Two.” It’s the kind of movie that comes around maybe every 10 years and is probably going to be talked about extensively for the next 20. We don’t know yet if there’s going to be a third movie (which would be titled “Dune Messiah”), but even if there is, it won’t be coming for a while because Villeneuve is already slated to adapt the widely beloved classic “Rendezvous With Rama” (1973) by Arthur Clarke. But even if we never get a third installment, “Dune: Part Two” is an instant classic that paid off on everything the first movie set up for. I can be satisfied knowing that my generation finally has a “Star Wars” or “Lord of the Rings” type of franchise to claim as their own.  

 


Nathan Castimore is a third-year Communications major with a minor in History. NC973905@wcupa.edu

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