Movie Review: ‘Dune: Part Two’ continues the dystopian dream of ‘Part One’

Denis Villeneuve's “Dune: Part Two” summons sandworms with three hard hits into Arrakis sand. Nearly as straightforward as grabbing a cab or ordering a check. The giant buggers can't resist the sound, which is how I feel listening to Villeneuve's version of Frank Herbert's 1965 science-fiction novel. In “Part Two,” a hissing sequel that alternates between frightening silences and thunderous booms, whispers, incantations, and guttural sounds hum.

When cinema theaters were still reeling from the pandemic in 2021, the first "Dune" only covered half of Herbert's opus, saving the second half for the sequel. Villeneuve's melancholy spectacle's operatic rhythms and the novel's massive narrative contributed to that split. Parts one and two of “Dune” are virtually intoxicated on atmosphere, even sober.

For good reason. Intoxicating big-screen expressionism of monoliths and mosquitoes, fevered visions, and messianic fervor, “Dune: Part Two” is more dystopian dream or nightmare than narrative. Filmmaking skill sometimes costs other things. Humor is scarcer on Arrakis than water. Only Javier Bardem, returning as Fremen commander Stilgar, seems to want to chuckle at “Dune”'s blazing crimson sands and massive equipment.

“Part Two” focuses on Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet), who lives with his mother Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) in the desert-dwelling Fremen after his father was killed and House Atreides was expelled from the Arrakis capital by House Harkonnen and Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (a monstrously good Stellan Skarsgård).

Fremen call Paul Muad'Dib, and his legend is rising. (Like Hebert's books, these movies have beautiful names.) The chosen one or a false prophet? His victories (against Harkonnen spice harvesters; fast understanding Fremen methods); Lady Jessica's cunning; and Stilgar's devotion eliminate doubts.

The Fremen warrior Chani (Zendaya) is wary of the buzz but reluctantly believes in Paul. Their growing romance gives two of the most promising young movie performers a deserving wide-screen canvas in “Part Two”.

Fun and activities in the desert include blowing stuff up and riding sand worms. The “holy poison” inflicted on Lady Jessica is a neon-blue liquid produced from sand worms that looks like a Slush Puppie but gives a terrifying clairvoyance of the cosmos if it doesn't kill you.

Even in the darker “Dune,” blue is vital. Lady Jessica and Paul's eyes light up. In “Lawrence of Arabia,” Peter O’Toole's eyes burned, but Paul's seem like windshield-wiper fluid. Paul becomes conscious and scared of his god-like power as his following develops.

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