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Dune: Part Two Film Review: an essential chapter in the Dune saga, warts and all

The keenly-anticipated sequel to the 2020 adaptation of Frank Herbert’s classic novel has finally hit the big screen, and it’s safe to say that it’s a visual spectacle to behold. However, as entertaining as the film is, there is one lingering issue that seems to overshadow its greatness – the director’s propensity to prioritise style over substance.

Timothée Chalamet reprises his role as Paul Atreides, more intense and commanding than ever as he seeks vengeance against those who destroyed his family. Reunited with his Chani (Zendaya) and the fierce Fremen warriors, Paul steps into his destiny to prevent a dark future that only he can foresee.

From the breathtaking prelude, we find Paul and his mother Lady Jessica in hiding with the Fremen chieftain Stilgar (Javier Bardem). Recognising Paul as their foretold messiah, the Fremen rally behind him to lead their revolt against oppressive rule. Chalamet is electrifying as Paul fully embraces his power among the impassioned Fremen, though deeply conflicted by the moral dilemma he faces. It’s in these scenes that we’re reminded exactly why Chalamet is one of the most talented actors in the business today, capturing Paul’s inner struggle with nuance and raw emotion.

The second instalment of Dune rises to the occasion with aspirations and breathtaking set-pieces, but this reviewer couldn’t shake of the feeling that the film oftentimes buckled under its own overwhelming ambition. While the stakes were always going to be incredibly high when adapting such a complex sci-fi saga, Denis Villeneuve and co-writer Jon Spaihts overburden the film in their efforts to cram in Frank Herbert’s myriad themes and subplots. By taking itself so literally, the film often overlooks the emotional core – Paul’s inner turmoil and his interpersonal relationships – ultimately preventing this sweeping epic from landing perfectly.

Much of the talented supporting cast is also frustratingly underused. Stellan Skarsgård embraces the bombastic Baron Harkonnen, but his nephew Feyd-Rautha (Austin Butler) feels incidental, despite Butler’s committed performance. The obligatory fight scenes he appears in add up to little more than a distraction and some things are better left seen than left up to the imagination, especially in a film of this kind of scale.

More frustratingly still, Christopher Walken‘s Padishah Emperor and Florence Pugh‘s Princess Irulan are consigned to peripheral roles via a contrived narrative. Hopefully the next instalment will give these characters the proper depth they deserve.

But on a more positive note, Chalamet’s performance is perfectly complemented by Zendaya’s Chani. Serving as the film’s voice of reason, Chani sees the dangers of falling for Paul, but can’t seem to resist the allure he holds. Zendaya expertly portrays this internal struggle, keeping the audience on tenterhooks as to whether or not she will give in to her feelings.

Villeneuve’s bold decision to explore the gritty themes of Herbert’s universe elevates Dune: Part Two above standard blockbuster fare, though the film’s ambitious scope sometimes leads to an overstuffed storyline that can overshadow the more poignant character arcs. Nevertheless, the grandiose spectacle and standout performances ensure that this instalment is an essential chapter in the Dune saga, and one that will leave audiences eagerly anticipating the trilogy’s conclusion.

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Where to watch Dune: Part Two
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