Metro Weekly

‘Dune: Part 2’ Takes an Epic Leap Forward (Review)

Dune: Part Two gives star Timothée Chalamet richer material to play, but the film still doesn’t quite capture the heart.

The Sandworms attack in Dune: Part Two - Photo: Warner Bros.
The Sandworms attack in Dune: Part Two – Photo: Warner Bros.

Denis Villeneuve’s stunningly realized film adaptations of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi saga Dune take an epic leap forward in Dune: Part Two, the sequel to the Oscar-winning first film starring Timothée Chalamet as possible Chosen One, Paul Atreides.

Last seen at the end of Dune trekking into the desert like a twink Lawrence of Arabia, Paul is still a refugee on the desert planet Arrakis. Following the massacre of his father and the House of Atreides by savage Harkonnen forces, he’s hiding among the native Fremen, plotting to avenge his House, while also evading death or capture by his clan’s universe of enemies, including ruler of all, Emperor Shaddam IV (Christopher Walken).

The first film felt mostly like a long-winded setup for a protagonist who took little action. This installment plants Paul in the driver’s seat for a spicier tale of revenge, and, as it turns out, religion.

The Fremen, as discussed in Part One, await the arrival of a messiah who’ll free Arrakis from the rapacious Houses who come to mine the planet’s all-important element, Spice. All signs point to Paul being the One, with Fremen tribe leader Stilgar (Javier Bardem, in the film’s most amusing turn) especially convinced that Paul’s presence proves the prophecy. 

Paul’s wily mother, Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), a sister in the mystical order of Bene Gesserit, sees the prophecy as a clear path to power. As her son leads revolts against Harkonnen forces commanded by the Baron (Stellan Skarsgård, excellent as always), Lady Jessica eagerly fans the flames of spiritual fervor among the Fremen, intent on converting all nonbelievers.

Dune: Part 2 - Zendaya and Rebecca Ferguson - Photo: Warner Bros.
Dune: Part 2 – Zendaya and Rebecca Ferguson – Photo: Warner Bros.

The compelling moral quandaries behind Paul’s ascent, as either the foretold messiah or a false prophet, present Chalamet with a much richer part to play this go-round. He succeeds in painting Paul in intriguingly opaque tones, the rising leader’s true motives and beliefs veiled behind the heroic mantle of freedom fighter.

Fighting alongside him as Fremen warrior Chani, Zendaya — who had six minutes of screen time in the 155-minute first film — also has a more textured story to tell here. Chani is chief among nonbelievers in Paul’s purported destiny, but, witnessing his valor in battle, and his humility in embracing the Fremen and their ways, she falls for him.

Chalamet and Zendaya don’t spark a cinema romance for the ages, but Paul and Chani’s dalliance adds a thread of sorely needed sentiment to the slow-turning plot and cool visual splendor.

Again, Villeneuve and Dune cinematographer Greig Fraser capture the otherworldly scale of the landscape, creatures (those sandworms), and machinery on Arrakis. Filmed for IMAX, the action sequences — like a gladiator contest that features Harkonnen warrior Feyd-Lautha (Austin Butler) battling before a bloodthirsty crowd — pump the adrenaline, while also evoking the saga’s thornier themes on brutal colonization, and fighting wars on foreign soil.

And, just like the first, the movie is aurally amazing, especially during the awe-inspiring scenes of sandworm riding. Those who dare, stand atop the massive monsters and hang on for dear life as they barrel through the sand at frightening speed. The sound of it is tremendous.

Dune: Part 2 - Timothée Chalamet - Photo: Warner Bros.
Dune: Part 2 – Timothée Chalamet – Photo: Warner Bros.

Undoubtedly, the film elicits emotion, and stirs the imagination, yet somehow it still doesn’t capture the heart.

As a moviegoer who wept with Frodo and Sam all the way up Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings series, Villeneuve’s trips to Arrakis, while audio-visually enthralling, have yet to offer characters and circumstances that inspire the devotion this franchise seems to demand.

Maybe Part Three will make a true believer out of me.

Dune: Part Two (★★★☆☆) is now playing in theaters nationwide. Visit

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