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  • Writer's pictureJames McCleary

Dune: Part 2 // Film Review

For all its grandeur and allusions to mysticism, the crux of Dune: Part Two is cleverly more akin to a relationship drama. Hope, faith and disillusionment are the emotions most at play in Denis Villeneuve’s immense sequel, as much in how they relate to Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) and his ascendancy to become the legendary Muad'Dib as in their presence throughout the blossoming romance between Paul and his predestined love interest Chani (Zendaya).

Villeneuve has said that one of the few choice differences between Frank Herbert’s source novel and his adaptation is that of Chani’s character. In his efforts to ensure that the story’s apocalyptic end could not be misinterpreted in the same way that infamously led Herbert to write five less ambiguous sequels, Chani stands now as the film’s moral centre, a measure by which we judge Paul as either a noble warrior or darker anti-hero. This feels both pointed and necessary in our modern culture of fanboyism; how many thousands waste away their lives online fronting defences for the infallibility of Luke Skywalker, Tony Stark or any number of other all-American heroes?

This also comes off the back of Dune: Part 1, which played perhaps deceptively far into the idea of glamorised super-heroics. Part 2 has nothing to compare to the likes of Duncan Idaho (Jason Momoa), making every possible choice both narratively and visually to muddy the waters around Paul and his companions. From the blazing fires and armies of trampled bodies to the howling, anguished score from Hans Zimmer, there is nothing rapturous about this story which its leading man purports to be Biblical. 

That isn’t to say that this more morally clouded film is lacking in pureblood villains; Austin Butler is sublime as the vicious, vivacious Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen, while the true dark heart of Part 2 might be Rebecca Ferguson’s sinisterly complex turn as Reverend Mother Lady Jessica. Just as Paul proves to be far more than a doe-eyed Skywalker, Jessica’s maternal instincts here are lacking, to say the least.

Butler and Ferguson delight in the film’s more carnivorous material, while Chalamet is more than up to the task as their withering foil, but it is Zendaya’s aforementioned turn as Chani which truly holds Dune: Part 2 together. As a character who appeared only in glimpses through Part 1 and begins this one as an Amazonian archetype, the Euphoria star does tremendous work as the film’s emotional undercurrent; every beat of Paul’s journey is reflected back at us through her eyes, communicating the tragedy of this dynastic epic as if it were a break-up. It might be why, at the absolute height of the film's spectacle and drama, Villenueve most wisely opts not for wides of vistas and catastrophes, but for close-ups which land the point more precisely than they ever could.


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