/‘Dune Pt. 2’ proves why we’re in a renaissance  
Promotional material for "Dune Part 2."

‘Dune Pt. 2’ proves why we’re in a renaissance  

By Carter James 

I could be seeing it for a third time instead of writing this review. 

People in high school thought I was crazy when I referred to “Dune Pt. 1” as, “the film of the decade.” “Dune Pt. 2” puts the “Dune is boring” crowd to shame. We’re in a film renaissance, and director Denis Villeneuve is one of its heralding artisans. 

I know it seems like I’m always calling a big blockbuster the best thing since sliced bread, but the “Dune” movies are entirely different. These are cinematic expressions of the highest order, pushing the boundaries of storytelling and spectacle to deliver something you only see once in a generation. “Star Wars,” “The Lord of the Rings,” “Harry Potter,” “Dune.” What do they all have in common? Sci-fi/fantasy epics? Sure. What made them pop culture touchstones though, was the verisimilitude of filmmaking on display. They’re all-encompassing and immersive experiences, that left a lasting mark on us all. “Dune Pt. 2” shook me to my core. 

I’m righting my wrongs of only seeing “Dune Pt. 1” in theaters once during the original release by seeing “Pt.2” at least four times. Yes, I’m addicted. I need this. It’s not every day insane movies come out. If cinema is a feeling, then I felt every single hit, thump, blast and musical cue in this film.  

What does it mean for a film to be immersive? Are we captivated by the visuals? Connected to the characters? Assaulted by the sound? Immersion can mean all of these things, but what it means is believing in it. Arrakis isn’t just another CGI wasteland or poorly blended background. It’s a conquest. A rebellion. A war. A rise. A fall. Because I connected with the characters in “Part 1,” I’m with them every step of the way. I have no problem with being fully focused in a theater, but when I watch “Dune Pt.1 & 2,” it’s like I’m not even there. 

At the center of “Dune Pt. 2” is a battle of power and love. Our young protagonist, Paul Atredies is grappling with destiny as he goes on a path of ascendency. He’s driven by revenge and defies the concepts of human will. As he proves his strength as a skilled fighter amongst the indigenous Fremen, he finds himself grappling with visions of war and rumors of being a messiah. But this is no traditional hero’s journey, because there are no heroes in war.  

Despite all these conflicting feelings, one thing is certain for Atredies: he is convicted. He’s convicted to Chani, his love. He’s convicted to bringing down House Harkonnen, those who killed his father and destroyed their house. He’s convicted to freeing the planet Arrakis, by becoming a Fedykin fighter. Most of all, he’s convicted to his dreams. The story of Atredies is not of triumph, but tragedy. 

Sci-fi is political. Anyone who tells you otherwise is dead wrong. The story of “Dune” is a game of power. House Atredies is positioning itself to use the Fremen as fighters for a revolution. House Harkonnen seeks to control Arrakis for spice. The Imperium seeks to tie up loose ends. The Bene Gesserit wants to keep them all under their thumb. These names may not mean anything now, but they’re key to understanding that this isn’t a good versus evil story. How can good intentions be political?  

Religion is a reoccurring motif in this film. Not to push a belief, but to convey how those in power use it to manipulate and oppress the weaker man. This is all to say Atredies can believe he’s well intentioned, but because he’s a politician, he’s a pawn in a more powerful entity’s plan—whether he realizes it or not.  

To switch gears, I haven’t talked about the best parts of “Dune Pt. 2” enough: the performances and technical presentation. Timothee Chalamet can act, like I mean really act. His subtle approach to performances fully pays off as a quiet boy who once dreamed of exploration but becomes a feared religous symbol hellbent on going up against the galaxy. His descent into ascendency is made brilliant by committing himself to madness, and etching what once was of Paul Atredies, scene by scene.  

Chalamet is not even the best performance here. Zendaya…wow. Her portrayal as Chani is the heart and soul of the film. She portrays undying strength and love through a powerful range of emotions. At the end of the film, she achieves pure pathos just through one stare. If people weren’t taking her acting abilites seriously before, they should be ashamed of themselves now. 

The sheer talent extends to the rest of the cast as well. Javier Bardem devolves from a strong and resilient Fremen leader to a blind follower. Rebecca Ferguson intimidates Paul’s mother, Jessica, outlining how deep the religious/political warfare runs in the galaxy’s history. Austin Butler proves once again why he’s quickly becoming one of best young actors in Hollywood by playing the Harkonnen freak, Feyd-Rautha, with a stark intensity. 

You’re in for a pure audiovisual spectacle. Greig Fraser is a truly masterful cinematographer, because how do you make the desert look that good? From the sweeping shots of warfare on Arrakis to the more intimate moments between Paul and Chani, they all look impossibly impessive.  

What Fraser gets right is the concept of scale, something that is missing from nearly all blockbusters made today. With the help of IMAX, the sense of space is heightened through giant structures, gargantuan sandworms and ,of course, sand that is made larger than life through intentional framing, full of depth. 

I’ve seen a loud movie or two, but never have I had one send vibrations throughout my body. I quite literally felt Paul ride that sandworm. The theater might as well have exploded. The orchestra might as well have been in the pit. Even if you don’t have the chance to experience “Dune Pt. 2” in IMAX or even a premium format, I can guarantee you’ll remember how loud it was. Memorable is even an understatement.  

I’m not the biggest fan of Hans Zimmer. I think he’s a good composer, but he barely writes his own music anymore. For “Dune Pt. 2,” you can tell he picked up his pencil and tuned his keyboard. The first film already had hours of music across three different albums, so where do you go from there? He cranks it up even more. The themes we hear from the original are now meaner, nastier and more heartbreaking. Zimmer’s maturation of his themes adds on to the film’s general theme of maturing into oneself and the destruction that can come from it. Expect him to win another Oscar, he’s earned it. 

“Dune Pt.2” has fully taken me over. Maybe I’m victim to recency bias or the general zeitgeist, but I believe I’m witnessing history. This is one of the purest expressions of cinematic spectacle I’ve seen in a long time. Unforgettable sights, sounds, performances and feelings all come to mind when thinking of this film. Villeneuve is a masterful director. Chalamet is an actor to be reckoned with. Zendaya is a legend in the making. The entire cast and crew are all stars. The best way to describe “Dune Pt.2” is that it’s this generation’s “Lawrence of Arabia.” 


+ posts