Comfortable and Furious

Dune: Part 2

“Dune: Part Two” – Sand-witches.

It dawned on me that Dune: Part 2 is the first of two movies this year that will feature sandworms. I’m certain that Dune: Part 2 will be the better one, though that isn’t much to say considering the second one is Beetlejuice Beetlejuice. No, that isn’t a typo, that’s really the title. Apparently, whoever came up with that title isn’t aware that it takes saying Beetlejuice three times to summon Beetlejuice. Or…they’re TOO aware, and they know exactly what they’re doing. What was I saying? Oh yeah – sandworms.

The moment in Dune: Part Two when Paul Attreides (Timothee Chalamet) rides a sandworm for the first time made a light bulb go on in my head – that filmmakers should have leaned into immersive sound rather than 3-D visuals two decades ago. I don’t know if the particular theater I was in just had the sound turned up to Marty McFly levels or if the seats were somehow wired into the sound system, but it felt like I was riding the sandworm alongside Paul. It was awesome and all theaters should do this. And it was like that in other scenes, too. I could feel the chopping of the ornithopters blades and the rumbling of the spice harvesters. It was everything 3-D was aiming for without having to put an accessory on my face. I imagine the sound might cause some queasiness and headaches for some people (just like with 3-D), but at least the sandworm ride is worth puking for.

As for the rest of the movie, it was just awesome. When we last saw Paul at the end of Part One, he was…um, in the desert with Chani (Zendaya). That was honestly all I could remember when Part Two started and my mind was racing to try to recall more details. Luckily, Princess Irulan (Florence Pugh) journals. Reading as she writes, she helpfully recalls the events of Part One and in an organic way rather than the film lazily splashing title cards up during the opening. Director Denis Villeneuve was definitely paying attention during film class.

As we open Part Two, the Harkonnen’s now control the planet Arrakis and its unique resource, melange (spice). Glossu Harkonnen (Dave Bautista) governs the planet and is trying to stop the constant Fremen raids that interrupt spice production. Paul and his mother Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) live among the desert Fremen people. Paul assists with raids and Jessica manipulates the Fremen into seeing Paul as a prophesied savior. Jessica is also pregnant with a girl that she literally talks with throughout the film. If you didn’t already think this movie was weird, wait until you see a bunch of shots of a fetus in-utero.

That is basically the movie. At a nearly three-hour runtime, that might sound a bit long and boring, but the excellent pacing and phenomenal cinematography make the film seem brisk. And don’t underestimate the intrigue of the story. Dune is Game of Thrones in space, with some Gladiator thrown in. Families jockeying for control where one family is seemingly benevolent while another is ruthless and cunning. On top of that, there is a religious sect quietly manipulating events; in Dune’s case, they are the Bene Gesserit (including Jessica), a group comprised entirely of women and talk in the ways of magic. You know…witches.

Speaking of witch…Jessica is my favorite character. Among an amazing cast of actors all nailing their performances, Ferguson tops them all. Through two films, Jessica has gone from devoted wife and meek member of the witch order to a kingmaker, a leader, and person whose eyes contain an intensity that would make a sandworm flee in terror. Part One kept her somewhat subdued, only hinting at her power, intelligence, and maybe even possible malice. Part Two has those things on full display, including a telepathic stare-down with the head Bene Gesserit reverend mother, Gaius (Charlotte Rampling), where Jessica taunts Gaius with her and Paul’s success.

The twist in the overarching story is that Jessica has been secretly training Paul in the ways of the Bene Gesserit (which we also saw in Part One). Paul’s additional abilities allow him to gain the trust of the Fremen, including tribal leader Stilgar (Javier Bardem), and aid in his abilities to do things that should kill him. All of this comes to a crescendo involving another Harkonnen son, Feyd-Rautha (Austin Butler).

The results of this training allow Chalamet to finally explore and portray the multi-faceted Paul. Like Jessica, Paul starts out as the good son to his father, doing everything a prince is supposed to do, only to later morph into a potential god-king. Chalamet exudes every bit of those facets in Paul, as well as inheriting and exhibiting his mother’s dagger-staring eyes. It’s chilling and awe-inspiring to see two actors so able to convey emotions with nothing more than facial expressions.

The only criticism I have of Part Two is that it’s such an amazing watch that I’m annoyed I have to wait for Part 3 (Messiah). While Part Two completes the adaptation of Frank Herbert’s original novel, the film (like the book) leaves subplots unresolved, tantalizing us with what’s to come. Just like the three-year wait for Part Two, it’ll be a long, hard wait. But it’ll be worth it to see, and maybe even feel, more death glares from Jessica.

Rating: Worth double the cost of the amazing Dune popcorn bucket you simply cannot pass up.







One response to “Dune: Part 2”

  1. John Welsh Avatar

    Thank you for mentioning the sound effects. Few critics do.

    I wonder why a society capable of interstellar if not intergalactic travel still employs bladed weapons. Sam Colt settled that notion in 1836.
    I know, I know, for the visuals. I question, based on a viewing of Dune One, if the they rival the sword fights in John Cromwell’s Prisoner of Zenda (Ronald Coleman vs Douglas Fairbanks, Jr) or Rouben Mamoulian’s The Mark of Zorro (Tyrone Power vs Basil Rathbone. Rathbone was a master swordsman who could have killed any actor opponent within seconds. He faced Errol Flynn in The Adventures of Robin Hood and in Captain Blood).
    Not to be too snotty, but this incarnation of Dune could have used an actor more like Tyrone Power and less like the kid who got pantsed in high school.

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