Friday Film: Dune: part 2. Review

Dune: part 2 

Genre: Sci-Fi

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Cast: Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Austin Butler, Javier Bardem

Release date: 1st March

By Rehna

Taking on the ‘unfilmable’ 1965 sci-fi novel Dune by Frank Herbert, was always going to be a colossal undertaking for any filmmaker. That director Denis Villeneuve has produced two films which critics and fans alike have already catapulted onto the pantheon where Lord of the Rings, Star Wars and 2001: Space Odyssey reside, before he has completed the series, is an indication of how monumentally he has succeeded.

Dune: part 2 grabs you from the start and immerses you headlong into the epic battles, political intrigues and religious fanaticism on planet Arrakis, home of the lucrative mineral resource of Spice. For the next (almost) three hours it doesn’t release its stranglehold as you navigate the internecine and duplicitous machinations of the Houses at war on the planet. 

There are the hairless and cruel Harkonnens led by the lardy, slug-like Baron (Stellan Skarsgård) and his nephews, the thuggish Beast Rabban (Dave Bautista) and the blade wielding, psychotic Feyd-Rautha, an unrecognisable Austin Butler. The Harkonnens work for Emperor Shaddam IV (Christopher Walken) whose daughter Princess Irulan (Florence Pugh) is set up for a bigger role in the next instalment. But loyalty is not a strong point for anyone in this power setup. The Harkonnens already saw off the head of the Atreides family in part 1, despite the Emperor having granted administrative powers to the clan. The Atreides heir, Paul (Timothée Chalamet), believed by his followers to be dead, is, in fact, now ensconced in the desert Freman tribes where he has fallen for the charms of a feisty member, Chani (Zendaya). Within the Freman people he is both regarded with suspicion and revered. He is also seen by many of them as their long awaited prophet ‘Lisan al-Gaib’. This prophecy is pushed, particularly hard, by Freman leader, Stilgar (Javier Bardem). (Incidentally, the Islamic rituals of prayer of the Freman are not focused on in the film but don’t exactly blend, unnoticed, into the desert either). The religious fervour of the Freman and their belief in the prophecy is observed with a sly pleasure by the mother of Paul Atreides, Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson). She is pregnant and given to hearing her unborn daughter speak to her. Lady Jessica is also a member of the sinister Bene Gesserit, a female order given to elaborate headwear, witchcraft and political meddling through using young initiates to lure powerful men into their web. The prophecies believed by the Freman emanate from the occultist Bene Gesserit who seek power and control over the population.  Paul Atreides’ own visions show him terrifying images of a future full of bloodshed and genocide of which he realises he may be the architect. 

It’s heady, absorbing stuff within the awe inspiring  spectacle of Villeneuve’s ambitious directorial vision, Greig Fraser’s breathtaking cinematography and Hans Zimmerman’s blood pumping score.

The visuals are spectacular, especially for two incredible, separate scenes involving Atreides and Feyd but it’s the cast that give the film its heart. The whole ensemble excels. But Austin Butler and Rebecca Ferguson are the standouts. She is sinister, fanatical, cunning and manipulative. Her shrewd eyes take in everything and assess how it can benefit her plans.

His transformation from the King of rock ‘n’ roll, Elvis, to Feyd Rautha is as spectacular as the grand vista of sand dunes we see throughout the film. Holy smoke, he’s magnificent as the hairless, eyebrowless, psychotic, bloodthirsty Feyd. Like Darth Vader in that other sci-fi series, he dominates every scene he’s in for the (too) brief time he’s on screen. There’s already talk of awards nominations for him.

There are a few weak points in the film; the huge cast of characters means that several big name actors have little to do or say in the story. For me, too the budding romance between Paul Atreides, and Chani  doesn’t quite convince. They have buddy chemistry rather than a romantic one. And while Zendaya has a bigger role this time, that doesn’t equate to her having much to do other than scowl and look sceptical as Paul is drawn into the prophecies which she doesn’t believe in.

But these are relatively minor quibbles. 

Overall, I recommend Dune:part 2 highly.