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Review - Dune: Part Two

There is no denying director Denis Villeneuve's vision with his Dune films. He has created a huge blockbuster sequel here that incorporates psychedelic imagery, non-linear storytelling, and art-house ruminations. Dune: Part Two is one of the more unusual studio releases in some time. While its visuals and action set-pieces are truly stunning, the film isn't without its setbacks, mostly in logic and character motivations.

Adapted from the novel by Frank Herbert, Part Two picks up right where the first film left us. Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) is in the desert with his mother (Rebecca Ferguson) hiding out with the Fremen, the native people of Arrakis, after the evil Harkonnens slaughtered their family. Led by Javier Bardem in a spirited performance, Paul must now prove he can be trusted. How does he do that, well it involves riding giant sandworms.

That sequence is a perfect encapsulation of the film. The logic makes no sense, how do these worms move so fast as they don't wiggle or slither and worms aren't exactly known for speed? We don't understand if Paul is scared or confident. And yet, Villeneuve crafts a thrilling sequence that is so visually sophisticated, that you wonder how they pulled it all off. That is kind of everything Dune: Part Two is. And that isn't to say the film isn't satisfying, it is. I just struggled with how little I felt about the characters and how little I understood their motivations.

The film has many subplots that weave in and out of Paul's rise to leader of the Fremen. Austin Butler shows up as an evil cousin of the Baron. His performance will be divisive I think. I for one found it to be cartoonish and out of sync with the film's more somber tone. Others will love the panache the actor brings here. There is no denying he adds energy to the scenes he is in. Other performances are fine but there isn't a standout here. While I like both Chalamet and Zendaya, I don't fully believe their love story here.

At 166 minutes, Dune: Part Two is a lot of movie. The central romance feels underdeveloped which hurts the final act. In its place, we get almost three hours of jaw-dropping, trippy visuals that never lose their impact. The sheer massive scale of the film's war sequences is overwhelming at times. While I may not have fully connected with the film's characters or themes, I was thoroughly entertained for the entire film. Villeneuve is that kind of director, one whose filmmaking skills can almost surpass the story he is telling.



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