Combustible Celluloid Review - Dune: Part Two (2024), Denis Villeneuve, Jon Spaihts, based on a novel by Frank Herbert, Denis Villeneuve, Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Josh Brolin, Austin Butler, Florence Pugh, Dave Bautista, Christopher Walken, Léa Seydoux, Stellan Skarsgård, Charlotte Rampling, Javier Bardem, Anya Taylor-Joy
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With: Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Josh Brolin, Austin Butler, Florence Pugh, Dave Bautista, Christopher Walken, Léa Seydoux, Stellan Skarsgård, Charlotte Rampling, Javier Bardem, Anya Taylor-Joy
Written by: Denis Villeneuve, Jon Spaihts, based on a novel by Frank Herbert
Directed by: Denis Villeneuve
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of strong violence, some suggestive material and brief strong language
Running Time: 167
Date: 03/01/2024
IMDB

Dune: Part Two (2024)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Paul of Duty

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

While Denis Villeneuve's Dune: Part Two still suffers from some stuffy, slow spots, it's far more propulsive than its predecessor, and manages to tell an exceedingly complex story in a gloriously visual and compelling way.

Paul (Timothée Chalamet) and his mother Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) have been welcomed among the Fremen. Jessica drinks the Water of Life and becomes the new Reverend Mother, while Paul continues face tests like surviving alone in the desert and riding sand worms. The Fremen regularly attack spice production plants, causing the evil Baron Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgård) to send troops to shut the Fremen down; the Fremen easily dispatch the invaders, who are not acclimated to the desert atmosphere on Arrakis.

Meanwhile, there are rumblings of a prophecy — encouraged by Jessica — that Paul may be a "chosen one," destined to lead the Fremen to paradise, although Paul publicly denies this. The Fremen are divided: leader Stilgar (Javier Bardem) believes in the prophecy, but Chani (Zendaya), who has fallen in love with Paul, fervently does not. The Baron ups the ante by putting his psychopath nephew Feyd-Rautha (Austin Butler) in charge of spice production on Arrakis. But Paul has been encouraged by his mother to drink the Water of Life (something no man has ever survived), and nothing will ever be the same.

Now that we've moved past all the exposition required of this tale (as seen in Dune), Dune: Part Two jumps right into things, with the Fremen attempting to get the attention of Baron Harkonnen and the Emperor by attacking various spice plants. Some of the action scenes are effective and even exciting, but it seems as if director Denis Villeneuve doesn't exactly relish them; many fights are overly-choreographed and cursory. (His best films, Sicario and Arrival, didn't require them, while his Blade Runner 2049 was dragged down by them.)

Yet Villeneuve's elegant, expansive compositions and wise storytelling make up for it. He and co-screenwriter Jon Spaihts have dug deep into Frank Herbert's dense novel and found themes that are not only relevant, but urgent. The movie questions reasons behind leadership and quests for power, and the deceptive tools — fear and faith — that can quickly and easily lead to power. As a result, Paul is no longer the shining hero he appeared to be in David Lynch's 1984 Dune. He's an opportunist seeking to use power for his own personal goals (in this case, revenge). And he's scarily familiar.

Despite its flaws, Dune: Part Two is, along with its predecessor, an uncommonly intelligent, and even daring, entry into the canon of sci-fi action epics, one worth discussing as much as it is worth enjoying.

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