“Dune: Part Two” Review Round-Up: A Breathtaking, Cosmically Scaled Sci-Fi Masterpiece

The review embargo for Denis Villeneuve’s Dune: Part Two has been lifted as if by a fleet of ornithopters (the jet-powered, flapping-winged aircraft introduced in the original film), and the overwhelming critical response can be summed up by a single word: wow. The continuation of Villeneuve’s epic (“continuation” is his preferred description rather than calling it a sequel) possesses all the things you want in a sci-fi epic—astonishing visuals, visceral action set pieces, stellar performances—while also managing the even trickier feat of charging full-force into the complexity at the heart of Frank Herbert’s original source material.

“Villeneuve has made a serious, stately opus, and while he doesn’t have a pop bone in his body, he knows how to put on a show as he fans a timely argument about who gets to play the hero now,” writes the New York Times Manhola Dargis. “This is a real epic, and it is exhilarating to find a filmmaker thinking as big as this,” says the Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw. “Dune: Part Two is a robust piece of filmmaking, a reminder that this kind of broad-scale blockbuster can be done with artistry and flair,” adds RogerEbert.com‘s Brian Tallerico.

Picking up where the first Dune left off (here’s a video refresher, too), Part Two finds Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) and his mother, Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), now under the protection of the native inhabitants of Arrakis, the Fremen, whose desert planet has been the source of intergalactic power-grabbing for years. This continuation includes all the action and a slew of major characters that Villeneuve and co-writer Jon Spaihts wisely left out of the original film so that they could focus Part One on the tragedy of the Atreides family without overstuffing it with Herbert’s hugely populated, vast world. The Atreides’ tragic flaws, arguably hubris and honor in a dishonorable galaxy, led to patriarch Duke Atreides’ (Oscar Isaac) assassination by House Harkonnen after Duke and the entire Atreides clan, including their advisors, soldiers, and various apparatchiks had moved to Arrakis to oversee the manufacture and production of Spice, the abundant natural resource on the planet that galactic forces have been exploiting for generations. This left Paul and Lady Jessica in the wind—or, more accurately, in the dunes.

Part Two is centered on the end game after the Harkonnen’s decapitation of House Atreides and Paul’s increasingly fervent belief that he was chosen to lead the remnants of his House and the Fremen in a battle royale against House Harkonnen and the forces that backed them up, including the galaxy’s prime mover, Emperor Shaddam IV (Christopher Walken). Key players include Chani (Zendaya), a Fremen whom Paul first met in his dreams and who has a much larger role in the sequel, as well as newcomers like Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen (Austin Butler), Paul’s rival and combatant in one of the original book’s most memorable set pieces.

The cast also includes returning cast members Javier Bardem as the Fremen Stilgar, Josh Brolin as Atreides’ ally Gurney Halleck, and Dave Bautista as Beast Rabban. Newcomers joining Walken and Butler are Florence Pugh as Princess Irulan, Léa Seydoux as Lady Margot, and Souheila Yacoub as Shishakli.

Let’s have a quick tour of what the critics are saying. Dune: Part Two opens on March 1.

Featured image: Caption: (L-r) TIMOTHÉE CHALAMET as Paul Atreides and AUSTIN BUTLER as Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen in Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “DUNE: PART TWO,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo Credit: Niko Tavernise


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