Steven Spielberg Anoints “Dune: Part Two” a Masterpiece

“One of the most brilliant sci-fi films I’ve ever seen,” said Steven Spielberg about Denis Villeneuve’s Dune: Part Two. This is just about the highest possible praise from one of the best who ever did it.

Spielberg and Villeneuve appeared together on the DGA’s Director’s Cut podcast, where the man who brought us Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T., and War of the Worlds gave all the extraterrestrial flowers to the Arrival and Dune helmer.

“So let me start by saying that there are filmmakers who are the builders of worlds, and we know it’s not a long list, but we know who a lot of them are,” Spielberg said. “Starting with [Georges] Méliès and of course [Walt] Disney and [Stanley] Kubrick. George Lucas, George Pal, Ray Harryhausen … [Frederico] Fellini built his own worlds. Tim Burton, obviously. Wes Anderson. Peter Jackson. James Cameron. Christopher Nolan. Ridley Scott, Guillermo del Toro. The list goes on. But it’s not that long of a list, and I deeply, fervently believe that you are one of its newest members of that list.”

Not a bad way for Villeneuve to ease into the interview. Spielberg wasn’t close to done.

“This is truly a visual epic, and it’s also filled with deeply, deeply drawn characters,” Spielberg said. “Yet the dialogue is very sparse when you look at it proportionately to the running time of the film. It’s such cinema. The shots are so painterly, yet there’s not an angle or single setup that’s pretentious…you have made one of the most brilliant science fiction films I have ever seen.”

Caption: JAVIER BARDEM as Stilgar in Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “DUNE: PART TWO,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo Credit: Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

Villeneuve might have felt like he’d just inhaled a heady dose of Spice after that, but Spielberg wasn’t done. He was particularly mesmerized by the way Villeneuve, his cinematographer Greig Fraser, and the rest of the creative team turned the desert into an ocean of possibility.

“There is such a yearning for water in this movie. For all the sand you have in this film, it’s really about water — the sacred waters that you are yearning for; green meadows and the blue water of life. You filmed the desert to resemble an ocean, a sea. The sandworms were like sea serpents, and that scene [of Paul] surfing the sandworm is one of the greatest things I have ever seen, ever. But you made the desert look like a liquid.”

Villeneuve noted that to capture key moments, like when Paul [Timothée Chalamet] and Chani [Zendaya] kiss while sitting on a dune, that shot required four days of filming to make sure they were always getting the two young, would-be lovers at the perfect time of day. Even the dunes themselves were cast, selected for how they were oriented to each other within each frame. Villeneuve called this particular effort to choose the perfect dune “the strangest casting I’ve done in my life.”

Caption: (L-r) ZENDAYA as Chani and TIMOTHÉE CHALAMET as Paul Atreides. in Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “DUNE: PART TWO,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo Credit: Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

Spielberg’s attention to detail, as you’d expect, led to some very specific observations like this one he made about the Harkonnen spice harvesters that are deployed throughout the desert planet of Arrakis to suck up Spice, the planet’s highly-coveted natural resource. “I thought the machines were incredible in the first Dune, and I don’t know what you did, but you did something to detail them more this time with the sand falling off the treads; that was awesome. Warner Bros. paid for more pixels, is that right? Because of the success of the first film, it’s good to have more pixels in our business.”

When Spielberg asked Villeneuve what it was like working with his cast, the Dune director said there was one performer, in particular, we should be on the lookout to become a director.

“There’s someone that spent a lot of time behind the camera listening — Zendaya,” Villeneuve said. “She’s very clever. I would not be surprised if one day we learn she wants to go behind [the camera].”

Check out the full podcast here:

For more on Dune: Part Two, check out these stories:

“Dune: Part Two” Cinematographer Greig Fraser on Finding Clarity in Chaos

“Dune: Part Two” Cinematographer Greig Fraser on Poisoning the Light of Giedi Prime

“Dune: Part Two” Costume Designer Jacqueline West on Creating a Goth Rock God in Feyd-Rautha

Unveiling the Bene Gesserit’s Secrets With “Dune: Part Two 2” Costume Designer Jacqueline West

Architect of Arrakis: “Dune: Part Two” Editor Joe Walker on Forging a Ferocious Masterpiece

Featured image: Caption: RCaption: (L-r) ZENDAYA as Chani and REBECCA FERGUSON as Lady Jessica in Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “DUNE: PART TWO,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures


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