Dune: Part Two Review: Timothee Chalamet And Zendaya Are Back In Smart But Dull Sci-Fi

Dune: Part Two Review: “Dune: Part Two” is an intelligent, conscientious science fiction movie, but also something of a bore.

Like French Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve’s first “Dune,” released in 2021, it successfully creates a completely realized other world. But that other world is repellent and resists a viewer’s engagement. If you see “Dune: Part Two” without having seen “Dune,” you will have absolutely no idea what’s going on.

Dune: Part Two Review, In fact, you still might be confused if you haven’t “Dune” in the last month. “Dune: Part Two” throws us into the action and then ends 166-minutes later, where Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel ends, provoking mixed feelings of completion and irresolution.

Still, what’s different and brilliant about “Dune: Part Two” must be acknowledged and respected. Even today, as for more than 70 years, our sci-fi adventures reflect the influence and trauma of World War II and the monstrous deeds of Adolf Hitler. Thus, whether it’s “The Lord of the Rings” or “The Avengers,” the path to universal happiness is almost always presented as just a matter of killing the right bad guy.

Dune: Part Two Review, Timothee Chalamet, foreground left, and Austin Butler in a scene from “Dune: Part Two.”

But “Dune” and “Dune: Part Two” are not clear cut stories of good people versus bad people. Instead, like the novel that inspired the two films, they’re evocative of the Cold War. As such, “Dune: Part Two” is a movie about politics. It exists in a world in which powerful interests maneuver and compete, and in which ostensibly good people struggle to avoid corruption.

Dune: Part Two Review, For the characters, there is no one course that’s right. All courses are wrong. At every turn, they struggle to make the least wrong choice and wrestle with the possibility of complete disaster no matter what they choose. Such concerns make “Dune: Part Two” unusual and possibly unique, but it also makes it a challenge to sit through.

As we watch, the awful question edges further and further into our consciousness: Why should we care about their problems? After all, if everything is going to be horrible no matter what anyone does, if all solutions are temporary, and if all courses of action end in just greater or slightly lesser degrees of universal misery, then what’s there to keep us in our seat throughout the protracted battle scenes?

Dune: Part Two Review, It’s true that “Dune 2” is as depressing as watching the news, but that doesn’t make it relevant, because it isn’t the news. It’s more like unnecessary self-torture, like watching a depressing newscast from another planet.

Dune: Part Two Review: Timothee Chalamet And Zendaya Are Back In Smart But Dull Sci-Fi

Dune: Part Two Review

Dune: Part Two Review, As the movie begins, Paul (Timothee Chalamet) is on the distant planet of Arrakis, living with its indigenous people, the Fremen, whose priest, Stilgar (Javier Bardem), believes Paul is the promised Messiah. Each time Paul insists that he’s not the Messiah, Stilgar points out that that’s exactly what a Messiah would say. Paul is helping to lead the Fremen in battle against the Harkonnen forces, fighting alongside his girlfriend Chani (played by Oakland native Zendaya, who has a much better role this time).

Rebecca Ferguson is back as Paul’s mother, Jessica, who becomes a priestess and takes on the collective memories and wisdom of all the high priestesses that have gone before. It’s a good showcase for Ferguson, but for the most part, “Dune: Part Two” is just a place where talent goes to die.

Dune: Part Two Review, Christopher Walken is in a perpetual mope as the Emperor, and Florence Pugh, as his daughter, gets to do little but stand there and look interesting. Austin Butler, who was so good in the title role in “Elvis,” plays a hairless, murderous psychotic, Feyd-Rautha. Such is the sadness and strangeness of modern movies that he probably considered the role a career opportunity.

By far, the most ridiculous appearance is that of Anya Taylor-Joy (“Last Night in Soho,” “Queen’s Gambit”), who gets a single close-up playing who-know-what and then vanishes. Her presence in the movie is reminiscent of this year’s Super Bowl commercials, which were short on wit and big on showing famous faces.

Dune: Part Two Review, Yet a few lapses aside, “Dune: Part Two” is visually arresting and so meticulously rendered by Villeneuve that we must consider the possibility that no one could have done it better, and that there’s just something in the original material itself that resists screen adaptation.

Dune: Part Two Review, War movies, sci-fi movies and action movies are not hospitable to moral ambiguity. That goes triple for “Dune: Part Two,” because it’s all three.

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