Movie Review: Dune, Part Two (no spoilers)

dune 2Movie Review: Dune, Part Two (no spoilers)

Today, March 1, marks the opening of the long-awaited sequel to the film Dune, Part One. It is expected to be one of the largest debuts of 2024.

(See my previous review article on the saga’s history, my chat with the author Frank Herbert 45 years ago, the origin of the book(s), and how other sagas like Star Wars relied on it.)

There are no plot spoilers in this review. Here’s my initial take after seeing it:

Stunning, spectacular, breathtaking, epic, awesome, mesmerizing, gob-smacking, jaw-dropping, revolutionary, kinetic, shattering.

Or, if you prefer a single word: overwhelming

  • It has already earned over $10M in previews. It is expected to open with a $100M weekend domestically and over $170M internationally, from an estimated budget of $190M.
  • Dune, Part One, had a $41M domestic debut. Part Two is expected to double that.
  • It has already earned an unprecedented 95% (fresh) rating on the Tomatometer on Rotten Tomatoes, with a corresponding audience score of 95%.
  • The debut was postponed until after the SAG-AFTRA actors’ strike, so the stars could participate in the premiere. Collectively, these actors represent almost 250M social media followers, invaluable in promoting the film.


Significance of Dune

The book, at almost 900 pages (in paperback) and set 20,000 years in the future, is widely regarded as one of the most influential novels in Science Fiction. Frank Herbert claimed that Star Wars took some 16 themes from his works, and other epics like “Game of Thrones” were influenced by Dune.


Magnum opus for Denis Villenueve

The director who brought us such visually stunning films as Bladerunner 2049 and Arrival has created what promises to be the year’s first blockbuster. In the same way that these previous two films involved such groundbreaking cinematography, Dune, Part Two does the same.

This masterpiece of a film is of epic world-building, geopolitics, mythology, and religion. It is more complex than Part One. The first movie featured Dune‘s lore and history; this film can now turn toward more nuanced character development.


Dune Cinematography

This film is as immediately stunning as Avatar [my review], but Avatar was not written by the likes of Frank Herbert. The cinematography is breathtaking, with long shots that expose the immensity of the landscape and the scale of the scenes. One extended fight scene is filmed entirely in black and white, and it takes a while to notice it – but the starkness is captivating. The hand-to-hand fight scenes choreography was very satisfying for those practicing martial arts. Roger Yuan was the fight coordinator, and you’ve seen his work in many Asian and American action movies.

The spaceships are like but so unlike Star Wars. They give the same stunning surprise that you got the first time you saw Star Wars, but are not derivative of that film. They are very, dare I say it, “alien looking.” This is similar to the ship in Villenueve’s earlier Arrival.

The costuming was both sumptuous and alien. I would not be surprised to see an Academy Award nomination for it this year. It is reminiscent of the level of detail in the current TV series Shogun.


imax dune

Filmed for IMAX


If you see it in IMAX, all these details come out, and I’d encourage you to do so. It was “filmed for IMAX,” meaning it was not filmed in another format and then adapted for IMAX.

In other words, Dune, Part Two was shot entirely in the IMAX format, switching between the very tall 1.43:1 aspect ratio and the shorter (but still taller than normal) 1.90:1 ratio. Unless you see it in an IMAX theater, you’ll get a cropped 2.39:1 movie presentation, losing out on a significant portion of each frame.


Dune Music

I’ve said before that a movie score can make a good movie a great movie. The soundtrack to this film does just that. The music sounds as profound as a Hans Zimmer film because it is Hans Zimmer. There are times that are reminiscent of his earlier film Gladiator because he uses the same vocalist in this film that he used in Gladiator, Lisa Gerrard, who did Elysium/Honor Him/Now We Are Free.

The music fairly fills the film. It’s atmospheric, it’s environmental – almost all parts other than speaking parts are inhabited by the score. It is, at times, inspiring and soaring; at different times, the score is intimidating and overwhelming.


Filming Locations for Dune, Part Two

The movie was filmed in a couple of desert locations I’ve been to:

  • The United Arab Emirates, near Abu Dhabi. I’ve taken a journey into the dunes nearby. They’re expansive, remote, and stretch out as far as the eye can see
  • Namibia. The desert of Namibia is redundant: Namibia means desert. I’ve visited the country, which requires special tires lest they melt on the super-hot asphalt. It is the driest place on earth — excellent for star gazing — and the vast expanse of the desert area is quite barren.


Dune: Who’s Who

This movie took two of the stars from the previous film and developed them more richly.

  • Timothée Chalamet as Paul, the 15-year-old son of Duke Leo Atreides, has matured from an adolescent to become a world-leading man who leads his adopted people, the Freman, in battle against the world. He comes into his own along with the development of his relationship with the Freman woman Chani, played by Zendaya, hinted at in the first film.
  • Rebecca Ferguson, as Lady Jessica, Paul’s mother, develops into a mature and shrewd leader of her order, the Bene Gesserit, on the Dune planet, Arrakis. Her beauty and intelligence are used to powerful effect.


Supporting Characters

  • Javier Bardem, as the Freman leader Stilgar, provides greater gravitas and even comedic relief in some tense scenes.
  • Josh Brolin as Gurney Halleck is a welcome return with a sense of humor that is welcomed.


New characters

austin butler

Austin Butler

  • Austin Butler (from Elvis) is introduced as the Harkonnen heir-apparent Feyd-Rautha and is both psychotic and sadistic. He is threatening, cruel, and calculating. He dominates every scene he’s in.
  • Florence Pugh (from Oppenheimer) plays Princess Irulan, the Emperor’s eldest daughter. She’s beautiful, intelligent, and a historian. Many of the chapters in the novel Dune are introduced by her historical recollections and explanations.
  • Léa Seydoux (from the 007 films SPECTRE [my review] and No Time To Die [my review]) plays Lady Margot Fenring. She’s cool, distant, and cunning as the Bene Gesserit wife of the Emperor’s advisor, Count Fenring.
  • Christopher Walken makes an imposing appearance as Emperor Shaddam IV, who had taken the spice fiefdom from House Harkonnen and granted Arrakis to House Atreides at the beginning of Dune, Part One.


Dune: What’s what

Without spoiling any of the plot lines, this film takes some departures from the novel, but does so judiciously and without noticeable harm to fans. It did this so much more carefully than Peter Jackson did with his adaption of J.R.R. Tolkien‘s Lord of the Rings [my review] (where is Tom Bombadil?) or his 3-part The Hobbit [my review] (the padding of the plot with the albino Orc is nowhere in the novel or Appendices.) Dune, Part Two is almost 3 hours long, but you are left wanting more.

The story is satisfying on many levels but does not complete the entire story arc of Paul “Muad’dib” Atreides. The next book in the series is Dune Messiah. When and if we’ll see that is anyone’s guess; could this be the beginning of a franchise? There is already a TV series prequel in production, Dune Prophesy.


Grade: A-

You’ll like it if: you enjoy immersive (both visual and auditory), atmospheric films, eye-candy spaceships, excellent uniforms, and really, really, really good-looking actors.

You won’t like it if: world-building overwhelms you, unfamiliar names and foreign languages put you off, or viscerally blood fight scenes turn you off.


Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian

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About billpetro

Bill Petro writes articles on history, technology, pop culture, and travel. He has been a technology sales enablement executive with extensive experience in Cloud Computing, Automation, Data Center, Information Storage, Big Data/Analytics, Mobile, and Social technologies.

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