Timothée Chalamet in Dune: Part Two (2024)

‘Dune: Part Two’ movie review: Frank Herbert’s sci-fi epic brought to dazzling life in IMAX


Note for local English-speaking audiences: a significant amount of dialogue in Dune: Part Two (15-20 percent) is in alien languages, subtitled only in Czech on Prague screens.

Frank Herbert’s epic work of science fiction finally has a satisfying big screen resolution in Dune: Part Two, which opens in Prague and cinemas worldwide this weekend. Continuing from 2021’s Dune without missing a beat, this spectacular piece of storytelling delivers on the promise of the first film and retroactively validates what had been just half a movie. After five decades, we finally have a 5+ hour version of Dune that does justice to its source material.

Released in 2021, director Denis Villeneuve‘s first Dune movie hewed closely to the 1984 David Lynch version, which focused on the first half of the novel before rushing things to an abrupt and frustrating conclusion in its final act. Dune: Part Two, meanwhile, tells what feels like a completely new story, depicting some profound character arcs and bringing this story to an entirely satisfying resolution.

Dune: Part Two picks back up with Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet), who has joined a clan of Fremen warriors including Stilgar (Javier Bardem) and Chani (Zendaya) in the deserts of spice-rich Arrakis after the brutal House Harkonnen, led by Jabba-like Baron Vladimir (Stellan Skarsgård) and his beastly nephew Rabban (Dave Bautista), wrestled control of the planet away from the Atreides family at the end of Dune.

Paul has one eye on vengeance and one eye on fighting for his newfound Fremen family as he joins in attacks on the Harkonnen’s giant spice-harvesting machinery. But mother Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) has much more planned for him as she does her best to convince the Fremen, and perhaps herself, that her son is the promised one who will save Arrakis.

It’s a joy to see these character’s stories unfold across Dune: Part Two after so much painstaking work was spent in setting up the world that surrounds them in the previous film. This is a slower, more meditative film than the perhaps overstuffed Dune, but a far more rewarding one, with allegorical themes that deeply resonate.

Chalamet is excellent as Paul, who spends the film struggling to come to terms with his personal agency in the face of a Last Temptation of Christ-like destiny. The loss of humanity in the face of greater calling is wonderfully played out through his relationship with Zendaya‘s Chani, which reframes what should be a celebratory finale into one of pain and loss.

Even more effective in this version of Dune is Ferguson’s Jessica, who fights for her son’s legacy only to slowly come to realize what it really entails. Dune: Part Two will likely sweep the technical categories at next year’s Academy Awards, but Chalamet, Zendaya, and especially Ferguson are all worthy of consideration in the acting categories.

Some of the new additions in Dune: Part Two, meanwhile, feel curious. Christopher Walken is one the last actors you would expect to play Emperor Shaddam IV with a straight face, but Florence Pugh is welcome in limited screentime as his daughter, Princess Irulan. As central baddie Feyd-Rautha, Austin Butler isn’t as commanding as Sting, though his performance gets lost under the Dark City Harkonnen makeup effects.

As in the first film, Dune: Part Two has been put together with faultless technical proficiency. Location filming in the deserts of Abu Dhabi and Jordan help create an alien world that feels entirely tangible, with gorgeous full-frame IMAX cinematography from Greig Fraser. Hans Zimmer’s brooding, soulful score adds some much-needed emotion into what is otherwise a stoic presentation.

There’s one significant character strangely missing from Dune: Part 2: Thufir Hawat, portrayed by Stephen McKinley Henderson in the first movie. He can be assumed to have been a casualty of the Harkonnen assault on the Atreides at the end of the first movie (unless resurrected in future sequels), but has a poignant story arc in Herbert’s novel that could have easily translated to the screen.

The timeline in both Dune and Dune: Part Two has been significantly condensed, from multiple years to less than one. A key character hasn’t even been born by the time Dune: Part Two wraps things up, but she’s briefly glimpsed in dreams as played by Anya Taylor-Joy, hinting at future plans for the franchise. Herbert wrote five more Dune novels; another 11 have been published following his death.

Whatever the future holds in store for the franchise, however, one thing is certain: after five decades of attempts, Herbert’s first book has been has, finally, been successfully translated to the screen. Dune and Dune: Part 2 do for Hebert’s novel what Peter Jackson did for Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Here’s hoping the journey is far from over.

Dune: Part Two


Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky has been writing about the Prague film scene and reviewing films in print and online media since 2005. A member of the Online Film Critics Society, you can also catch his musings on life in Prague at expats.cz and tips on mindfulness sourced from ancient principles at MaArtial.com.

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