Dune: Part Two is a nearly flawlessly executed middle chapter of a Sci-Fi saga that demands a third entry, but still stands on its own. With incredible performances, jaw-dropping set pieces, and themes rarely found in today’s blockbusters. The second Dune entry will be remembered for decades.

When Dune was first announced many were wondering how a book of this magnitude could be completed in one film without losing nearly everything that makes it unique. During the height of Covid-19 most films were put in a box of will they make enough money to justify their existence. When it was learned that the studio would be splitting Dune into two parts but not filming them simultaneously there was fear we would never get the full Dune story told on screen. Luckily, Dune more than justified its existence and the cast was sent back to the desert to complete the first book’s story. Looking back at how director Denis Villeneuve decided to split the two parts is genius. While he had to cut aspects of the book for time, and strangeness and to keep the story as “grounded” as possible Part Two soars because of the time taken with the characters in the first movie. By giving audiences over two hours of Paul (Timothee Chalamet) and his journey on Arrakis in Part One, one can understand and hit the sand running the instant Part Two begins.

Part Two opens immediately after Part One. That may seem silly to highlight but it is important as we get reintroduced to the fact that Paul has just defeated one of Stilgar’s (Javier Bardem) best warriors. Paul is met with verbal attacks when he enters their home but due to Lady Jessica’s (Rebecca Ferguson) Bene Gesserit manipulation of the planet, many believe Paul to be the Messiah. What follows is nearly thirty minutes of time spent with the Freman as Paul learns the way of the desert and Lady Jessica drinks the ‘Water of Life’ to become the new Reverand Mother. The Messiah Prophecy starts to convert many of the skeptics as Paul shows incredible savvy with Freman customs and Lady Jessica uses her newfound vision to spread the Messiah Prophecy all over the planet. Villeneuve takes time to show Paul’s struggles with the visions of what will happen if he accepts his role as The Messiah to the Freman. Paul sees it will end in bloodshed with billions dead. Still, Lady Jessica continues to push everyone to believe the prophecy knowing it will end in so much bloodshed. Lady Jessica is also pregnant with Leto’s (Oscar Issac) child and when she consumes the ‘Water of Life’ the baby inside her becomes completely sentient seeing past, present, and future and she communicates with her mother helping to see the Bene Gesserit plan come to fruition. All along Chani (Zendaya) is skeptical of the entire prophecy and is worried about how powerful Paul is becoming.

All of this may sound insane when written out but it is a testament to the screenplay and the direction that allows all of this to be conveyed to the audience in such an easily digestible way. What Villeneuve does next is even more incredible, he brings us to the home planet of the Harkonenn for a twenty-plus minute deep look into the politics and plans of their family. The Baron (Stellan Skarsgard) has become upset with the amount of spice that Rabban (Dave Bautista) is losing to the Freman attacks which are led by Paul. In his frustration, the Baron plans to have his nephew Feyd Rathua (Austin Butler) take over Arrakis and root out the Freman with sheer brutality. Feyd is a monster, he is relentless and has no redeeming qualities. However, we learn that he is also considered a candidate by the Bene Gesserit like Paul was in the first movie. The Reverend Mother determines that Feyd is strong but can be easily controlled if he were to take the throne.

The newest characters are the Emperor (Christopher Walken) and his daughter Princess Irulan (Florence Pugh). We discover that the Emperor is nervous that his extermination of the House Atreides line will be exposed which will lead the great houses to form against him. Princess Irulan on the other hand has been bred, trained, and prepared by the Reverend Mother for her entire life to be wed to whoever gains power in Arrakis so that the Bene Gesserit can continue their hold over the entire galaxy.

Once all the pieces are in place, Denis Villeneuve paints a masterpiece of numerous characters all vying for control and power. Where the battles found in a conversation between mother and son can be more impactful than a sandworm tearing through an army’s frontlines. As we reach the climax of the movie there is no shortage of spectacle. All the time spent with the characters and the depth they have been given by the generous screenwriting and top-notch acting allows the conclusion to play out like a perfect symphony. The audience gets to see Paul’s struggle against his ultimate destiny until events lead him to a path where he can no longer avoid it. The battle is large but what Villeneuve does with the action is brilliant because he brings it down to the human character level at every opportunity. Instead of fifteen minutes of CGI battles and sandworms, he gives us a taste. Still, he returns to the conflict between the characters we have spent so much time with which are personal and far more important than anything happening outside the walls of the room they find themselves in.

As the movie comes to a close it feels as though there are no heroes left which is what makes the Dune book so mesmerizing. Paul has accepted his destiny and all that comes with it. Millions are fighting in his name, killing across the galaxy. To have Timothee Chalamet make this heel turn in the closing moments of the movie was a richly earned experience. One can never be sure of how acting recognition will get doled out at the end of the year but the emotions that run across Chalamet’s face as he delivers several memorable lines in the final minutes of this movie deserve to be listed as an example of the kind of serious work an actor can do in genre films. Paul embodies so much through these two films and the place we leave him is such a staggering achievement in storytelling that one can expect Dune: Part Two to be celebrated for decades to come as one of the standards other movies will compare themselves to.

If this is the end of the Dune Saga, it would be a shame. As book readers know the novels get weirder as they go on but Villeneuve and his team have set the table perfectly to adapt Dune: Messiah and put this Dune trilogy in the pantheon of sci-fi movie sagas alongside Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. But if Paul’s story ends here it has been no less of an achievement. The themes and arcs in these two films are second to none and beg for a rewatch to appreciate their genius. Dune: Part Two will go down as one of the greatest sequels of all time.

Written by: Dan Moran

By Bryan Kluger

Former husky model, real-life Comic Book Guy, genre-bending screenwriter, nude filmmaker, hairy podcaster, pro-wrestling idiot-savant, who has a penchant for solving Rubik's Cubes and rolling candy cigarettes on unreleased bootlegs of Frank Zappa records.

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