Dune: Part Two by Denis Villeneuve: May the Force Be With You – Review

Denis Villeneuve’s second installment of the “Dune” saga takes audiences on a deep dive into the heart of darkness. Since Stanley Kubrick, no director has crafted a film world with such precision.

“In the second part of his ‘Dune’ saga, Denis Villeneuve delves deep into the heart of darkness. No director has designed a film world with such precision since Stanley Kubrick.”

A World of Startling and Powerful Images

In “Dune: Part Two,” the over two-and-a-half-hour continuation of the equally lengthy first installment, viewers are treated to a plethora of unsettling and awe-inspiring visuals. The conflicts between the Atreides, Harkonnen, and the Fremen were already wild in the first part of this massive science-fiction epic. In the second part, director Denis Villeneuve further intensifies these conflicts.

An Adaption of the “Dune” Saga

The film, now playing in German cinemas, continues the “Dune” saga created by American science-fiction author Frank Herbert, who began publishing it in the mid-1960s. Together, the two parts make up the first book of a total of six. Like Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, these volumes have been beloved by hippies and right-wing extremists alike. And Villeneuve is not the first director to attempt a film adaptation. Alejandro Jodorowsky tried to bring the series to the screen in the 1970s, enlisting artist HR Giger as a designer, having comic legend Moebius draw the storyboard, and involving Pink Floyd for the soundtrack. He even cast Mick Jagger and Salvador Dali. The only thing he couldn’t do was find a Hollywood studio to finance his planned 10-hour film. Similarly, David Lynch failed with his 1984 project when Universal cut it down to two hours. Lynch had originally intended for it to be twice that length, and he still hates it to this day.

A Masterpiece of World-building

Now it is the turn of Canadian director Villeneuve, and he has succeeded in every aspect. The first part of the film was released in 2021, grossed over $400 million, won six Oscars, and was acclaimed by critics and audiences alike.

This success can be attributed in part to the film’s multiple perspectives. One such perspective is ecological, portraying the fear of climate change and an overheated world. The story unfolds on the desert planet of Arrakis, which is initially deemed inhospitable. It is so dry that its inhabitants cannot shed a single tear. The planet is only sought after because it contains a substance called Spice, the most valuable resource in the universe. Spice can be extracted to create a psychotropic drug that enables interstellar travel.

The film can also be understood in geopolitical terms: does the hidden resource in the desert sand serve as a metaphor for oil, which has kept the focus of great powers on the Middle East for decades? Is “Dune” a story about colonialism, fossil capitalism, and foreign rule – fitting perfectly into the left-wing zeitgeist? Villeneuve also tells a philosophical tale. Giant sandworms move beneath the sand, drawn by rhythmic sounds. No one traversing the Arrakian desert can be sure of their steps.

A Dialectic of Power

All these elements remain prominent in “Dune: Part Two,” but the story narrows down after the long exposition in the first part to a central question: what is power, and what am I willing to sacrifice for it? Paul, the son of the murdered Atreides ruler, must reclaim his father’s power in order to survive. He gathers the Fremen people around him, desert-dwellers who believe he is the long-awaited messiah – a story systematically spread by the powerful female Guild. The “fundamentalists” become Paul’s best fighters.

“Can authority be built on a lie? Is that even at its core? Is there a good ruler at all? Does power always become corrupted? These are the questions at the heart of ‘Dune: Part Two’: the dialectic of power. Unlike in ‘Lord of the Rings,’ where the principle of friendship ultimately triumphs over darkness, and in ‘Star Wars,’ where conflicts dissolve within the familial drama of the father-son relationship, ‘Dune’ places power itself at the center. Those who desire what is right must triumph; otherwise, they will not achieve it. To triumph, one must believe, as that is the strongest driving force in humanity. To spread belief, one must lie. But, in the end, will the liar still achieve what is right?”

An Impressive Ensemble and Visual Fantasies

“Dune: Part Two” is undoubtedly a masterpiece, a world-building epic. This is partially due to the impressive ensemble of actors that Villeneuve has assembled. Timothée Chalamet transforms from a delicate prince into an armored ruler figure, while Austin Butler portrays his rival Feyd-Rautha as a pale, fascist war machine. Javier Bardem portrays Stilgar, leader of the Fremen, whose desire to believe in the chosen Paul outweighs even his own faith. Chani, played by Zendaya, is a hardened warrior who holds nothing but disdain for the messiah hocus-pocus.

However, it is predominantly Villeneuve’s visual imagination that carries this film. The clothing of the Fremen resembles futuristic Mujahideen fighters. The desert is given new colors by Villeneuve. The architecture on Arrakis is a combination of ancient Egyptian pyramids and the concrete brutalism of the 1970s. Since Stanley Kubrick, no director has designed a film world with such obsessive attention to detail. The only question that remains at the end is: how does one escape the logic of power? Is there even a way out? Villeneuve has already announced his plans to work on the third installment.