Dune – Part Two

Dune Part Two poster

An old man sits in his garden, wishing to be undisturbed, to enjoy the sunshine and the shade and the serenity of growing things which place no demands on him, a privilege afforded him by his position, as the most powerful individual in the galaxy, 81st Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV of House Corrino, but that is not mean to be for even he is answerable for his actions to the other Houses of the Landsraad and the Spacing Guild with their inescapable dominance over interstellar travel.

His clandestine involvement in the dissolution of House Atreides on the planet Arrakis advised by the Bene Gesserit sisterhood via their representative the Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam, they died in the dark with no declaration of war, the planet now overseen by Count Glossu Rabban, volatile nephew of the bulbous floating Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, his forces scouring the shifting golden sands of the planet in ventilated armoured anti-gravity suits to eliminate any remaining pockets of the previous order.

Dune Part Two; Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) moves among the Fremen who see him as the Lisan al Gaib, the “voice of the outer world.”

Continuing directly from the events of Dune – Part One, Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of the second half of Frank Herbert’s iconic novel of ecology, politics, genetics and prophecy is again co-written with Jon Spaihts, though it swiftly becomes apparent that the sweeping grandeur of that film was the merest prelude to the what is yet to come, the battle for the liberation of Arrakis and the Fremen people and the overthrow of both the Harkonnen and Corrino dynasties.

Inheritor of the Dukedom, Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) is reluctant, not afraid of what he must do to reclaim his title and avenge the death of his father and friends but of what he might become and what is to follow, Villeneuve foregrounding aspects of the wider story of Dune that neither David Lynch nor John Harrison were able to in their earlier versions, that while Paul is apparently fulfilling a role in prophecy he is aware it is a created myth which has been planted in susceptible minds by the missionaries of the Bene Gesserit in the same way they have manipulated the bloodlines of the Great Houses over generations to secure their own silent power.

Dune Part Two; Lady Jessica Atreides (Rebecca Ferguson), elevated to the status of Reverend Mother of the Bene Gesserit.

The Bene Gesserit subtle, their agents are everywhere: the Reverend Mother Mohiam (Charlotte Rampling) masked as she sits giving instruction to acolyte Princess Irulan (Florence Pugh), Lady Jessica Atreides (Rebecca Ferguson) ascending to that same elevated role as she inherits the centuries of pain and sorrow of her predecessor in the Water of Life ceremony, the blue transforming liquid glittering and congealing as it spills over unborn Alia (glimpsed in visions of the future as Anya Taylor-Joy), and the envoy Lady Margot Fenring (Léa Seydoux).

A guest at the birthday celebrations of the psychotic na-Baron Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen (Austin Butler), younger brother of the “Beast” Rabban and the most immediately dangerous of all the Harkonnen clan, his raging homicidal tendencies a challenge for even the Bene Gesserit to turn to their advantage, the move to the planet Giedi Prime under its black sun is a startling visual contrast to the red sunsets of Arrakis and the soaring sandstone carvings of Sietch Tabr, an oppressive regime of bloody bread and circuses and brutalist architecture rendered in hypersaturated monochrome.

Dune Part Two; Stilgar (Javier Bardem), leader of the Fremen of Sietch Tabr, a true believer.

The third time the story of Dune has been filmed in addition to Alejandro Jodorowsky’s abandoned attempt in the early seventies, there are still surprises to be had; in Christopher Walken’s portrayal of Shaddam IV, a quiet, almost broken man who has done terrible things in order to be left alone, in Zendaya’s Chani who despite her growing love for Paul defies the narrative of the Lisan al Gaib, promised “voice of the outer world” who will liberate the Fremen, a contrast to Javier Bardem’s fanatical Stilgar whose increasingly desperate need to believe in the coming “green paradise” renders him blind to the doubts of the very man he idolises, Paul’s actions finally forced upon him not by choice but by the Harknonnen war machine.

The Fremen co-existing in harmony with their harsh environment, drawing water from the air, admiring the ability of the minute kangaroo mouse Muad’Dib to survive in the deep desert, using the giant sandworm Shai-Hulud for transport through the fierce desert storms to the supposedly uninhabitable southern hemisphere, the Harkonnen technology is influenced by their mindset of absolute control and domination, their spice harvesters vast metallic spiders crawling across the sands and their gunships unleashing fire which can melt rock.

Dune Part Two; the stronghold of the Emperor is assaulted by storms and enemy forces.

Their conditioned soldiers tainted by drugs which make them unsuitable even for the water-harvesting rituals which the Fremen reverently perform on their own fallen, to the Fremen the ubiquity of the spice Melange imbues their world with divinity, Paul’s exposure giving him glimpses of the devastating holy war which could spread across the galaxy if he accepts the role of messiah which others push him towards, a possible future he resists, pawn in a greater game who refuses his foretold fate.

A magnificent film of epic scope and nuanced complexity efficiently and inventively condensed from an even larger work, unlike many science fiction blockbusters of similar stature the action scenes of Dune – Part Two are circumspect, establishing what is happening without dwelling needlessly on destruction before returning to the array of characters whose spectrum of vested interests are at stake, a continuum of cause and effect which stretches into history and looks to the shape the future, Villeneuve opting not to conclude this film with a resolution but instead to continue forward to the events which form the background of the next book in Herbert’s sequence, Dune Messiah.

Dune Part Two is currently on general release and also screening in IMAX

Dune Part Two; reluctant messiah, Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) triggers the family atomics.



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