'Dune: Part Two' Review

Spice world

Director Denis Villeneuve (Blade Runner 2049) recently took to X (formerly Twitter) to say he believes television programs have corrupted movies with all their dang dialogue, that he hates that and that he thinks film is really more of a visual medium.

OK, sure, there’s an argument for the power of cinematic visuals, though this take seems kind of reductive. Still, he really doubles down on the idea with Dune: Part Two, a very pretty movie based on the Frank Herbert series of sci-fi novels wherein dialogue feels like an afterthought and we get naught but exceedingly melodramatic performances from the only movie stars allowed in movies anymore: Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Austin Butler and Anya Taylor-Joy (OK, that last one only appears in the mix for a second, but still!).

Dune: Part Two: Electric Boogaloo picks up right where the first one left off: Paul Atreides (Chalamet) of the great house Atreides (think space royalty) has traveled to the desert planet Arrakis from where spice (think of it like space gas) is made. There, the nefarious Harkonnen clan (they’re also a great house) kills Paul’s whole family under the orders of their Baron (Stellan Skarsgård), save a few, like his mom, in their never-ending lust for blood and power.

Paul survives, though, and takes up with the Fremen—desert folk with lives consisting of activities like extracting water from dead bodies, worshipping/riding hulking sandworms and being extra religious. Paul falls for a young soldier named Chani (Zendaya) and takes up the cause: stabbing Harkonnens and blowing up spice depots. His mom (Rebecca Ferguson), meanwhile, rises within the ranks of the Bene Gesserit, a fanatical fundamentalist space church (the name for which did not set off spell check issues during this writing, interestingly) and uses Paul’s new penchant for stabbin’ to build up a flock. There’s a prophecy in there about a chosen one, too, and it might be Paul.

Elsewhere, the cartoonishly evil Feyd-Rautha (Butler) prepares to take over Arrakis from his bungling and shouty brother Beast Rabban (Dave Bautista, who hits the screen for something like four minutes) by stabbing anyone in sight, having no hair and living in a world that is black and white for some reason. His trio of girlfriends are all cannibals, too, and Butler continues his oppressive regime of doing weird voices following that Elvis movie none of us really liked. Christopher Walken is the space emperor; Florence Pugh is his daughter; Javier Bardem trains Paul in the ways of the desert; Josh Brolin pops up to be like, “I know where there’s space nukes!” Cue explosions and prophecies; cue hulking worms and kangaroo mice.

But war never changes, or something, and Dune: Part Two rolls along practically insisting that you read all the books, or at least saw the first film. There’s something to be said for a property that won’t go out of its way to hold the hand of the viewer, but Villeneuve has packed so much into this movie that even the most emotional moments fall flat. Chalamet maintains the lessons he learned at the look-sadly-at-horizon school of acting, while Zendaya—who is generally very natural in just about anything—is reduced to furtive glances and angry scoffing; OK, and a bazooka once or twice.

Even so, the ending, through which Villeneuve sets the stage for Dune: Part Three: Turtles in Time feels rushed and silly. And it all leads up to one very important conclusion: You practically must already be pretty into Dune in book or film form to love this thing. If you’re a casual fan, well…enjoy the spectacle. Otherwise, its nearly three-hour runtime does not overstay its welcome. If anything, another 15 minutes would have made a big difference and allowed for some filling out the film needed. See you when Part Three drops, though!


+Gorgeous; intriguing

-Poor dialogue makes for accessibility issues

Dune: Part Two

Directed by Villeneuve

With Chalamet, Zendaya, Butler, Ferguson, Bardem, Walken and Pugh

Violet Crown, Regal, PG-13, 166 min.

Letters to the Editor

Mail letters to PO Box 4910 Santa Fe, NM 87502 or email them to editor[at] Letters (no more than 200 words) should refer to specific articles in the Reporter. Letters will be edited for space and clarity.

We also welcome you to follow SFR on social media (on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) and comment there. You can also email specific staff members from our contact page.