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The Student Voice of Fordham Lincoln Center

The Observer

The Student Voice of Fordham Lincoln Center

The Observer


‘Dune: Part Two’ Effortlessly Merges Spectacle With Substance

Denis Villeneuve’s anticipated sci-fi sequel will thrill long-time fans and newcomers alike
The film is, to put it simply, immense.

Warning: This article contains spoilers for “Dune: Part One” (2021).

Frank Herbert’s 1965 sci-fi epic “Dune” remains an enigma nearly 60 years after its publication. Following one oft-maligned film adaptation, the novel’s cultlike fandom eagerly anticipated French-Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve’s 2021 take on the behemoth.

In recognition of the massive scope of the novel, perhaps, Villeneuve and his collaborators — co-writers Jon Spaihts and Eric Roth and co-producers Mary Parent, Cale Boyter and Joe Caracciolo Jr. — elected to split the first installment into two parts, aptly named “Dune: Part One” and “Dune: Part Two.” Nearly two and a half years after the first’s release, “Part Two” premiered at Lincoln Center on Feb. 25.

The film is, to put it simply, immense: Villeneuve tracks his protagonist Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) and his mother Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) as they attempt to build “desert power” on the harsh surface of Arrakis, a near-uninhabitable planet that the Emperor (Christopher Walken) promised to Paul’s father (Oscar Isaac) shortly before his death in the first film. 

Along the way, the pair negotiate relationships with various adversarial groups — the Emperor and his daughter (Florence Pugh), the Harkonnens (led by Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista and Austin Butler), and the mysterious Bene Gesserit (including Léa Seydoux and Charlotte Rampling) — while gaining the trust of the Fremen, including their leader Stilgart (Javier Bardem) and the skeptical Chani (Zendaya). 

If the plot sounds labyrinthine and convoluted, that’s because it is. In Villeneuve’s steady, confident hands, though, “Part Two” threads the vast web of characters through a compelling emotional tale of hubris, misplaced trust, and perhaps the universal truth of human experience: trying (and failing) to impress your parents.

With the help of the Dolby Atmos sound mix, the film transports its audience completely into the stark reality of life on Arrakis. The Harkonnens loudly cheer as Butler’s Feyd-Rautha ruthlessly murders foes for sport, and Fremen bow at Paul’s feet with the reverent cries of “Mahdi.” Even down to individual grains of sand rustling underfoot or hurtling past giant worms snaking underground, the film is to be experienced, not just watched.

“Part Two” threads the vast web of characters through a compelling emotional tale of hubris, misplaced trust, and perhaps the universal truth of human experience: trying (and failing) to impress your parents.

Further building this immersion, perhaps counterintuitively, is Hans Zimmer’s soaring score. In sharp contrast to the diegetic soundscape of Arrakis, cold and empty, Zimmer’s music reflects Paul’s inner emotional state, drafting illusions of grandeur and romance. As the film reaches its climax, and Paul evolves into his seemingly predestined social role, the score vanishes — the audience is left with nothing more than the sound of heavy breathing, grunts and metal banging against metal during the final fight scene.

Catalyzing Paul’s journey into his destiny is his role with his mother and unborn sister. The two (along with the order of magical women of which they are a part, the Bene Gesserit) manipulate Paul’s journey as it unspools. The film repeatedly makes the audience aware of the mastermind role that this order plays, controlling not only Paul and the Harkonnens but perhaps even the Emperor himself.

Underneath the hypermasculinity of Paul’s quest for power, then, is the reality that the real control is held by the women. Before the release of “Part One,” Villeneuve wrote about his affinity for the women characters of the novel, explaining “I am fascinated by the relationship of femininity and power, the place of women in society.” In the sequel, this fascination takes center stage.

The emotional crux of the movie lies in the relationship between Paul and the two central women in his life, his mother and Chani. The climactic tension, then, comes not just from his being pulled between his desires and his destiny, but also between the two women. While Chani laments that Paul “promised (her) he didn’t want power,” his mother urges him to seek it.

As the series hurtles toward “Dune: Messiah,” the anticipated next installment, this centrality of women and femininity will likely only increase. While characters such as Pugh’s Princess Irulan and Anya Taylor-Joy’s Alia appear only briefly in “Part Two,” the ending sets these women up for pivotal roles moving forward.

Like its predecessor, then, “Part Two” serves primarily as a launching point for what is to come in future installments of the sprawling Dune franchise. It does, however, achieve significantly more success in functioning as a standalone story, guiding its anti-hero through the journey into his destiny — a destiny which will, as Paul himself envisions, lead to unimaginable destruction.

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About the Contributor
ANA KEVORKIAN, Former Managing Editor
Ana Kevorkian (she/her), FCLC ’24, is the former managing editor at The Fordham Observer. This is her third year with The Observer, having previously served as head copy editor, and she is so excited to serve the organization which has given her so much in this capacity. When she’s not doing Observer-related tasks, you can find her watching movies (see: “Fordham Cinephiles Can Finally Know Peace”), listening to Taylor Swift, reading and wandering the city aimlessly.

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