Dune Part Two (2024, dir. Denis Villeneuve)

by | Feb 27, 2024

Certificate: 12A

Running Time: 167 mins

UK Distributor: Warner Bros

UK Release Date: 1 March 2024


Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Josh Brolin, Austin Butler, Florence Pugh, Dave Bautista, Christopher Walken, Léa Seydoux, Stellan Skarsgård, Charlotte Rampling, Javier Bardem, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Souheila Yacoub


Denis Villeneuve (director, writer, producer), Jon Spaihts (writer), Cale Boyter, Tanya Lapointe, Patrick McCormick and Mary Parent (producers), Hans Zimmer (composer), Greig Fraser (cinematographer), Joe Walker (editor)


Paul Atreides (Chalamet) leads the Fremen of the desert planet Arrakis on a defiant mission…


After years of failed attempts to adapt Frank Herbert’s classic sci-fi novel Dune for the big screen, Denis Villeneuve succeeded where the likes of Alejandro Jodorowsky and David Lynch didn’t by splitting the roughly 900-page book into two separate films. This allowed for a grander and less restrictive exploration of the worlds and themes introduced in Herbert’s genre-defining tome, particularly in Villeneuve’s first half (released back in 2021, after pandemic-related delays from the previous year) which laid the foundations for this universe, turning the lengthy but necessary exposition into a visually stimulating exercise of world-building, on a level not seen on the big screen since Peter Jackson first invited audiences to Middle-Earth.

Now, with Dune Part Two (itself partially delayed due to last year’s union strikes), Villeneuve builds on top of everything he previously established, and crafts a film that is many things all at once – a war drama, a sci-fi action-adventure, and a dense commentary on the dangers of religion, martyrdom and the corruption of power, just to name a few – and yet, it never loses sight of just how unapologetically massive this source material is. Make no mistake, Dune Part Two is all-capitals EPIC, and a resounding accomplishment for big-budget, auteur-driven filmmaking that depressingly few major studio pictures are allowed to be nowadays.

Dune Part Two is, of course, set not too long after the events of Dune Part One. That movie – spoilers for those who haven’t seen it – saw Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) and his pregnant mother Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) being banished to the never-ending desert of the planet Arrakis, after a stealth coup by rival House Harkonnen, fronted by the menacingly grotesque Baron Vladimir (Stellan Skarsgård), ended with them resuming control of the planet’s valuable spice reserves and slaughtering Paul’s father and associates. Luckily, Paul and Jessica have since joined forces with the native Fremen, with Paul – now known as “Muad’Dib” among his newfound clan – even finding a soulmate in fellow freedom fighter Chani (Zendaya). However, his higher calling as a prophesised messiah-like figure among the Fremen soon begins to affect his overall judgement, and with the Harkonnens anointing the psychotic Feyd-Rautha (Austin Butler) as the new steward of Arrakis, time is running out for Paul to figure out exactly what kind of saviour he will ultimately be.

Much like the first part, Dune Part Two spends much of its near three-hour runtime exploring and expanding upon the deeply-embedded mythologies and environments that Frank Herbert originally created. However, with much of the world-building exposition already covered in Dune Part One, Villeneuve has freer rein here to craft a wide variety of engrossing action sequences within the mechanics of the established universe, many of which reiterate the enormous scale of Herbert’s far-reaching story, more than even the first film was able to. There are scenes in this movie where you feel the absolute size of these sets, these landscapes, and the thematically rich narrative binding them all together, as Villeneuve brings an invigorating attitude to set-pieces such as ones where Timothée Chalamet’s Paul leads a number of sabotage missions with his Fremen allies, then later when he learns how to ride one of the planet’s many giant sandworms, and finally an awe-inspiring climax that just screams its operatic nature to the audience.

It is a testament to Villenevue’s skills as an invigorating filmmaker that he never gets too carried away with the action, retaining his grittier and thematically driven directorial style previously used in the likes of Sicario and Blade Runner 2049, and also lends his undeniable passion to several heads of department who all, under the director’s watch, turn it into an exceptionally crafted production. Cinematographer Greig Fraser, who won an Oscar for his work on Dune Part One, continues to create some dazzling sun-drenched imagery that turns the barren desert wastelands of Arrakis into an endless awe-inspiring canvas, as everything from the low orange sunsets to faraway shots riddled with heat distortion looks like the closest equivalent to a modern-day David Lean epic we’ve yet had. Even when we venture to other planets, such as one coated in stunning monochrome where the fireworks are black Rorschach test inkdots, the artistry never fails to elicit an awed response, as Fraser – along with the set and costume designers, as well as the supremely talented team of visual effects artists and sound designers, and of course a bellowing musical score courtesy of Hans Zimmer – brings a grounded sense of beauty to each lived-in corner of this galaxy. This is an all-round stunning piece of filmmaking, as headed by Villeneuve’s exhilarating direction that brings out the pure might and power of this giant story.

The themes of said story are ones that he and co-writer Jon Spaihts pay close attention to in their thought-provoking script. The screenwriters are clearly drawn to the concept of how prophetic figures, like the one that Paul Atreides is being hyped up to be, are the result of carefully calculated propaganda that is developed and spread among vulnerable sects by external forces. For a good chunk of the film, we see Rebecca Ferguson’s Lady Jessica in her new role as the Fremen’s Reverend Mother, wherein she somewhat sinisterly uses her position, as well as her previously-gained powers as a member of the Bene Gesserit (who are basically witch nuns), to convert the remaining sceptics toward a cult-like worship of the supposed messiah. Although this can at times lead to some funny misinterpretations by his devoted followers (in moments that seem like Villeneuve is perhaps a big fan of Life of Brian), the parallels between Jessica’s mission and the real-life fundamentalists that similarly enforce the spread of religious devotion within oppressed communities – it does not seem like a coincidence that the Fremen in this movie are viewed as a minority by the predominantly White forces of power – are uniformly stark.

Furthermore, it is made clear at multiple junctions that the prophecy surrounding Paul might not necessarily lead to a good outcome, with visions predicting a disturbing future that may come as a result of the exiled Atreides assuming full power of not just Arrakis, but the universe as a whole. Villeneuve and Spaihts’s script is smart in how it shows the darker aspects of this particular hero’s journey narrative, especially as it flirts with a possible turn towards anti-heroism for its protagonist, who despite becoming one with the natives cannot entirely shake away his privileged birthright. This makes the character a lot more interesting than if he did just turn out to be space Jesus, which a much more traditional filmmaker would have undoubtedly leant further into as a means of simplifying a deeply complex narrative.

It’s fair to say, after all of that, that Villeneuve has delivered a truly fantastic sci-fi vision with both parts of this massive Dune adaptation. It cannot have been easy to realise, with the original Frank Herbert novel once thought to have been unadaptable (again, both Alejandro Jodorowsky and David Lynch can vouch for that), but thanks to his bold and grand approach that comes hand-in-hand with fantastic craftmanship and a solid ensemble cast – with Austin Butler’s chilling marble-carved antagonist being the ultimate MVP among that starry line-up – he’s delivered a bona fide multi-film epic for the ages.


Dune Part Two is a fantastically realised sci-fi epic that sees director Denis Villeneuve conclude the first book in Frank Herbert’s series with an awe-inspiring scope that features incredible craftmanship and a heavy focus on the story’s complex themes.

Five out of five stars

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