Blood and sand what a sequel!

Will Ferris
Latest posts by Will Ferris (see all)

Dune: Part Two (12A, 165 Minutes)

They thought it impossible. They assumed it would flop. After an odd, Lynchian attempt back in 1984, the idea of a director pulling off a successful adaptation of Frank Herbert’s mammoth sci fi book series Dune was one for the birds.

But the naysayers have been proved well and truly wrong. Director Denis Villeneuve delivers a breathtaking follow-up which is as visually gorgeous as it is thematically bold.

To get into the meat of the story, here’s a quick recap: The galaxy is dependent on the collection and mass distribution of a psychotropic drug called Spice, found only on the desert planet of Arrakis. Emperor Shaddam IV (Christopher Walken, who basically plays Christopher Walken in space) rules over hundreds of royal households led by dukes whilst a religious sisterhood known as the Bene-Gesserit slink through the shadows manipulating events and planting what can only be described as super babies into the families.

One of these children is Paul (Timothee Chalamet), son of Duke Atreides, destined to become his father’s successor until the Emperor decides they are a threat and has them take guardianship of Arrakis, sneakily getting its ex-landlords – the nasty, egg headed Harkonnens, led by their slimy, corpulent Baron (Stellan Skarsgård) – to terminate the Atreides bloodline.

But Paul and his mother, Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), flee into the desert and join the native Fremen who fight to reclaim their land from imperialist forces.

Among them is Chani (Zendaya), who Paul has been having some saucy late night dreams about along with visions of a mass following in his name.

Lady Jessica believes these dreams are linked to an ancient prophecy, which may coldly work in their favour on the path to revenge.

But revenge becomes entangled with jihad.

Part Two catches up with Paul as he becomes a fighter without equal amongst the Fremen, exhibiting powers that prompt tribe leader Stillgar (Javier Bardem) to proclaim him ‘Muad’Dib’, (yes, an armed and dangerous space Aslan minus the mane), come to shepherd the people and lead them into a holy war.

Meanwhile, the messiah’s mum has become a soothsayer with the ability to talk to her unborn child. The Emperor’s daughter Irulan (Florence Pugh) grows concerned about her father’s potential downfall and, discontent with the lack of progress in wiping out the Fremen, Baron Harkonnen enlists the services of his sociopathic nephew, Feyd-Rutha (Austin Butler).

All these events link into a stunning climax where the status quo is no more. Victory for our protagonist is going to come with an almighty sting This fits in with Dune’s up until now hidden theme – religious fundamentalism and the irresistible hunger for power overtaking the core beliefs of characters that we as an audience believed we knew.

As the Reverend Mother (Charlotte Rampling) so bluntly puts it: “there are no sides”.

Notable standouts amongst a vast and compelling ensemble are Butler in arguably a more nuanced and supremely better performance than his stint as Elvis and with more than half the screen time, even if he is just giving us Sid from Toy Story but with knives.

Skarsgård, as his villainous uncle, is equally as grim and disgusting, hovering through the air on mobility support. Less often than usual will you hear me give praise to Chalamet, but his dramatic turn in the final act of this film is as spectacular as it is terrifying, perhaps in the stark comparison to modern religious extremists.

The same can be said for Rebecca Ferguson, who goes from being a stoic wife and mother to a demented Holy Mary, radicalising the masses and shuffling through the corridors talking to the baby growing in her womb.

If ever there’s a director searching for a new Lady Macbeth, they need look no further.

But the real star here is Zendaya, who has a phenomenal presence on screen and becomes the true beating heart of the story.

Amidst the glorification of fundamentalism and extremist behaviour among her own people (an uncomfortable watch for an audience), Chanhi tragically goes from being Paul’s soul mate to a casualty of victory.

Dune 2 is a visual feast for the eyes. One of the most immersive, nail bitingly tense sequels to grace our screens. Will it stand the test of time? The Empire Strikes Back did and Dune: Part Two truly feels like it’s on an equal trajectory.

Strong words indeed, but I would urge this to be seen on the biggest screen possible to really grasp what a courageous, exciting and epic piece of work Villenueve and his team have pulled off.

Part 3 already has the green light, but is Paul the desert messiah or just a very naughty boy?

RATING: 10/10