Dune: Part Two review – Movin’ different

When we reviewed Dune: Part One back in 2021 (or as it was called back then, just “Dune”) we pointed out how the movie was fantastic, but it came with odd pacing and story structure problems due to the fact that it was only half a story that ended unresolved as we waited for the sequel. We actually concluded that review stating that this whole project would have worked better as a large production series a la Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.

Now, after seeing Part Two, these sentiments have only strengthened.

Before we get to that we have to set the scene. Part Two takes place immediately after Part One and continues the story of Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) as he tries to retake the planet of Arrakis. Joining him is some of the returning cast from the first movie in Josh Brolin (Gurney Halleck), Stellan Skarsgård (Vladimir Harkonnen), Dave Bautista (Glossu Rabban), Zendaya (Chani), Javier Bardem (Stilgar) and more.

The cast gets even more star power for the sequel with newcomers aplenty. Christopher Walken (the emperor Shaddam Corrino IV), Florence Pugh (Princess Irulan), Austin Butler (Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen), and Léa Seydoux (Margot Fenring) are the big names. The cast is immense and you may not even recognise some of them due to the makeup and costuming.

And we’ll say at the top that everyone did a great job with their parts. The dialogue is rather solid and avoids the eye roll territory that is easy to fall into with high concept sci-fi like this.

Our pick of the bunch was Bardem whose version of Stilgar was given both very serious moments in the story as well as bits of comedy. As a religious fundamentalist who truly believes in Paul Atreides as the messiah and saviour of Arrakis, Bardem delivered a performance that was sincere and believable despite the sci-fi outlandishness of the film’s events. Every scene with Stilgar in it was a good scene and we wish everyone had a hype man as good as Stilgar.

We were lucky enough to see Part Two in IMAX were the visuals really got to shine. Like the first movie we enjoyed the alien look of everything as the production design team, costumers and CGI artists all did an amazing job at making a modern film that doesn’t fall in the tired tropes of what sci-fi should look like. When there’s a spaceship or otherworldly culture in Dune you can bet it looks insane, intricate and a little upsetting.

There’s also an amazing diversity in what the movie shows us, the viewers, despite most of it being, you know, sand. The glimpses we get into the metaphysical as well as other alien worlds are all amazing reprieves to the harsh deserts of Arrakis. Of particular note is the scenes involving the introduction to Feyd-Rautha which you can see in the trailers, which is shown in what appears to be black and white. These scenes show us more of the harsh environment of the Harkonnen which perfectly explains why these characters are so ruthless.

There were only one or two moments where the CGI faltered a bit and looked iffy inside of its scene, but these were the rare exceptions and it’s easy to enjoy Dune: Part Two as a spectacle.

Along with the IMAX visuals came the IMAX sound and man it’s loud. Maybe too loud in some spots, but this enhanced audio helped sell the brutal and oppressive parts of the movie. For example when a fictional machine bigger than a skyscraper is dropped onto sand and then destroyed in a huge explosion a few minutes later, all these events would feel small without the huge sound backing it up, and that’s what you got here.

As always we have to dedicate some time to audio balancing with the scourge of barely audible dialogue and too loud action continues in Hollywood. As stated there is definitely some very loud action here but the dialogue was surprisingly good when it come to actually hearing and understanding what actors or saying. It’s insane that we have to list “we could understand the dialogue” as a positive but that’s where we are. It also helps that many scenes use fake languages which need subtitles.

We also love little touches like the flying Ornithopter droning out the theatre with bass and a hum which completely sold this advanced flying vehicle that’s a cross between a dragonfly and a helicopter. By the way check out our review on the LEGO Ornithopter for more on this amazingly unique vehicle.

With our praise for the cast, visuals and sound we can now return to our main and massive problem with these Dune movies: their pacing and stories.

Part Two continues the trend of the pacing being very stop start and again leans into our view that this would have all worked better as a TV series. We’re sure that, with a tiny bit of editing, these films could have been chopped up into episodes. The naturally shorter nature of TV episodes would have fit the odd choices in ramping up and down of events in the story.

This would also help smooth over the other pacing problems like not knowing how long it takes for everything in the story to happen. Sometimes it feels like everything is happening over a few hours or a day, and other times it feels like we’ve lost months of time in jumps that may or may not have happened.

This hampers the enjoyment of the story as it is difficult to build towards an emotional or narrative payoff with events happening so haphazardly. The ensemble cast may draw people to the theatres with star power but this is balanced out by the fact that each character gets little screen time. If we aren’t doing a TV show or more movies, it maybe would have served the overall project if some characters were cut so that the remaining ones could get more time to shine.

Despite these issues we don’t want to downplay the good time we had with Part Two and how we’re sure that Dune fans, Villeneuve fans and the casual movie goers will have a great day out at the movies when they pick to see it.

Dune: Part Two is another amazing movie from Denis Villeneuve that still gets our recommendation and insistence to not only see it in theatres, but also spend the extra money for IMAX. Unfortunately the bizarre pacing stops this from being an instant modern classic and we found ourselves picking Part One as the better overall movie.



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