Review: ‘Dune: Part 2’ deserts source material, worms its way to box office success

Photo courtesy of IMDb

By Hank Holland | Reporter

“Dune: Part 2” is sweeping this season’s box office. It is expansive and moody and sets the new standard in Hollywood prestige productions.

Denis Villeneuve’s second-part adaptation of Frank Herbert’s “Dune” is much more operatic than the first installment and follows Paul Atreides’ path from refugee to messiah-like emperor of the universe.

Villeneuve himself flexes every directorial muscle he has in this movie. Everything from the color and the sound design to Hans Zimmer’s atmospheric score and Greig Fraser’s gorgeous cinematography is in complete lockstep and comes together to portray a world (or worlds) that transports the viewer to an alien universe. The overall atmosphere of the film is truly unique, as each planet and respective character has its own identity, such as the black tactical wear of the Harkonnens, the Middle Eastern aesthetics of the Fremen and the monk-like robes of the Bene Gesserit.

Villeneuve’s work with Timothée Chalamet (Atreides) is a partnership that could give Cecil B. DeMille and Charlton Heston — directors of hourslong epics “Ben-Hur” and “The Ten Commandments” — a run for their money. In the film, Atreides completes his journey to fulfilling his many prophecies. By the end of the film, he is nigh omniscient, and Chalamet completely sells it. His speech in the war council scene will be seen at next year’s Academy Awards, or I will riot.

Zendaya (Chani) brings a significant departure from the book in a way that works well, should Villeneuve continue on to “Dune: Messiah.” Her portrayal is a foil to that of Chalamet. We watch Chani retain Atreides’ earlier doubts about his leadership, and their relationship slowly turns reluctant as he embraces the Lisan Al-Gaib.

Austin Butler nearly steals every scene he’s in. His role as the sadistic Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen is like watching a combination of Darth Maul and Heath Ledger’s Joker. His Stellan Skarsgård voice and pure madness give the character a certain depth that Dave Bautista’s Beast Rabban matched in his pure physicality.

As an adaptation, “Dune: Part 2” takes a lot of creative liberties, even wiping out entire characters from the original plot. Usually, a choice like this leads to continuous plot holes, but I think Villeneuve made some pretty great choices in setting up a potential sequel. Villeneuve knows what he’s Dune.

My only complaints are the pacing of the last 20 minutes of the film, which feel a bit rushed, as well as the fact that Christopher Walken’s New York accent takes me out of the whole emperor-of-the-universe thing. However, he has such a regal aura that I love it anyways.

I couldn’t recommend this movie enough, and it’s good to see the trend of three-hour movies coming back into the mainstream. “Dune: Part 2” has the scale of an old Hollywood epic, yet it seems like it’s actually from the future.