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Dune Part 2

·6 mins

Last night I saw Dune Part 2. (All hail weekend 10pm showings for not being super crowded). I thought it was very good, even excellent in what it was setting out to do. Even so, I’m not sure I would say I loved it the way I have some other movies in the genre. (This may be because I’ve never read the books.)

Like any good movie, it sparked a lot of thoughts in my head. Like anything that sparks thoughts in my head, not all of those thoughts are useful. Here are some assorted thoughts about Dune(s) part 1 and 2, Dune via Lynch, and more.

Spoilers for a very recent movie and very not recent book follow.

Image as spoiler buffer
  • Much moreso than the Lynch version, it did an excellent job of showing that Paul’s rise to a messiah figure is not a good thing. Where and how it ends really hammers that home.

  • To be fair, starting Part One on “who will our next oppressors be” seeds this. Keeping Chani as the moral center works well for this - while was a few years ago that I watched it, nothing about Chani in the Lynch version stuck in my head.

  • Despite five hours plus of runtime, it felt like it rushed through the final act, the same as Lynch’s version. I am informed that this is similar to the book.

  • Denis Villeneuve remains one of the best directors at building visions that bring in scale. Just off the top of my head the next day:

    • Paul walking among the southern fundamentalists
    • Sandworms approaching the storm
    • The entire harvester attack sequence
  • However, he’s so averse to color saturation (in these and other movies of his) that in many cases that it feels like he’s shooting the West Elm catalog. Luc Besson is a deeply icky person, but I feel like this could use at least 20% more Besson color influence.

  • That being said, the shift to essentially black and white for the visit to the Harkonnen world is a nice touch.

  • Doing more Harkonnen and empire backstory in general was good. In retrospect, it would have been nice to have sprinkled this throughout the two films. Who would say no to more Walken/Pugh/Sedoux?

  • Walken going from “Weapon of Choice” so long ago to the Dune emperor role is almost certainly not intentional casting, but still fun.

  • Villeneuve decides to skimp on bland exposition of world-building technological and terminology details in favor of assuming people can keep up. Examples include the assorted floating lamps, whatever keeps the Baron moving, “why ornithopters instead of just planes”. This is good!

  • This extends to random background details. There’s a whole story about why the colisseum guards on the Harkonnen worlds look like that that’s left unsaid. Good stuff.

  • Hans Zimmer is in full BWAAAAAMP mode here. Big screen + big sound system is appropriately epic. I do feel that they toned down the added soundtrack chanting in Part 2, which may be for the best.

  • Where the chanting did show up was in the acid trip scenes from drinking the “worm piss”/“Water of Life”. There was an opportunity to go more Lynchian and more trippy here that Villeneuve mostly eschewed. Alas.

  • If I had a nickel for every 2024 sci-fi movie featuring Anya Taylor-Joy on a bunch of desolate sand thinking of greenery, I’d have two nickels. Which isn’t much, but it’s weird that it happened twice.

  • Villeneuve decided to stick with a completely in-utero commentator popping up occasinally. I think I prefer having an Actual Creepy Kid a la the Lynch version.

‘Let me see what you have.’ ‘A knife!’ ‘NO!’
  • It is never explicitly said in the films, but the spice is sandworm shit, right?

  • If Paul turns Arrakis into a green paradise for the Fremen, wouldn’t that kill off the sandworms? This isn’t directly stated, but it would seem to be implied, and has more thematic relevance as a threat than an “I’m going to nuke the spice fields”.

  • Chalamet does good work showing Paul’s concern about his vision and resistance to the prophecies set up for him, but I still can’t quite buy him as an all-seeing leader and user of the voice of command. This is probably because I’m full of internet brain rot and can’t separate my pre-Dune vision of him from the Kicker Boyz.

  • I do buy Chalamet doing his own Butlerian jihad for the purposes of deleting that video from existence.

  • On the other hand, I 100% buy Rebecca Ferguson’s potrayal of someone that intense, devoted, and commanding.

  • There is a fine line in fantasy/sci-fi costuming between “visually arresting” and “goofy”. The Bene Gesserit outfits are on one side of this line. Irulan’s chain mail(?) is on the other.

  • Although, once watching a group of Bene Gesserit walk onscreen the words “trade federation” popped into my head, and now it’s stuck there. I’m sorry.

  • One trope I could live without is “here is this advanced society that decides leadership by ritual combat”. See also: Black Panther.

  • For a computers-are-forbidden universe, those are some very fancy computer displays the Harkonnens are using to track their spice harvesting operations.

  • The behavior of the imperial forces at the end of the movie is a bit alarming. Not expecting sandworms assaults? Sure. Not seeing through the storm? OK. Not noticing the giant army amassing in the open under a cliff shouting to their leader above? That’s just sloppy.

Not exactly stealthy.
  • Going full nazi on the Harkonnen homeworld visuals is both stylistically appropriate, and an interesting choice when the message of the film is that Paul’s messianic period may be equally horrible for the people of the universe.

  • In a similar note, playing Stilgar’s religious beliefs at least partially for laughs is a choice that could undercut the serious criticism of fanaticism, but I think it mostly works to highlight it without making it didactic.

  • It would be nice if the film wasn’t scared of the word “jihad”, even if I’m sure there are giant WB notes insisting about this.

  • There is probably a critical review of Dune on how it undercuts the white savior narrative while still presenting a large Arabic/Muslim-coded population that becomes a blinded fanatical force driven by religious devotion. That review is one that I very much do not have the experience and history to write.

In any case, Dune (pts 1 & 2) come highly recommended. Go see it on the big screen, it’s fun.

Bill Nottingham
Bill Nottingham
Bill Nottingham is a long-time open source hacker, and currently works as a product manager for Tidelift. He can occasionally be found doing a very poor impression of a soccer player.