‘Dune: Part Two’ raises the bar for sci-fi sequels

Published 11:44 am Tuesday, April 9, 2024

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This week at the Tryon Theatre, we have a bold and captivating film: “Dune: Part Two.” This film is a sequel to the acclaimed 2021 film “Dune,” picking up directly where the first film ended. Directed by visionary director Denis Villeneuve, this film marks a career-high of an already impressive and celebrated filmography. 

“Dune: Part Two” is a sequel that shares in the rarified air of other famously superior sequels, occupying the same echelon as “Godfather: Part II” (Coppola 1974) and “The Empire Strikes Back” (Lucas 1980). These films took their predecessors’ impeccable world-building and narrative foundation and elevated said origins to a higher degree of artistry and a greater depth of emotion.

Speaking of artistry, this film is a sumptuous visual feast, with physical production and cinematography blending beautifully for a transportative experience, fully immersing the viewer in futuristic fantasy. Villeneuve as a director has always had an eye for scale and world-building, a talent well suited for high-concept sci-fi. 

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Every culture and planet depicted in the film is richly imagined, with nuanced details of space and architecture. These worlds’ political and social norms are similarly distinct and complex, providing integral texture and weight to the aesthetics. In portraying this beautiful and complex world “Dune: Part Two” demonstrates the efficacy of the visual medium, flourishing in showing without telling, applying exposition only when necessary. 

The film’s cast is paired perfectly with the physicality of these intricate sets, with each central actor giving a career-best in the complexity and range of their performance. Timotheé Chalamet plays the film’s protagonist, Paul Atreides, in a turn that will sway audiences yet unsure of his talent. As the narrative progresses, Chalamet is tasked with portraying a great burden of purpose and power on a young man’s shoulders. The intensity and confidence that Chalamet inhabits in this transformation as a character is worth the price of admission alone. But, it is perhaps in the acting of two supporting characters that the film’s most magnetic performances are found: Lady Jessica and Feyd Rautha.

Lady Jessica, as played by Rebecca Ferguson, is Paul’s intelligent and dangerous mother, a force of nature in subterfuge and manipulation. Ferguson’s interpretation of this character is fascinating and frightening, an alien and ancient presence in human form. Feyd Rautha, one of the film’s antagonists, is a similarly inhuman character whose otherness is registered physically, a terrifying and beautiful figure with a mind to match. Austin Butler plays Feyd in a terrifyingly convincing capacity that showcases a remarkable range for an actor that some may have perceived as one note. 

In terms of the film’s narrative, “Dune: Part Two” is a direct sequel to the first, immediately following the preceding story. Having seen the first film is integral in appreciating this sequel, both the plot and the characters. However, one need not have read Frank Herbert’s novels to understand these adaptations. As with any adaptation, the films are an independent artistic product, and diverge enough in their interpretation that the source material is more an inspiration than a transcript. 

We hope you will take a chance on high concepts and a long runtime as we are sure you will be rewarded for viewing “Dune: Part Two!”