‘Dune: Part Two’ delivers on promise of ‘Part One’

WARNING: This article contains spoilers for the 2024 movie “Dune: Part Two.”

Ever since my little brother gave me a copy of “Dune” some Christmases ago, I’ve been fascinated by the rich, immersive world Frank Herbert created — a clash of religion and culture set against the spice dunes of Arrakis. Herbert takes almost 900 pages to tell the tale of his reluctant hero, Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet); it stands to reason that any film adaptation would have to be similarly epic in scope.

So, fans nodded in approval when Denis Villeneuve revealed that he would split his version of “Dune” into two parts. Any doubts that Villeneuve and crew were up to the task largely dissipated with the release of “Dune: Part One” in fall 2021; the only question that remained was whether the sequel could deliver on the promises made by its predecessor.

Less than three years later, with “Dune: Part Two” finally upon us, I’m happy to say the answer is a resounding “yes.”

Opening mere moments after Paul’s acceptance into the Fremen following the botched Harkonnen assassination attempt against him and his mother, Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), “Dune: Part Two” finds Paul learning the desert tribe’s ways under the tutelage of Chani (Zendaya). She becomes his lover as well as his mentor, and this relationship is at the heart of “Dune: Part Two.”

This relationship is also where the film most glaringly departs from the novel. While “Dune: Part One” firmly establishes that Paul and Chani are destined to be together, in “Dune: Part Two,” Chani resists this prophecy as superstition from the more religious southern Fremen (splitting the Fremen into two societies is another invention of the movie).

While Chani eventually does fall in love with Paul, here she continues to push back against the claims that Paul is the messiah known as Lisan al Gaib. When Paul finally accepts this role — and with it, a politically-expedient marriage to the beautiful Princess Irulan — Chani opts to leave.

Some fans may find themselves conflicted, as I did, over this new version of Chani. In the book, Chani accepts her fate, taking solace in the knowledge that it is she Paul truly loves. As Lady Jessica tells her:

“Think on it, Chani: that princess will have the name, yet she’ll live as less than a concubine—never to know a moment of tenderness from the man to whom she’s bound. While we, Chani, we who carry the name of concubine—history will call us wives.”

That said, the movie’s version of Chani allows “Dune: Part Two” a cleaner segue into the events of “Dune: Messiah,” which exposes the cynical manipulation behind Paul’s messiah act. Having Chani leave Paul hints at the humanity he’s losing in order to take power gives the ending a poignancy that evokes the first two “Godfather” films

Say what you will about his odd film choices and dress style, Timothée Chalamet is proving himself to be an artistic force to be reckoned with. Going from the whimsy and wonder of Wonka to this weighty and powerful performance is no small feat. He effortlessly portrays Paul’s ascension from boy to man to messiah.

Zendaya also gives an admirable performance as Chani, especially when faced with the reality of the love of her life giving into everything she opposes. And Austin Butler embodies the sadistic Feyd-Rautha with such malicious glee, it’s impossible to look away.

Despite its departures from the novel, “Dune: Part 2” remains faithful to the spirit of Herbert’s masterpiece. Such epic filmmaking has been missing from the multiplexes of late, and Villeneuve seems as committed as ever to giving fans something to discuss for years to come.

“You should be a monster, an absolute monster, and then you should learn how to control it, ” goes Jordan Peterson’s famous advice to young men. “Dune: Part Two” is the story of a man who so surrenders to this transformation that he loses his soul. Will he find it in “Dune: Messiah”?Thats for Mr. Villeneuve to answer.

Read Align reviewer Isaac Young’s on “Why ‘Dune 2’ should fail” here.

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