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Laramie Movie Scope: Dune: Part Two

The unfilmable novel now filmed

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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March 6, 2024 – Dune, published in 1965, is a very engrossing and popular book, but up until Dune parts one (2021) and two (2024) were released, movies and miniseries based on the book were disappointing. Part Two, which I watched last night, is a worthy adaptation, a movie some said could not be made.

I saw the 1984 film, and I own the 4.9 hour three DVD box set, special edition, director's cut (anamorphic wide screen, DTS surround sound) of the Sci-Fi Channel miniseries, “Frank Herbert's Dune,” (2000). The miniseries is a better adaptation than the 1984 movie, but it still is disappointing. I have also seen the 2003 Sci-Fi Channel miniseries “Frank Herbert's Children of Dune.” Those were ambitious attempts, but they still fell short of the compelling, transformative, narrative of the source material. I have also seen a documentary film about a failed attempt to make a movie out of Dune, called “Jodorowsky's Dune,” (2013).

Denis Villeneuve's adaptation, part one and two, is a big improvement. The only disappointing thing about part two, is that it seems like a story without a conclusion. When it is all over, it is not all over. Instead of properly concluding, it screams out “Part Three!” I certainly do hope part three will be made, and that I live long enough to see it. I have already waited nearly 60 years to see a worthy movie adaptation of a book I love.

The central characters of Part Two are Paul Atreides and Chani (Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya, reprising their roles from Part One) their heartwarming, yet heartbreaking romance is the tentpole around which this movie is built. These are two talented and charismatic actors and they hold this epic film together.

This story is loaded with mysticism. The idea of destiny is central to the story. Paul can see the future, and is cursed by it. He knows that his actions could lead to the deaths of millions, unless he follows a narrow path to avoid that fate. It is not a path that he wishes to follow. He wants to follow his heart, but destiny has other plans for him.

As good as Chalamet is in this film, Zendaya is better, embracing both the sweetness of Chani's romance with Paul, and the bitterness of losing him to the call of destiny. This is a very difficult role, but she is up to the mark. The whole idea of an outsider like Paul becoming the leader of Fremen on the desert planet Arrakis, is a complicated one for Chani and many of the Arab-like Fremen. Paul is viewed with suspicion by the Northern Fremen, while being seen as Messianic by the Southern Fremen.

Paul's reluctance to become the Messiah of the Fremen goes hand in hand with the Fremen's reluctance to embrace him as a Messiah, given that the “prophecy” of the Messiah, which he is supposed to fulfill, is one imposed on the Fremen by a manipulative off-world group called the Bene Gesserit, and Paul's own mother is a “Bene Gesserit Witch.”

All of this romance, drama and religion takes place against a backdrop of interstellar politics, which devolves into war, an odd mix of old-time swords and knives, energy weapons, thermonuclear weapons, and giant sand worms. Ever lurking are the mysterious motives and manipulations of the empire by the Bene Gesserit hierarchy (represented by Charlotte Rampling as Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam, and her disciple, Léa Seydoux as Lady Margot Fenring, close advisor to the emperor.

Shaddam IV, the Padishah Emperor (Christopher Walken of “Hairspray”) is royalty, the ruler of the known universe, but he is like a Medieval ruler, with powerful princes, rulers of the “Great Houses,” waiting in the wings to take over if he falters. The entire struggle between the warring houses of Atreides and Harkonnen (headed by Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgård) and his sons Glossu Rabban Harkonnen (Dave Bautista) and Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen (Austin Butler of “Elvis”) is the result of a plot by the emperor, who, in turn is being manipulated by the Bene Gesserit.

All of this revolves around Arrakis and the magical spice melange. The whole empire runs on this spice, and Arrakis is the only place it can be found. The genius of Herbert, and now Villeneuve, is to weave all this complexity into an easily understood, and compelling story. It's been tried before, but this is the first time it has really worked. This movie rates a B+.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff (no extra charges apply). I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2024 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at dalek three zero one nine at gmail dot com [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]