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MOVIE REVIEW: The epic bait-and-switch of ‘Dune: Part Two’ and its criticism against imperialism

‘Dune Part Two’ is an exquisite science fiction epic that needs to be seen in the largest screen possible with the loudest speakers that you can afford. The visual feast alongside the precision of its sound design and musical score promises that ‘Dune Part Two’ is a cinematic event that cannot be missed.

There is an incredible bait-and-switch that happens in ‘Dune: Part Two’ that manages to highlight the narrative control that director Denis Villeneuve and his co-screenwriter Jon Spaihts exercises on the material. Based on the book by Frank Herbert, with the same name, Villeneuve is quoted for saying that he reworked the movie to follow Herbert’s original intention to make the lead character Paul Atreides (Timothee Chalamet) an anti-hero. Following directly from the events that transpired in the first film, ‘Dune Part Two’ explores Paul and his mother, Lady Jessica as they are assimilated into the world of the Fremen, the native inhabitants of the world Arrakis while the Harkonnen continue to try and mine the planet for spice, the precious mineral found only in Arrakis.

You cannot watch this movie and not see the critiques against imperialism that is on full display in the narrative structure and the imagery. Everything from the language to the brutality of the ways by which the Fremen people are oppressed point to past historical accounts of colonization by the west. That Villeneuve and his creative team adopt a middle eastern aesthetic for the dessert planet of Arrakis and the Fremen while the Harkonnen’s have a clearly fascist aesthetic is something that does not go unnoticed. Even the casting becomes symbolic of these representations.

The horror of western imperialism is in full display in this movie and it’s wonderful at how bold it is.

And this is where the bait-and-switch works in full effect. Because ‘Dune Part One’ sets up Paul as a saviour, a prophesied messiah who will free Arrakis and the Fremen from outside control. His father and his noble house is destroyed in the first film as the emperor (Christopher Walken) fears the growing popularity of Paul’s father, the Duke Leto Atreides. As Paul becomes more assimilated with the Fremen and his body ingests more of the psychedelic effects of the spice that enhances his already innate abilities, he is becoming more and more like the prophesied liberator of the Fremen. It’s the structure of the hero’s journey at full swing.

But the film – through the perspective of Chani (Zendaya), Paul’s love interest amongst the Fremen – manages to critique this constantly as the story unfolds. Through Chani’s eyes, she constantly reminds her people (and the audience in the cinema) that the prophesy was a story told by the order of the Bene Gesserit to create a faith-based fervor to manipulate the people to accept the coming of an outsider. As Paul tries to shake away the shackles of the prophesy coming to term through him, he struggles to stay true to Chani and his promise to lead the Fremen to sovereignty but there are forces that have been at work for centuries that he is fighting against.

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In the almost-three hour running time of the film, Villeneuve and his team gives a hefty serving of life amongst the Fremen. Paul’s assimilation into their culture, even gaining the name Muad’Dib, is the avenue that allows us to see the beauty of the dessert planet and of the Fremen’s ways. Villeneuve, alongside his director of photography Greig Fraser, does an incredible job of capturing the beauty of sand and stone. There’s majesty in the dessert and ‘Dune Part Two’ is filled with this grandiose imagery. It is beautiful in its expanse of barren sand so when he situates Paul and Chani or any of the Fremen in it, the visuals of life thriving and pushing through against that backdrop is so stunning.

And while there’s a lot of time setting up for a magnificent climax as Paul makes a play to finally free the Fremen from imperial control, there’s also a lot of action in-between to keep the pace from meandering. There are incredible battle sequences that makes full use of the environment to portray what the first film had been promising us: the frightening force of the Fremen and “desert power.”

And if that wasn’t enough – though it is – Villeneueve also treats us to the incredible sequence of riding a sand worm, which we saw a glimpse of in the trailer. In the film, the full sequence of riding one is so grand that the audience I was watching with burst out in applause at the spectacle of it. Even I was clapping at the sheer bravado of it.

Dune: Part Two’ is an exquisite science fiction epic that needs to be seen in the largest screen possible with the loudest speakers that you can afford. The visual feast alongside the precision of its sound design and musical score promises that ‘Dune Part Two’ is a cinematic event that cannot be missed. To make things even more worth your time, the film explores the real-world horrors of imperialism by seeing things through multiple perspectives – from the emperor (by way of his daughter, played by Florence Pugh), to the oppressed natives by way of Chani, to that of its liberator, Paul, who may or may not be a pawn falling into the manipulations of the Bene Gesserit. 

‘Dune: Part One’ gives us the structure of a hero story but as ‘Dune: Part Two’ continues the story, it upends everything and shows us a different side of the story. The complexities of colonization and imperialism is put into full view. And it’s a spectacle just as arresting as Villenueve’s incredible depiction of this epic uprising in the desert planet of Arrakis.

My Rating:


Dune: Part Two is now showing. Check screening times and buy tickets here.

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Dune: Part Two
Adventure, Science Fiction
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