Dune Part 2 Review: What Worked and What Didn’t?

Dune Part 2 Review

Key Takeaways (Dune Part 2 Review):

  • Dune 2 is a fantastic return to old-fashioned storytelling!
  • One of my favorite aspects of the movie was how the stakes were high for the characters from the very beginning.
  • The cast was fantastic, and my favorites were Stilgar, played by Javier Bardem, and Feyd-Rautha, played by Austin Butler. Each character was flawed and believable.
  • I LOVED the music in this film!
  • My only (minor) criticisms were the casting choice of Christopher Walken and the fact that I didn’t get a clear sense of time passing in the movie.
  • I also would have loved to see more internal conflict in the character of Paul.

NOTE: This article is spoiler-free!

I just watched Dune Part 2 and wanted to give you my unfiltered thoughts, purely from a storytelling and character perspective.

Anyone who knows me understands that I’m all about a return to old-fashioned storytelling. This means the right combination of plot, character development, dialogue, conflict, and stakes – all of which are the aspects that make for a great story!

We need a return to old-fashioned storytelling, so let’s see how Dune Part 2 stacks up!

I don’t want to get into spoilers, so I’ll keep it brief on the plot.

What Worked in Dune Part 2

Picking up where Dune Part 1 left off, we find Paul Atreides living among the Fremen on the planet Arrakis. He’s focusing on survival and revenge against the Harkonen and the Emperor for betraying his family and murdering his father. 

Dune Part 2 logo

Here’s what I thought worked:

The Stakes

Dune Paul and Chani

The stakes were high right from the get-go. Paul’s every decision and every action is a matter of life and death. The same goes for his mother, Jessica. If they don’t adapt and embrace the Fremen lifestyle wholeheartedly, they will be cast aside and left to die in the harsh desert.

But it’s not just personal stakes for our hero. The same goes for the villains and antagonists.

The Harkonnen have just as much to lose, and their desperation grows by the day as the Fremen strike at their Spice production. Even the Emperor and his daughter, Princess Irulan, begin to feel the pressure as they realize their play to wipe out the Atreides family wasn’t as successful as they originally thought.

The characters and their personal journeys worked for this same reason as well. With such high stakes, internally and externally, and the political strategy mixed with the quest for vengeance, every word and every action felt as though it could win or lose the war.

And that’s because it could.

Prefer to watch my thoughts rather than read? Check out my YouTube Dune Part 2 movie review below:

The Characters

Though I enjoyed the entire cast, my favorite characters were easily Stilgar, played by Javier Bardem, and Feyd-Rautha, played by an almost unrecognizable Austin Butler.

Dune Part 2 characters

Though vastly different in every way, with the former a pragmatic, spiritual leader and the latter a psychotic megalomaniac, both characters were magnetic, both in terms of performance and the gravity they brought to the story as a whole.

Each one had the power to make or unmake everything Paul was trying to accomplish, and yet each one’s personal code of honor and tradition played a key role in how the story unfolded.

Each of the characters is shown as flawed and filled with as much doubt and worry about the future as they are determined to keep fighting.

It was great to see a flawed hero in Paul – he’s a character who is scared to follow the one path that might see him lose everything on a personal level in order to accomplish his goals.

Only Feyd-Rautha comes across as too confident and arrogant to fail, which is exactly what we want to see from a worthy villain.

And the inevitable showdown between him and Paul is fantastic, both in terms of the choreography and the dramatic tension.

You truly don’t know who will come out on top.

Scope of the Movie

a view of Dune

The size and scope of the movie was fantastic. It felt like a sprawling epic more suited to the films of the 50’s and 60’s, where you’d see thousands of extras in a single frame. Armies looked the part, and the ships, sandworms, and rovers were gigantic beasts in an endless plain of sand.

It all feels so… big. And for a story with an entire world hanging in the balance, it should!

Though the film runs 2 hours and 46 minutes, it never feels bloated. But it doesn’t feel rushed either, as so often happens when large books are translated to the screen.

The filmmakers sometimes feel like they need to cram as much into the script as they can and end up with too much information doled out at breakneck speed. Here, that wasn’t the case.

There was time to breathe, with languid shots of Arrakis as Paul and Chani took in their world and reflected on what transpired or what was to come.

I so miss shots like that in many modern films and I was so glad to see Villeneuve return to the artistry of the greats who came before him.

characters in the Dune sand

The Music

And the music. I can’t say enough about the Hans Zimmer score. It adds so much life and gravity, not just to the overall production but also to key moments in the movie.

The score alone is worth the price of admission.

What Didn’t Work in Dune Part 2

The list of what didn’t work is short!

Casting Certain Characters

Dune Christopher Walken

I thought some of the casting choices were off. As much as I’m a diehard Christopher Walken fan, I just didn’t see him as the Emperor.

Maybe the role could have been given some more meat for him to work with so that he could own the screen in ways I’ve seen him do in other films. But here, it didn’t quite work.

Depiction of Time Passing

I didn’t have a clear sense of time during the movie.

Because the scenery is largely endless sand dunes without changing weather or interiors where the action takes only minutes, it was hard to tell how much time passed between the various plot points.

It didn’t help that the characters each looked basically the same from start to finish. Hair length never changed, and the men with beards looked the same throughout. The same goes for clothing and general wear.

The only indicator of how much time passed was Lady Jessica’s pregnancy. But she starts the film pregnant and ends it slightly more so, and her flowing robes did little to show if it was days, weeks, or months that had passed from start to finish.

Some reference to time would have been appreciated, as without it, everything seemed to happen too fast.

For an epic this size, and especially one that involves a planetary war and interstellar travel, it should feel like the important events take time to develop. But we simply go from one to the next rather quickly and without a frame of reference.

Paul’s Internal Conflict

Paul in Dune Part 2 Review

I would have also liked to see a little more of the push and pull within Paul as he wrestles with the demons of his past and the reality of his present.

He’s a man caught between two worlds, and he must inevitably choose one over the other.

Perhaps it was in the performance or the editing, but it felt like this could have been pushed further so that when the choice is finally made, it is as triumphant as it is heartbreaking.

Final Thoughts

Dune Part 2 exceeded my expectations in its breathtaking visuals and immersive world-building.

The action-packed first hour, filled with amazing battle sequences, was a joy to watch, and when the story slows to find a balance between Paul’s quest for revenge and his love for Chani, it finds its heart.

I’ll be honest – I can’t wait to see how Villeneuve will pull off Part 3, which has just been announced as Dune Messiah. But I firmly believe if anyone can do it, it’s him.

Overall, Dune Part 2 is a great film and a solid return to old-fashioned filmmaking using new technologies. We need more movies like this. Maybe not as grandiose or expensive, but with the same high stakes and great storytelling!

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