‘Dune: Part Two’ – bigger, deeper, louder, more awesome

Sand man: Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides in ‘Dune: Part Two’.

DUNE: PART TWO **** (167 minutes) M
Not often do we get super-sized sequels that are better than what came before, so let us give heartfelt thanks to the Movie God that Dune: Part Two is bigger, deeper, louder and even more visually awesome than was 2021’s Dune: Part One, a space picture that redefined how good a sci-fi epic could look and how dramatically rich it could feel.

In a nutshell Dune 2 film is outstanding, with great cinematography (again courtesy of Australian maestro Greig Fraser), astounding visual effects, enthralling battle sequences, a totally engaging story and – thankfully – a brisk pace that renders the hefty 167-minute running time a non-issue (provided, of course, that you visit the loo beforehand and go easy on the soft drink during.)

Again directed and co-written by Denis Villeneuve – a long-time disciple of the classic 1965 Frank Herbert novel – this installment carries on with the dynastic saga of Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet).

Having established his warrior credentials in Dune I, he’s now a fixture on the planet Arrakis, an arid, wind-swept place he is committed to defending against the resource-stripping enterprises of the nasty, Nazi-like Harkonnen clan, which sifts the planet’s precious sands for its spice.

Standing and often squatting by his side (to avoid being spotted by the enemy) is local girl Chani (Zendaya) who is a heck of a fighter and, as it turns out, a heck of a kisser.

Unfortunately, Paul’s budding battlefield romance is dwarfed by the size of the Harkonnen armed forces and their aircraft, which includes those magnificent flying machines we saw in the first film that look like giant dragonflies.

Then there are the obnoxious Harkonnen family members themselves to worry about.

These include: the even-more-bloodthirsty Glossu (Dave Bautista); the overweight Baron Vladimir (Stellan Skarsgård); Emperor (Christopher Walken); and new kid Feyd-Rautha (Austin Butler), a chrome-domed, pasty-white Lex Luthor lookalike with an evil snarl and a hankering to dispatch Paul personally.

He’s a real piece of work this guy. With his over-endowed forehead and Travis Bickle death stare, he’s a highlight of the top-shelf Dune 2 ensemble.

The staggering scale of the film’s flawlessly rendered settings – whether it be the endless stretches of Arrakian sand or the oppressive Stalinist architecture of the Harkonnen homeland – is jaw-dropping, the brilliant cinematography, production design and visual effects conjuring the powerful impression that the cast and crew of Dune 2 actually flew off to another planet to make the film.

Indeed, the exacting attention to detail goes right down to heat signatures. Talk about Wow Factor 10. The film is an optical marvel.

Coupled to the film’s masterly use of landscape and raging battle scenes – starring those majestic giant sandworms that swim through the sands of Arrakis – is the story surrounding Paul Atreides and his ascent among the native Fremen fighters as he works hard for their respect and allegiance.

One of the most captivating aspects of Dune 2 is how masterfully Villeneuve & Co have struck a fine and deeply satisfying balance between frame-filling scope and serious dynastic drama, with the film’s climactic moments proving exceptionally mesmeric as the drama peaks to a gruelling death match.

For a film with so many sprawling wide shots, Villeneuve shows a deep love of intimate, Bergmanesque close-ups, the landscape of the face being as prominent a feature as the landscapes of the planet. It’s a great touch that immerses you deeper into the film.

It also accounts for a surprising amount of quiet moments in a film that spends so much of its time being loud, whether it’s the sight of a kangaroo rat or Paul embarking on a training exercise. It’s a nice stylistic carryover from the first film.

Given how Dune could so easily be seen as a space opera, the super-serious tone of the direction and the gravitas it lends the performances really give the film heft. Chalamet is terrific; Bautista is especially manic; and Austin Butler proves here how there’s apparently nothing he can’t do.

Unsurprisingly, the film ends with a sandworm-sized pointer to a concluding third film, which has been planned and will be made on condition that Dune 2 delivers.

At a guess, that prospect is unlikely to be a particularly big worry.

Aside from the obvious, fan-pleasing reasons, one of the major underlying motives people are going to flock to Dune 2 is that, as with the first one, it comes as high-quality relief to audiences fatigued by all the $200 million superhero comic book films that have pummeled them for the past 15 years.

Most of those films, as bitter experience tells us, are forgotten by the time people reach the cinema exit.

At least Dune: Part Two actually makes you feel like you’ve watched something with real dramatic substance – along with awesome, ginormous sandworms.

Footnote: The film was previewed at an Imax theatre and the use of the format is nothing short of sensational. It’s Christopher Nolan standard. So see it on the biggest screen you can for that all-enveloping sense of immersion.