Dune: Part Two thoughts

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series Dune

Dune: Part Two is really good.

It answers the question, “how do you film an unfilmable book?” by distilling it down into a human, character-driven story focused on the relationship between Paul and Chani. In the process, it hacks away much of the book, significantly changes what’s left — and still manages to stay true to Frank Herbert’s central theme.

Visually, it’s spectacular once again; a special mention goes to the monochrome sequences on Giedi Prime. Aurally, it benefits from being in the cinema.

The two Dune movies, Blade Runner 2049, and Arrival cement Denis Villeneuve as the master of science-fiction movies. Can’t wait to see what he does next.

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Spoilers below:

Story spoilers

The movie is driven by the conflict between two things:

  • Paul the man
  • Paul (or Muad’Dib) the messiah

Paul starts out wanting to be Paul the man, an equal to Chani. Those around him — Jessica, Stilgar, and eventually Gurney — want him to be Paul the messiah. Circumstances eventually force his hand, and book readers know how it ends: Paul-the-messiah and the Fremen victorious, the Atreides avenged, and the Harkonnen and the Emperor laid low. But, in the biggest departure from the book 1, it ruptures his relationship with Chani.

The result is an ending that is, at absolute best, bittersweet —  I found the final shot particularly sad. And the story as a whole is a tragedy. This version of Paul loosely reminds me of Michael Corleone; both men start the movie with good intentions, succumb to the lure of family and vengeance, and eventually defeat their enemies at the cost of their relationship with their respective loved ones2.

By doing so, the movie puts a human face on Herbert’s theme — the danger of charismatic, heroic, “chosen one” leaders — as we see the results through Chani’s eyes. And it’s a reminder that like any other genre, and as Villeneuve himself showed with Blade Runner 2049, good science fiction is about people: their conflicts, their decisions, and ultimately, the prices they pay.

  1. As far as I can remember — I read the books years and years ago.
  2. This does beg the question of how  Villeneuve will set up Dune: Messiah.
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