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A silhouette of elands grazing in the plains with raising sun in the background inside Mas
  • Writer's pictureBryce Chismire

Dune - Part Two – Easter Review

As I’m sure you recall from my review of Dune: Part One, I consider the movie a true spectacle of cinema, especially as an adaptation of one of the most legendary novels and franchises never translated properly into film before. The closest anyone came to adapting Dune as a franchise for the big or small screens was David Lynch with the 1984 film and the several miniseries made of Dune in the late 90s and early 2000s.


But Denis Villeneuve achieved the impossible in translating the beloved story onto the big screen while adhering to its more crucial, potentially overlooked details with a more faithful commitment to the story, dazzling visual effects, robust acting, and a mesmerizing musical score by Hans Zimmer. And because it came out just as the world was slowly on its way out of the COVID-19 pandemic in late 2021, its intended results did it a huge favor, and it became one of the highest-grossing films of that year. But what made it even better is that director Denis Villeneuve decided to let the story of Dune breathe by splitting it into two movies, with the film in 2021 functioning as Dune’s first half.


Here we are, jumping to 2024 with Part Two, which covers the story’s last half. And my God was this movie good!

Picking up where Part One left off, Dune: Part Two continues the story of Paul Atreides, Lady Jessica Atreides, and their fellow Fremen allies as they scurried throughout the Arrakeen deserts to try to ambush the Harkonnens by any means necessary, up to dismantling their machinery with guns that, more often than not, they swiped off of the Sardaukar sent to hunt down the Fremen. The increased activities by the Fremen against the Harkonnens were enough to rattle Rabban Harkonnen’s cage and make his uncle, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, not trust Rabban’s commitment to the spice production when it’s been backtracked this many times by the Fremen. Because of this, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen decided to dismiss Rabban as the chief head of Arrakis and pass it on to his other and younger nephew, the psychotic and ferocious Feyd-Rautha, played by Austin Butler. With his intense drive, senselessly murderous instincts, and a more outstanding commitment to his cause, even compared to Rabban, Feyd-Rautha was sent forth to oversee the spice production of Arrakis. What none of them knew, however, was that all their forces were being jeopardized because of the up-and-coming Muad’Dib – the nickname bestowed upon Paul Atreides once he was finally accepted as one of the Fremen’s own – which they also did not know was the still-alive Paul Atreides. After invading Arrakeen and ambushing House Atreides, the Harkonnens thought that every single one of its members had perished. So, while they were fretting about how to get their Melange production up and running again while getting to the bottom of ‘Muad’Dib,’ Paul Atreides continued to master the ways of the Fremen and help them in their retaliations against the invading Harkonnens.


But tension started to boil even among the Fremen more than they bargained for. For instance, Lady Jessica gradually enacted more of her Bene Gesserit influence upon Paul, who, upon his rise among his ranks with the Fremen, started to express more unearthed capabilities with his newfound powers, thus making him slowly and surely live up to his potential as the prophesied Kwisatz Haderach. Many of his fellow Fremen started to look towards Paul’s rise and influence positively, especially the head of the tribe, Stilgar. He began noticing signs and circumstances surrounding Paul and his potential as Usul, as they called him, that he recognized from the tribe’s written prophecies of their savior, way too many for it all to be a coincidence. Paul unwittingly displayed more signs about his potential as Usul, thus prompting Stilgar and his fellow Fremen to regard Paul as a savior, the Messiah to the Fremen. Chani, however, gradually started to feel alienated and confused by this, not only because she suspected his mother’s influence playing a role in it but also because, unlike a good portion of her fellow tribe, she was a skeptic. She was not convinced that any of the signs pointing to Paul being the Messiah were possible and that many of Paul’s actions in his rise among the Fremen tribe and as both Muad’Dib and the Kwisatz Haderach started to take a toll on Paul’s human sensibilities.


However, because the Harkonnens sent forth Feyd-Rautha to oversee Arrakis and hunt down Muad’Dib while Paul continually rose until he became an all-powerful figure of the Fremen with enough power to take down the Harkonnens on his and his fellow tribe’s behalf, what would the eventual outcome have been for Paul, House Atreides, and their fellow Fremen?

But this leads to an even bigger question: where do I begin with this movie?


Everything I loved about Dune: Part One had been retained here in the movie, and if anything, they felt slightly magnified and boosted for extra effect. The performances by the returning actors in this movie feel more embellished, improved, and nuanced. Some even displayed facets of the characters’ personalities that I would never have anticipated. The shots and directing have maintained their focus and attention even compared to Part One. And, of course, the newcomer actors brought their share of collective talents onto the table with an equal amount of finesse and prowess. So, this is the sequel everyone waited for and, thankfully, delivered on all fronts as we hoped it would have done for the story of Dune.


I felt intrigued by Denis Villeneuve’s directing here. Whereas cinematographer Greig Fraser still managed to maintain his experience by showcasing beautiful shots, gorgeous landscapes, and alluring shots of the interior locations, whether it’s with the water tomb in Sietch Tabr or at the Imperial headquarters, Villeneuve still brought forth a level of attention to detail in these shots that heightened the beauty of the locations while still maintaining the film’s focus on the characters.


It was most helpful, too, because, in my review of the original novel, the scene of Paul, Jessica, Chani, and their fellow Fremen gathering at Sietch Tabr to disperse Jamis’ water into the pond made of the water of their fallen comrades was my favorite part of the book. And here, I felt its spiritual essence, as if I wandered into a sacred tomb. What’s even more shocking is that when the Harkonnens attacked Sietch Tabr, and I noticed the pond crumbling from the inside because of the bombarding, I felt discouraged by it in just the right amount. It was nothing like the destruction of the Tree of Voices and the Hometree in Avatar, where it tried so desperately to make me feel bad for their destruction and express bloodlust against Quaritch and the RDA for it that its emotional severity worked too well and nearly backfired. Here, Dune: Part Two felt more graceful about it. I felt disheartened by watching such a beautiful place like the pond in Sietch Tabr go to ruin while acknowledging just how dangerous the Harkonnens were, especially now that they had Feyd-Rautha in charge. I wasn’t sure how long Paul and his friends would’ve run away from them because of this or how long it’d take them to gather the strength necessary to fight back against them. The way I see them, these inflections were reflected as such among all the characters, and Villeneuve handled it with evident care.


That’s one of the reasons why Denis Villeneuve’s directing and focus felt more massive here compared to Part One. With Dune: Part One, he did an excellent job of maintaining his focus on the characters and their dilemmas as they got the hang of Arrakis bit by bit. With Dune: Part Two, now that the adjustments were behind the characters, he was able to pay attention more to not just the characters in their dilemmas but also have them match the magnified severity that accompanied the decisions the characters made throughout the story, on top of the massive shoots that came about in consequence to those actions. Whenever something epic, large, and destructive occurred in the movie, I could feel the size and magnitude of the situation because of how much the characters and their decision-making influenced it.


However, as I’m sure many people pointed out, one of the most astonishing scenes in the movie is the black-and-white scenes of the gladiator fight at Giedi Prime. Not only was the worldbuilding very inventive with there being a black sun and that, whenever it came forth, it turned everything that was otherwise colorful into pitch black and white, but it also displayed the gladiator battle more distinctively compared to most other gladiator battles that occurred before in film, such as Spartacus or Gladiator, to name a few. The fights were well choreographed, the looks of comprehension and bloodlust were apparent in Feyd-Rautha and all his opponents gathering for battle, and sometimes, I was lost in the visual translations of the fight more than I was in the battle itself.


Once again, the costumes throughout the movie carried their sense of character, only this time, some defined more of the characters’ personalities than in the last film. The notable instances can be traced through Princess Irulan’s outfits and those of the Bene Gesserit.

During her downtime, Princess Irulan’s outfits were generally modest but still conveyed a soft complexion to complement Irulan’s personality. But when she wore the diamond dress as she stood beside the Padishah Emperor on Arrakis, her occupation as a princess of the Galactic Empire was reflected in her royal and rich-studded attire, even if some expressed more of appearance-keeping intentions. Not only were they pretty looks on her, but they became some of the most recognizable outfits in the movie, and rightfully so.


And with the Bene Gesserit, their outfits seemed to suggest qualities reminiscent of conspicuous nuns. As they were in the first film, I immediately got that impression, and that told me of the Bene Gesserit’s generally mysterious nature. But here, something about their outfits evoked more of their shady natures. Even Lady Jessica’s outfits, as she gradually embraced her Bene Gesserit roots more, displayed more of her attire that carried the same authoritarian, royal, yet unnerving impression to suggest that what Lady Jessica had in mind was more on the patronizing end, as Paul and Chani later came to feel of her.


Paul’s otherwise ordinary and grungy cloak as he slowly rose to become Muad’dib also signified his fearful complexion. Whenever he was seen from afar, his abiding, unwavering walk as he strode toward his enemies would tell anyone how ready he was to enact his revenge against the Harkonnens while signaling his position among the Fremen. While it usually would have looked badass on its own, Paul’s volatile nature makes him and his outfits carry vibes not unlike those of Anakin Skywalker in Revenge of the Sith.


The visual effects in this movie felt just as magnificent as they were in the last film, and I experienced the movie feeling as if the VFX team meant to save their most massive and best effects for the climactic battle as Paul’ Muad’dib’ Atreides lunged forth against the Harkonnens with his fellow Fremen armies. From the stashed atomic missiles – which, I might add, his ancestors stored away generation by generation – he planned to launch onto his enemies to the explosive nature of the war and the emerging Sandworms leaping out to strike, the visual effects conveyed everything that’s hoped to be seen in the anticipated climax of Dune. Even the effects applied to the baby Sandworms; they felt like cute, if also hyperactive and potentially dangerous creatures, even if they were nowhere near as harmful as they’d be when they grew up to be adult-sized Sandworms.

Finally, Hans Zimmer’s music continued to abide by Dune’s exotic essences with its rhythmic melodies, looming booms, personal inner mysticism, slight melancholia, and sometimes ethereal vocals. Sometimes, he emphasized the fright factor whenever something drastic or severe was about to happen to the characters, some with unanticipated cutoffs. Meanwhile, just like with the VFX team, his apparent talents with his craft continued to grow and improve, making Zimmer’s music more colossal and chilling. It was most evident as the film reached its more riotous and intense situations, primarily as the war raged between Paul Atreides with his Fremen allies and the Harkonnens with their Sardaukar soldiers in the climax.


What have the actors done a little differently than they did in Part One? Firstly, every single one of the actors who played their roles in Part Two displayed their roles with such mastery and natural essence, just like those who did the same in Part One. But again, a few select actors in Part Two should be given credit where credit is due.


Let’s start with Tom Brolin as Gurney Halleck. In the first movie, I felt his commitment to the Atreides family and his bloodlust against the Harkonnens after engaging in war against them for so long. Here, however, every time I saw him throughout the movie, his bloodlust against the Harkonnens felt more innate, as if this time, he honed more of the subtle essences of being a loyal ally to House Atreides while also expressing his hatred against the Harkonnens and his battle strategies against them after spending enough time to have known them like the back of his hand. His faith in Paul Atreides, no longer as his student but as an up-and-coming ruler, also felt more innate. Brolin expressed them more subtly here than he did in the last film, and I can tell just how much he sank into his role the longer he became comfortable with it.


What Rebecca Ferguson displayed of her character, Lady Jessica Atreides, even compared to Part One, felt more unyielding and shockingly uncomfortable. I remember Rebecca Ferguson playing Lady Jessica like a proud lady who was subject to all the confusing elements of Arrakis after being uprooted from her home in Caladan as she had to learn how to negotiate her way around it and also watch over her son Paul. But here in Part Two, as she became more comfortable in Arrakis, she exercised more of her proud tendencies as a Lady of Atreides and a member of the Bene Gesserit. Her methods of exercising her religious practices through Paul became more apparent, and because of that, almost more off-putting. Even though I can tell that she did everything she thought was the right thing to do for Paul, it left me at a point where I couldn’t tell whether she was doing it for the right reasons or selfish reasons. And when I looked at Jessica’s actions and what she hoped to do to help Paul live up to his potential as the Kwisatz Haderach, not to mention the conflicts brewing with the other Bene Gesserit members, including Helen, that’s when I started wondering if perhaps Paul’s rise as Muad’Dib may have been implanted upon the Fremen by the Bene Gesserit to bear another potential acolyte. Most of all, their methods of upholding their religious standards felt so otherworldly and almost unseemly that it made me look at the Bene Gesserit less as a religious organization and more like a cult. As Jessica exercised her powers more, her appearance demonstrated her reputation in the Bene Gesserit more than her position in House Atreides.

Zendaya displayed not more ferocity but more of a conflicted, considerate, but also frustrated young lady who had known war throughout her entire life and wanted to express her commitment as such on behalf of her fellow Fremen. But as Paul’s influence and rise to power became more evident and more consuming, Chani’s frustrations over this predicament caused her to butt heads with Paul, Jessica, and even with Stilgar and Gurney Halleck as their allegiance to Paul Atreides got them further wound up for action, even as it started to feel more progressively separate from what she considered proper for herself and her people as a tribe. Zendaya conveyed all the stronghearted yet uncertain emotions of someone who’d been torn apart by war and was unsure where specific silver linings lay and which ones she considered appropriate for the good of her tribe.


The actor who played Stilgar, Javier Bardem, first showed his face in Part One as a stingy, no-nonsense member of the Fremen tribe who, like Zendaya, also dealt with war but did not trust any outsider who came into Arrakis, especially when they came face to face with Paul and Jessica. However, as he became more comfortable with Paul and his mother, Stilgar gradually unveiled more of his religious upbringing and how much he hoped for the signs surrounding Paul and his actions to be the stuff of prophecy told to him. The more Paul started living up to his potential as Usul and Muad’Dib, the more devotions Stilgar expressed of his religious upbringing as he hoped for ‘Muad’Dib’ to become the Messiah figure he and his fellow Fremen waited for.

And finally, let’s talk about Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides. In Part One, because Paul had a lot to grapple with, whether it was being uprooted from his home in Caladan, being relocated to Arrakis, or recovering from the death of his father and his many fellow members of House Atreides, Chalamet carried inflections of a young boy confused with everything erupting around him while attempting to uphold his honor until his visions with the girl he saw in his dreams, Chani, started to steer him into a righteous path. Chalamet’s performance in Part Two, on the other hand, not only showed how well he flourished on his so-called ‘righteous path’ but also how much his commitment to his cause and access to greater power started twisting him into a potentially different person than the aspiring heir who set foot on Arrakis. Chalamet’s expressions told me that Paul still had much to grapple with. Still, as he became more comfortable in his position among the Fremen tribe and with the enhanced genetic abilities given unto him by both the Melange and, eventually, the Water of Life, his handling of such powers turned this otherwise meek and humble young man into a ferocious leader who, despite enacting his vendettas for good, started expressing more questionable tendencies of accomplishing it in the name of the Fremen. Ever since I noticed this change in personality, both in the book and here in the movie, I discovered how Paul Atreides, at this point in the story, was on his way to establishing a more warped equivalent of what we normally associate with being the epitome of towering strength and righteousness. And it turned out to have been orchestrated as Frank Herbert originally wanted; he even wrote the sequel, Dune Messiah, where this was most apparent, to drive the point further home. So, seeing such astonishing, alarming qualities bubbling up about Paul and into the public perception of him paints him in a more intriguing yet disheartening light than ever before.


But it isn’t just the returning actors who deserve to be acknowledged here in this review. Let’s shift our attention to the newcomer actors who made a splash in equal measure in the movie.


Let’s start with the most terrifying new addition to the movie, Austin Butler. The menacing disposition he conveyed as he played Feyd-Rautha was beyond words. The cold-hearted stares he gave to whoever he confronted were almost on par with what Stellar Skarsgard unleashed with whomever he spoke with as Baron Vladimir. But Austin Butler’s methods of doing so carried more ferocity to his mannerisms, as if, despite his honorable upbringing, his more animalistic instincts displayed how terrifying he turned out to have been and what kind of potential he carried with him as a fellow Harkonnen. The last time I was acquainted with Butler, I saw him playing the hunky, talented superstar that was Elvis Presley in his biopic. But Butler blew my mind when I saw him lunge forth with such frightening tenacities about him as Feyd-Rautha.

In the book, I remember Feyd-Rautha feeling more like a disconcerted and nearly conflicted young man who constantly questioned the Baron’s orders onto him and how he carried an inner sense of honor to him, especially when he faced off his Atreides foes in the gladiator battle. But here in the movie, while those qualities were still apparent in Feyd-Rautha – on some occasions, whenever he felt like he successfully killed an opposing Atreides member, Feyd-Rautha said to them, ‘you fought well, Atreides’ – it seemed more like he expressed all that not out of conscience, but because he was as desperate for power as his fellow Harkonnen family was. And that also displayed an excellent opposing factor with Feyd-Rautha when comparing him to Paul Atreides. Whereas Paul Atreides grew with an honorable shell at its most hardened with a deeply fearful and savage core, Feyd-Rautha displayed a fearful and savage shell at its most hardened with a deeply honorable core.


Come to think of it, I also recall how Austin Butler and Zendaya got their start within, of all places, Disney Channel, particularly in some of their sitcoms, before making the big time in cinema. In addition, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Justin Timberlake got their head start when they starred in The Mickey Mouse Club in the 1990s. I’m amazed to see how many talented stars are out and about thanks to Disney backing their talents.


You know, there is one more actor who came back here from Part One that I must mention because he, alongside the next new actor I will address here, shared something in common regarding how well they took on their roles.


And that would be Dave Bautista as Rabban Harkonnen.

He continued to unleash his ferocity when he had the reins to Arrakis and all the machinery in his arsenal to harvest the Melange. It tied into his previous actions that displayed his commitment to uphold spice production, which included slaughtering anyone who got in his way, and it was still apparent even when he had to worry about so many of his and his troops’ operations being tampered with by the Fremen. I could tell that, for all the blood on his hands, he was desperate for things to get back on track for his fellow Harkonnens. He displayed his warlike tendencies whenever he hunted down the Fremen or Muad’Dib, and despite Rabban not expressing enough of it after he was replaced by his younger brother Feyd-Rautha, I can tell he still hasn’t lost his devotion to the cause. I don’t remember the book going into very much detail about Rabban’s activities in Arrakis upon his settlement there. But Dave Batista’s performance here tells me right away just what he had done on the planet, what he had done to the natives who stood in his way, and how committed, and later desperate, he was to harvest more Melange for himself and his Harkonnen family.


And this leads me to highlight the next actor who achieved similar results: Florence Pugh as Princess Irulan.

She may not have appeared in the book outside of the climax and her quoted writings of Paul Atreides. Still, she appeared here several more times throughout the movie, as she chronicled some of the events with Paul Atreides and his fellow troops through a voice communicator. In this case, she seemingly wrote them down as if she wrote a personal diary compiled of all the thoughts that went through her head, and not just those concerning Paul Atreides. Not only that, but once she heard the stories about Muad’Dib and the death of Paul Atreides, she gradually started to express confusion and borderline concern over the matter and question the negotiations between her father, the Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV, and with the Bene Gesserit, and how their political discussions were on the verge of paving the way for the next one to take the Emperor’s place and inherit the throne as the Bene Gesserit would’ve likely seen fit. Watching Florence Pugh’s reactions to all this astoundingly unethical news tells me right away what kind of princess Irulan displayed herself as and how she started to express an inner fascination, if not an attachment, to Paul Atreides and his capabilities as Muad’Dib. So, in the little time Pugh spent in this movie, she brought Princess Irulan to life with her expressions, a facade of royalty, consideration, and a more astute sense of comprehension.


In short, Florence Pugh and Dave Batista did what the book could not do with their characters: go into more detail about them with so little.


The book did not dispel enough of Rabban or Princess Irulan to make me wonder what they were like as supporting characters in the first Dune. But here, I learned so much more about their characters through the actors’ performances. They didn’t need to do that by going in monologues, but with more subtle expressions that told me immediately about their backgrounds, what they were thinking, and how they were trying to best respond to unforeseen circumstances. That tells me much more about their character than paragraphs of dialogue would. You don’t need to have specific personalities spelled out to you; you must feel them. And I feel like Dave Batista and Florence Pugh were able to master just that for Rabban Harkonnen and Princess Irulan’s sake. However, the slight story expansions applied to Rabban and Irulan in the movie helped, too.

Finally, there’s also Christopher Walken as Shaddam IV. Once he unleashed his character’s tendencies and speeches, I felt his longstanding position in royalty, as well as his tendencies to play to the Great Houses’ weaknesses to gain an advantage for House Corrino, the house from which he came, even if they turned off someone like Princess Irulan, his eldest daughter. So, despite him not expressing as much malice as someone like Emperor Palpatine from Star Wars, his intentions with the Great Houses were influenced by backgrounds that would’ve felt no different from what he conveyed in The Deer Hunter or as Captain Coons in Pulp Fiction. So, Christopher Walken gave his character more involvement in the story than I remember of the Emperor in the book, and he made it all work out wonderfully.


But with that out of the way, because I succeeded in reading the book before this movie came out, it goes without saying that I did notice plenty of things different about the film than how they occurred in the book.


To start, I remember that the Fenrings accompanied the Harkonnens in most of their gatherings out of alliance. But it’s apparent that Margot Fenring, a Bene Gesserit member herself, had other ideas with the Harkonnen, and I don’t recall in the book what it entailed. However, here in the movie, her motivations may have been made more crystal clear. What happened was that she tried to secure another daughter for herself on behalf of the Bene Gesserit. And what did she do to arrange that? On Giedus Prime, she followed Feyd-Rautha after his victory against the gladiators and steadily lured him into her guest quarters. And of all things, just like Reverend Mother Helen with Paul in the last film, she, too, carried a box full of pain for Feyd-Rautha to slip his hand into and the Gom Jabbar to hold by his neck. Judging from what she told her fellow Bene Gesserit members afterward, I think she lured him into having sex with her and talked him into impregnating her with a potential daughter. That was more graphic and temptress-like than I anticipated, but it still felt very apropos in the story of Dune, even though this never occurred in the book, so that was a very creative addition to the story here.

And I might as well bring this up again. I remember how, just like Part One, Part Two did not bother to include the subplot of Duke Leto planting a mental seed in his Atreides colleagues by making them think that Lady Jessica was the possible traitor of House Atreides before it turned out Dr. Wellington Yueh was precisely that. Because it still ran through the minds of some of the Atreides members who still survived the attack on Arrakeen after their settlement there, they still looked at Lady Jessica under the belief that she was the traitor of House Atreides that they were told she was and hunted her down as such, and part of that may have been because she was a Bene Gesserit member. It was most apparent with Gurney Halleck, who still believed what Duke Leto told him about Jessica. Upon their reunion, Gurney Helleck attempted to slay her for committing what he thought she committed. All it took was for Paul to step in to tell Gurney Halleck what transpired between Duke Leto and Paul and that all the rage and resentment Gurney Halleck expressed against Lady Jessica was all a misunderstanding.


In retrospect, though it made for good interpersonal conflict, it may have been for the best that it was not snuck into the movie. It would’ve made it feel less cluttered.


Another thing that is not included in the movie to make it less cluttered is how complicated Paul and Chani’s lives together were in the book. For one, Paul had a mistress of his own named Harah, who was Jamis’ former wife and voluntarily joined Paul as his next house mistress along with her two kids - Kaleff and Orlop - after Paul killed her husband. Widows joining their husbands’ murderers as their mistresses after a ritualistic battle with them was among the Fremen’s customs. Most of all, Paul and Chani bore a son, Leto II. Not much was expressed about him in the book, except he grew to be just like any other child and that in one of the invasions by the Sardaukar on him and the rest of the Fremen tribe, he was reportedly killed in action, leaving Paul and Chani bereaved as parents. Considering how little was discussed about Leto II before his massacre, I think it was also for the best that this story thread was not included in the movie. It would’ve felt too inconsequential to be worth paying attention to in the film.

But let’s talk about probably the most noticeable change that this last half of Dune did to the book, and that concerns Paul’s baby sister, Alia. In the book, after being exposed to the Water of Life, Alia entered the world shortly after her mother and brother’s settlement among the Fremen as a very articulate, intelligent, and wise-beyond-her-years young girl whom her peers constantly dismissed as some freak because of what her exposure to the Water of Life before birth gave her. As she matured, she was eventually made into a captive by the Harkonnens upon their subsequent invasion of Arrakis. And then, during Paul’s slaughtering of the Sardaukar and the Harkonnens on Arrakeen, Alia was quick on her feet and killed her grandfather, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, with her Gom Jabbar, which I thought was quite astounding for a 4-year-old to do.


Instead, Jessica was pregnant with Alia throughout all of Part Two. But does that stop Alia from sharing her thoughts on what’s happening outside her mother’s stomach, especially concerning Paul?


Absolutely not.


Because Alia was still exposed to the Water of Life while still in her mother’s belly, let’s say that as impressed as I was by Alia’s intellectual speech patterns and intelligence in the book, I did not anticipate or expect her to communicate with her mother while still developing as a fetus before birth. I would never have guessed that that was what the Water of Life could have done to Alia. However, I will say this: when I read the book, I thought that Jessica and Alia were given their enhanced genetic abilities by the Melange spice, as was expected on Arrakis. But after watching the movie and rereading the portions of the book I mentioned, it turned out it was still via exposure to the Water of Life. But that barely makes any difference anyway because the movie displays, also arguably unlike in the book, how the Fremen took care of baby Sandworms and put them out of their misery to harvest a liquid out of them, which would’ve been the Water of Life. And they would’ve given that to designated Fremen or Bene Gesserit members to see if they could’ve harnessed its powers for their benefit. In addition, the Melange spice came from the excrement of the Sandworm. So, no matter which way it went, Alia was given her genetically enhanced powers thanks to the Sandworm, and the Arrakeen natives still had the substances necessary to provide its inhabitants with such great power.


This begs the question: What would have become of Baron Vladimir Harkonnen if Alia hadn’t been around?


What happened was that after disappointing the Padishah Emperor one too many times with not just Rabban’s botched attempts to resume Melange production but also their repetitively failed attempts to take care of Muad’Dib, the Padishah Emperor had his men cut off his support lines in a fit of rage and leave him lying there helplessly. However, as the Padishah Emperor, Princess Irulan, Reverend Mother Helen, and all their people looked outwards at the chaos that Muad’Dib had unleashed, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen slowly looked up towards the throne where the Padishah Emperor sat and slowly crawled towards it because he was that desperate to reclaim the throne for himself and his fellow Harkonnens. I was dumbfounded about his commitment to sitting on the throne and gaining all that power when he was too close to death for that to be possible. Later, when Paul ‘Muad’Dib’ Atreides finally entered their facility, Paul Atreides confronted Vladimir and said ‘Grandfather’ before sticking a knife in his neck, finally putting him out of his misery.


That’s another thing I noticed about the movie that differed from the book. By the time Paul was finally exposed to the effects of the Melange in the book before meeting up with the Fremen, he had told Jessica about his discovery of his and Jessica’s shared bloodlines, down to Jessica being Baron Vladimir Harkonnen’s daughter and Paul being his grandson. However, in the movie, Paul did not realize that detail about their shared heritage until after drinking the Water of Life, which is another thing that I must comment on.


Rather than voluntarily drinking the Water of Life as he did in the book, it was partially Lady Jessica’s idea to have him drink it after she, too, was given the Water of Life to drink. It rattled Chani’s cage a little, of course, seeing as how Jessica’s influence started to affect Paul, his position among the Fremen, and how much his influence on the Fremen was beginning to clash with what she considered proper Fremen values.


Around the time ‘Muad’Dib’ finally approached the Harkonnens and the Padishah Emperor, he said to Chani, “I will love you for as long as I breathe,” before also asking for Princess Irulan’s hand in marriage. Rather than taking it in stride like in the book, Chani was dumbfounded by this gesture, if not flat-out betrayed, and left in a huff when the rest of her tribe kneeled before him. Evidently, Chani did not take this political marriage well, and I noticed others say that this could’ve changed the course of Dune Messiah’s narrative significantly unless Chani returned.

It leads to one of the last shots in the movie, where Chani prepared to use her hooks to ride onto one of the Sandworms elsewhere. But her facial expressions conveyed many conflicting emotions about her: anger, sadness, confusion, uncertainty, and lovesickness. It called me back to what I thought of Paul’s ascension as Muad’Dib and the Kwisatz Haderach in the original novel, in that he started to feel less like Luke Skywalker and more like Michael Corleone. Part of the reason for that here in the movie is because that last scene reminded me of the ending shot of Kay Adams looking back at Michael Corleone doing business as his office door was closed before her. I felt that same distrust and confusion from Chani here at the movie’s end, except with more emotional conflict seeping through. Even Gurney Halleck and Stilgar’s methods of allegiance with Paul Atreides didn’t feel unlike what I recall feeling out of Tom Hagen, so the moral shades of grey were at their most rampant here in Part Two. Most of all, something about her emotional whirlwind made me suspect that perhaps she might return to Paul somehow and that if she were to do so before Villeneuve’s version of Dune Messiah, her alliance with him afterward would end up feeling just as shaky as that between Kay Adams and Michael Corleone in The Godfather: Part II.

And getting back to Alia, Paul’s baby sister, among the visions Paul experienced after drinking the Water of Life was one of him walking through the deserts of Arrakis only to find a sea on the horizon. And standing beside him was an adult-aged Alia talking to him and expressing her love for him. It was among the last things the public anticipated to see in Dune: Part Two, for playing this version of Alia was famed actress Anya Taylor-Joy. Judging from what she conveyed of Alia in the little time she spent here in the movie, she displayed some evident elegance about her along with an apparent purity that clued me into who Alia would have grown up to be. There were even a couple of occasions where I heard subtle speeches from Alia to Jessica, even as a fetus, which I thought was most intriguing to watch and listen to.


Dune: Part Two is a masterful movie that defied expectations and was as epic as it is emotional, delivering all the stakes and visual wonders necessary to pull off a neatly epic, masterfully constructed, and beautifully woven climax. And judging Part One and Two of Dune side by side, this already feels like a much more fulfilling adaptation of Dune as the classic story deserves. The acting was incredible. The visual effects are out of this world. The music by Hans Zimmer is breathtaking. The storytelling is phenomenal and invites countless intriguing questions about desert conditions, family feuds, and religious correlations. Everything about Dune that made it a classic has been given the long-overdue royal treatment in this adaptation of Dune, as they were in Part One.


It doesn’t matter to me anymore whether I read the book or saw the movie first. Dune made a fan out of me either way.


My Rating

A strong A

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