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Powerhouse Performances and Booming Sound Gives 'Dune: Part Two' a Blockbuster Presence

"I am Paul Muad'Dib Atreides, duke of Arrakis! Long live the fighters!"

Nicole Kidman says it best during her introduction to AMC Theaters before every flick is shown in the movie house: "We come to this place for magic…that indescribable feeling we get when the lights begin to dim…and we go somewhere we've never been before." Director Denis Villeneuve has a successful track record of listening to Nicole's words and giving movie theater audiences exactly what they leave home for. He's done it with 2016's "Arrival," then succeeded Ridley Scott's vision by doing it again with 2017's "Blade Runner 2049." 

A master of the science fiction genre, Villeneuve introduced the world to a new generation of actors portraying complex otherworldly characters in 2021's "Dune," based on the cult-favorite novel by Frank Herbert. Winner of six Academy Awards, the initial film gave way to Villenueve's latest, "Dune: Part Two." A spectacle to end all spectacles, the sequel to "Dune" far surpasses the original in flair and scope but falls short in its deep dive into what makes the characters shine brightest.

"Dune: Part Two" picks up where "Dune" leaves off, with fateful hero Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) working alongside the Fremen of the desert planet, Arrakis. Most of the film takes place in the desert, with Paul and Fremen warrior Chani (Zendaya) falling in love. Paul's pregnant mother, Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), slowly transitions into the Reverend Mother as Paul continues training in order to wage war against House Harkonnen.

Paul eventually accepts the messiah label he's been given by the spice obsessed Fremen people, tasked with controlling sandworms and one-day seeking revenge against those who want to eradicate his family. A conspiracy arises when House Harkonnen leader Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgård) and the Emperor's Truthsayer (Charlotte Rampling) choose Vladimir's nephew Feyd-Rautha (Austin Butler) to ascend the throne to become Emperor.

If "Dune" was meant to be world-building, then "Dune: Part Two" is the reason we go to the movies…at least for the last hour of the nearly three-hour journey. What begins as a two-hour vision of the events to come radically morphs into a third act worth every dollar spent on the film's massive budget. Secrets the Atreides family is hiding, and the seemingly never-ending number of characters weaving in and out of a drawn-out premise mark the slog of the first two acts. However, the final hour gives way to an epic battle stripped of Hans Zimmer's heart-pounding score to reveal deafening inner turmoils and character transformations in real time.

Denis Villeneuve understands how to craft a film worthy of the movie-going experience, and "Dune: Part Two" satisfies every inch of the science fiction genre that was practically created based on the film's source material. "Star Wars" and other movies like it have been influenced by the many books in the "Dune" series, and it's easy to see why. This sequel recalls a time of unruly Emperors, a quest for world domination using an unhinged patsy, and an altruistic warrior who gains the trust of everyday people to rise up against the perils of evil.

Despite the long runtime and sluggish first half, "Dune: Part Two" finds its footing in sweeping landscapes aided by gorgeous cinematography, sound design that's loud as all get out, and a host of standout performances from its A-list cast. Chalamet has grown into the character of Paul, becoming a man before our very eyes, though his struggles are high and mighty. Austin Butler commands the screen as the bald and psychotic murderer Feyd-Rautha in a menacing portrayal. Zendaya takes her character center stage in a formidable way, a complete reversal of 2021's "Dune," where she merely existed in Paul's visions for his future.

Outside of the young leads, there's a full plate of performers getting their 15 minutes during overly complicated character development, yet watching their work on the screen is still fun. Josh Brolin, Florence Pugh, Dave Bautista, Christopher Walken, Léa Seydoux, and Javier Bardem all see some time in the spotlight, with Brolin stealing every scene he's in. Though many of their storylines become convoluted over time, there's no loss of empathy for their plights.

"Dune: Part Two" is the follow-up audiences deserve and an excellent excuse to go to a movie theater to see it on the biggest screen possible.

Ticket Rating: 🎟🎟🎟1/2


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