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  • Jeff Beck

Dune: Part Two: Villeneuve's Fundamentally Flawed Adaptation Concludes (Blu-ray)

The Film:

Three years ago, Denis Villeneuve unleashed the first part of his highly-anticipated adaptation of Frank Herbert's beloved classic "Dune." The result was something of a mixed bag, with the film's incredible technical & production aspects standing out as its greatest strengths (it even garnered six Oscars for these very elements). However, where the film came up short was in its telling of the story, presenting a somewhat poor adaptation of the narrative, as well as characters that aren't fleshed out very well. Now we come to the inevitable second half of the tale. Will Villeneuve & co. learn from past mistakes and step up to finish strong, or is "Dune: Part Two" doomed to succumb to the same pitfalls as before?

Picking up where the previous film left off, Paul (Timothee Chalamet) and Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) are traveling with Stilgar (Javier Bardem) and his troops, eventually reaching the safety of Sietch Tabr. Their presence is met with mixed reactions, with some believing them to be spies and others, including Stilgar, believing them to be the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy that will lead them to salvation. With their current Reverend Mother dying, Jessica is given the honor of succeeding her, receiving the memories of all those who previously held the position.

Paul goes about learning everything he can from the Fremen, including their language and fighting tactics, all the while failing in love with Chani (Zendaya). Meanwhile, with their raids on the Harkonnen become more and more successful, the Baron (Stellen Skarsgard) replaces Rabban (Dave Bautista) with his younger and more demented nephew Feyd (Austin Butler). As Jessica attempts to rally the Fremen behind Paul, he remains concerned that a holy war could erupt should he take on the role of their messiah, but to achieve freedom for the Fremen and revenge for his family, there appears to be no other option.

When it comes to adapting "Dune," the first half is a pretty good test to determine how well everything is going to turn out as a whole. This half is by far the more compelling part of the novel, containing intrigue, power plays, betrayal, and just more exciting material in general as the story & characters are established & developed. When Villeneuve and his team failed to lay the groundwork sufficiently for these vital elements, they set themselves up for a remarkably difficult uphill battle to bring the second half of the story to the screen in a manner that would do justice to Herbert's epic narrative, as this part of the story is far slower and less eventful than what came before.

When it comes to "Dune: Part Two," unfortunately we find a film that suffers from pretty much the exact same problems as "Part One" in that it too has a weak screenplay (adapted by Villeneuve and Jon Spaihts) and continues to be a rather poor adaptation of the book, feeling even more sluggish this time around due to the less-intriguing material and its longer length (166 minutes). Like its predecessor, it ends up being a rather odd occurrence that the film isn't very memorable overall due to the mishandling of the material (i.e. the story & characters), which is particularly strange given that the two films total over five hours in length.

However, what audiences will likely remember from these films are the remarkable technical elements, which remain just as impressive as they were in the previous film. The direction, cinematography, production design, costumes, editing, visual effects, sound, and music all remain phenomenal, but in the end, you simply end up wishing that it had been in service to a film with a much better script, one that had allowed its most important elements to develop sufficiently to the point of making the audience care about what's happening on the screen, instead of putting them in danger of lulling right to sleep.

Aside from its incredible technical aspects, the exceptional cast also needs to be mentioned. The ensemble features no less than seven Oscar nominees (two of whom are winners), including Timothee Chalamet, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Christopher Walken, Austin Butler, Florence Pugh, and Charlotte Rampling, as well as Emmy winner Zendaya, and Golden Globe nominee Rebecca Ferguson. All of them were certainly up to the task of bringing this rich & complex material to life, but again they were let down by writers who sadly weren't quite up to the task of bringing Herbert's classic tome to the big screen.

When it comes to "Dune" adaptations, the very best one remains the 2000 miniseries that was written & directed by John Harrison and shown on The Sci-Fi Channel. Being 24 years ago, it may not have been as technically advanced, but with his five hours, Harrison showed that he had a much better understanding of the plot & characters, fleshing them out very well and giving us an extraordinary adaptation that does great justice to the novel (I would bring up David Lynch's studio-butchered 1984 production, but that just wouldn't be a fair comparison given the circumstances of its making).

What we end up with in Villeneuve's two-part adaptation are films that look absolutely amazing from top to bottom, with remarkably talented casts, but are so ploddingly adapted, with shoddy pacing and poor story & character development, that it wouldn't be a surprise if someone watching this particular version had no idea what was going on at all. Luckily, all viewers have to do to see "Dune" done right is simply fall back on the aforementioned outstanding miniseries, thereby treating themselves to the compelling epic tale that this much newer version should have been.


"Dune: Part Two" comes to Blu-ray in a 2.39:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of outstanding quality. Every frame of this 166-minute epic is perfectly sharp, highlighting its multiple stunning technical elements. Likewise, the Dolby Atmos-TrueHD soundtrack is phenomenal, giving you all of the dialogue, sound effects, and Hans Zimmer's incredible score in excellent quality. Overall, with the impressive work Warner Bros. has done for the film's physical release, there's not a single complaint to be had about its marvelous presentation.

Special Features:

Chakobsa Training (5 Minutes)

Creating the Fremen World (12 Minutes)

Finding the Worlds of Dune (6 Minutes)

Buzz Around the New 'Thopter' (4 Minutes)

Worm-riding (9 Minutes)

Becoming Feyd (8 Minutes)

A New Set of Threads (8 Minutes)

Deeper into the Desert: The Sound of Dune (13 Minutes)

The Blu-ray comes with a variety of "Making of" featurettes, totaling a little over an hour, that cover a wide range of areas, including production design, costumes, the language, and the music. Definitely plenty of informative material to dig into here.


Denis Villeneuve's "Dune: Part Two" features the same technical brilliance as the first film, as well as a remarkably talented cast, but it also suffers from the same problems as before thanks to a weak screenplay with poor story & character development and sluggish pacing, all of which ultimately results in a rather poor adaptation of Frank Herbert's classic novel.

Score: 2.5/5

Available on Blu-ray starting tomorrow.

Follow me on Twitter @BeckFilmCritic.


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