“Dune” sequel may be better than the first


Since the first novel’s publication in 1965, “Dune” has become legendary, seminal sci-fi. Renowned for its intricate and outlandish worldbuilding, the book is so dense with rich conceptual work that it was originally published serially as eight separate volumes, before being re-edited into the final product. 

2021’s “Dune Part One” covers about half of Frank Herbert’s 896-page novel, and “Dune Part Two” is a marathon of the rest of the book’s content. Despite the even split on paper, there is significantly more story in the second half, making the first film in retrospect feel like little more than two hours of set-up. While exposition is as plentiful as ever, this means there are thankfully far fewer dream sequences promising that something interesting might eventually happen, and far more interesting things actually happening. At times, it’s exciting, but at others, it’s overwhelming. The 2-hour-and-45-minute runtime drags, not because it’s slow, but because the pace never lets up.

Luckily, with that pace comes plentiful action. While every blockbuster’s marketing wants you to believe it demands to be seen on the biggest screen possible, “Dune Part Two” is one of the few where this rings true. The scale of its set pieces, many of which involve massive armies, spacecraft, or worms, is staggering and exhilarating. They’re the polar opposite of “Part One,” whose final action sequence was a short knife fight – these are drawn-out battles that start as chaotic skirmishes and end as all-out war. The action also makes great use of the intrigue of Dune’s worldbuilding. No two are the same, taking place on different planets, and using different varieties of cleverly-conceived weapons and vehicles.

The world of Dune remains outstandingly inventive, even over half a decade after it was first conceived. Though much is explained, from the role of the Kwisatz Haderach to the power of the Water of Life, Dune’s strength remains in the subtler depth of its lore. Characters’ costumes and planets’ set designs imply far more than could ever be said, and besides that, they’re plenty cool.

Underneath all of that is the actual story; what many forget about “Dune” is that underneath its expensive space opera coat of paint, it’s great young adult fiction. It is primarily concerned with the ascension of young Paul Atreides (Timothee Chalamet) to Paul Muad’dib, the Lisan al Gaib (a prophesied messiah and ruler over the native people of the sand planet Arrakis). But the heart of the story lies in his romance with Chani (Zendaya), which is tested by Paul’s newfound power and religion. It’s intriguing and well-executed.

But like the books, the end of the film is inconclusive. As the film draws to a close, a character informs us that the true battle has only just begun. Perhaps owing to its serial nature, “Dune Part Two” is grand and wonderful, but not fully satisfying.