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'Dune: Part Two': Modern classic destined to survive sands of time

Zendaya and Timothée Chalamet play star-crossed lovers in the breathtaking "Dune: Part Two." – Photo by @filmoment / Instagram

"Dune" has long been regarded as an unadaptable piece of literature. Frank Herbert's 1965 book is one of the highest-selling science fiction novels ever, but its expansive world and story have always been deemed too rich for any director to depict faithfully.

Several have tried, most notably David Lynch, but Denis Villeneuve proved doubters wrong with his 2021 epic, "Dune," winning six Academy Awards at the 94th ceremony and reigniting interest in the franchise. As a result, a sequel film was greenlit: "Dune: Part Two."

While "Dune" proved that the franchise could successfully be adapted to the big screen, "Dune: Part Two" cements it as one of this generation's greatest science fiction stories.

This installment continues the story of Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet), son of Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac) and Lady Jessica Atreides (Rebecca Ferguson), as he seeks vengeance against House Harkonnen. The story picks up immediately after the events of the previous film, as Paul continues to build a relationship with Chani (Zendaya) and the rest of the Fremen people. 

The first "Dune" film laid the foundation for the second, inviting the audience to the planet of Arrakis, with its fictional language, "Chakobsa" and seemingly never-ending stream of inventions, creatures and intricacies. 

With this dense amount of material contained in the fictional universe, the first installment is required viewing for anyone looking to watch "Dune: Part Two." With most of the exposition out of the way, Villeneuve never wastes a second in this sequel, delivering an all-out spectacle.

"Dune: Part Two" immediately sets itself apart with its new color scheme. The first film relied on a relaxed, beige color tone, but the sequel is defined by radiant shades of orange and red, felt in almost every scene. The added warmth is emblematic of underlying tension, rising scope and Paul's development as a character.

Chalamet gives a standout leading performance, capturing Paul's potential in the first film, as well as delving into the character's darker, frightening side in this sequel. Paul's significant changes later in the film could have been seen as abrupt, but Chalamet handles them believably.

Zendaya also delivers an equally strong co-leading performance in a substantially increased role. Her character perfectly balances the line between sadness and anger, acting as a surrogate for the audience to the film's more disturbing moments.

Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen (Austin Butler) fills the role of the movie's evil, psychopathic, bald-headed antagonist with an affinity for pain. Butler completely sheds his Elvis persona, further proving his acting range and terrifying audiences in the process.

Ferguson's performance as Lady Jessica, similar to Chalamet's, is defined by a distinct change. Ferguson seamlessly steps into this role, embodying an almost entirely different person by the film's end. 

The rest of the heavy-hitting ensemble, including the likes of Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Florence Pugh, Dave Bautista and Christopher Walken, are all on their "A" games as always. 

But, few factors help this world-building more than Hans Zimmer's score, which provides an ethereal feeling in moments of joy and romance and a sense of pure dread in the dramatic scenes.

With a cast and crew so talented, it's no surprise the "Dune" franchise is successful, but it's director Villeneuve's dedication and appreciation for the material that elevates "Dune: Part Two" from blockbuster to a grand, cinematic event.

By the end of the film, Villeneuve has touched upon so many raw, universal feelings and experiences that the viewer can't help but feel invested in the characters.

Villeneuve's love for "Dune" runs deep — he recently said in an NPR podcast that he read the first book at 13 years old and drew storyboards for a potential adaptation as a teenager. This passion is apparent throughout the film.

His color grading, paired with stunning cinematography by Greig Fraser, make for one of the most visually stunning movies ever, with several sequences containing nothing but vast desert landscapes. Other scenes, like Feyd-Rautha's brawl, were shot in infrared to intensify the bleak, desolate nature of the Harkonnen planet.

The CGI-heavy scenes are handled with equal care — the movie never feels fabricated. Even in the presence of giant sandworms, both the effects and the film are grounded in the reality of Herbert's world. 

In an entertainment landscape dominated by profit and soulless franchises, "Dune: Part Two" feels special.

It's evident that those involved cared deeply, both about the source material and the final product. It's inspiring to see a movie prove that artistic integrity does not have to be sacrificed in a Hollywood blockbuster.

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