Dune: Part Two

07 Mar 2024

By Contributor

By John Mulderig , OSV News

Zendaya and Timothée Chalamet star in a scene from the movie “Dune.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III – adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 – parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. Photo: CNS/Warner Bros.

If its 2021 predecessor was a fine film, “Dune: Part Two” (Warner Bros.) is nothing short of a knockout. While director and co-writer Denis Villeneuve is firing on all cylinders aesthetically, however, this continuation of the franchise includes a few morally problematic ingredients that were absent from the original.

The military and the mystical continue to blend in the story of Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet). The scion of an aristocratic dynasty, Paul is now in exile as the result of a conspiracy against his formerly powerful family — a plot that cost Paul’s father his life.

Having taken refuge with the desert dwellers who populate the planet of the tile, Paul places himself at the service of their leader, Stilgar (Javier Bardem). As Paul gradually learns to fit into his new surroundings and sharpens his fighting skills, he falls for local warrior Chani (Zendaya).

Chani wants Paul to pursue purely secular ends. But Paul’s priestess mother, Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), continues to insist that he is the messiah figure foretold in various prophecies.

The script, penned with Jon Spaihts, charts Paul’s struggle to discern his true destiny, especially in light of recurring visions that show him the horrible destruction that will result if he does take on a spiritual role. As he ponders which path to pursue, thematic hints about the dangers of either craving or wielding power recall Catholic author J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings.”

As he extends his adaptation of Frank Herbert’s celebrated 1965 sci-fi novel, Villeneuve enthralls with sweeping visuals, appealing central characters and an absorbing plot. He also manages, once again, to infuse the proceedings with a convincing tone of gravitas as well as an aura of high stakes at play.

As for the religious elements of Paul’s story, they seem to be borrowed more from Islam than Christianity, though a scene of quasi-resurrection briefly hews the other way. Like the mythos of any obviously fanciful tale, though, this aspect of the picture is unlikely to lead to any real-life confusion on the part of teens or grown-ups.

On the other hand, Paul is out for vengeance against the enemies of his clan. And the progress of his romance with Chani finds the two of them shacking up – indeed, late plot developments make it abundantly clear that, though they may share a bed, they are definitely not married.

Taken together, these elements suggest a mature viewership for this crackerjack second chapter.

The film contains nonscriptural religious beliefs, mostly stylized but sometimes harsh violence with slight gore, acts of revenge, cohabitation, an immediately post-coital bedroom scene, an implied casual encounter and a couple of instances each of crude and crass language. The OSV News classification is A-III – adults. The Motion Picture Association rating is PG-13 – parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

John Mulderig is media reviewer for OSV News. Follow him on X (formerly Twitter) @JohnMulderig1.