Denis Villeneuve's Dune: Part Two is an epic continuation of his 2021 film. Timothée Chalamet delivers some of his best career work with his commanding performance.

But this adventure to Arrakis is as smooth as a ride atop a sandworm. A visual spectacle, Villeneuve delivers the goods. Even still, there is a lot crammed into the sequel's 167-minute runtime, and as a result, certain cast members (largely Austin Butler sans his awful Elvis accent) get shortchanged as a result.

Dune: Part Two is what modern blockbusters should aspire to be. It's amazing to see a big-budget film through such a filmic lens (a feeling Villeneuve elicited after Arrival and Blade Runner 2049).

Dune: Part Two review

Sandworms in Dune: Part Two.
A still from Dune: Part Two courtesy of Warner Bros.

Following the story of Dune (2021), Paul Atreides (Chalamet) continues his rise to power and seeks revenge against those who tore his family apart. He's also united with the Fremen, namely Chani (Zendaya), and has to prove himself to them as well.

Meanwhile, the Baron (Stellan Skarsgård) is attempting to take over Arrakis. He first appoints Glossu Rabban Harkonnen (Dave Bautista) to take over, which starts a conflict with his younger brother, the sinister Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen (Austin Butler).

A commanding Timothée Chalamet performance

Timothée Chalamet previously cemented himself as a leading man in films like Call Me by Your Name and Wonka. In the first Dune film, he and Paul were still finding themselves in the character. By the end of Part Two, you see him come of age.

No longer is Chalamet a gawky heir. He's now the leader of House Atreides. Even at the beginning of the sequel, Paul is still a bit unsure of himself. After all, being dubbed “the One” is a tough name to live up to.

But like Michael Corleone in the first Godfather film, Paul eventually gives in and becomes who he's supposed to be. Chalamet has done his best career work in the Dune films. Maybe it's not as eccentric or zany as Wonka or as dramatic as Beautiful Boy, but it's still a showcase for him.

A stellar, if not misused, supporting cast

Zendaya also gives a great performance in Dune: Part Two. For one thing, she's given significantly more screen time in the sequel. But, truthfully, she hasn't had a dramatic lead role outside of Malcolm & Marie (luckily, this is a lot better). Chani and Paul's relationship carries the film, even if the former randomly vanishes for long periods.

Some of the newcomers, though, are either miscast or misused. Léa Seydoux is fine in the five minutes she's seen in the film that she shares with Butler. Florence Pugh's part could have easily been played by anyone else. It's a shame, as she's a talented actress, but the casting department went for name recognition for a small part. If/when Dune: Messiah is adapted, I imagine casting Pugh will pay off more. But as it stands, she's underutilized.

Misused is the best way to describe Austin Butler's performance. He plays the villainous Feyd-Rautha. The film picks up the second he's introduced, which is done masterfully. But after his gladiator performance, the character is suddenly watered down. By the time he takes on Paul, he feels like an entitled little cousin. At least the showdown is worth the wait (albeit a bit brief).

It's also a win anytime Butler isn't doing that godforsaken Elvis voice. It slips through the cracks on a few occasions in the film, but at least we know Elvis Presley made it to space after all.

Uneven pacing

Léa Seydoux.
A still from Dune: Part Two courtesy of Warner Bros.

Perhaps Butler isn't fully to blame for his character feeling neutered by the end of Dune: Part Two. The script, which was a joint venture between Villeneuve and Jon Spaihts, has a lot to condense into 167 minutes. Paul still has to prove himself to the Fremen, and that dominates the early goings of the sequel.

But Feyd-Rautha isn't introduced until what feels like an hour into the film before disappearing for what feels like an eternity. It's prolonged by the fact that Dune: Part Two's second act is hampered by being dull. Lady Jessica's (Rebecca Ferguson) side quest is undoubtedly important, but it comes at the sacrifice of House Harkonnen, who gets sidelined.

Granted, some villains are better without being overexposed — Darth Vader is only in Star Wars for a matter of minutes; Heath Ledger's iconic Joker isn't in The Dark Knight for very long — but House Harkonnen, and Feyd-Rautha in particular, feel underbaked as a result of them going MIA.

Still epic

At least the third act of the film picks up. The final 30 minutes or so of Dune: Part Two are worth the price of admission alone. It all goes back to Villeneuve, who created such a dense world.

Sometimes, Arrakis still feels small as it's largely made up of sand dunes and the same few temples being shown. Truthfully, the sequel lacks some of the variety of landscapes that its predecessor had (i.e. the Atreides castle is not in the sequel). Yet there is something so real and interesting about them, which makes Villeneuve's Dune films impossible to take your eyes off of.

Should you watch Dune: Part Two?

Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya.
A still from Dune: Part Two courtesy of Warner Bros.

Dune: Part Two goes bigger than its predecessor, but I refuse to conform to the idea that it's the greatest blockbuster ever made. There are a lot more sandworms and action to go around in Denis Villeneuve's sequel, but as it gets bigger, the film simultaneously feels smaller and trapped within the confines of the sand dunes.

Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya lead the film with their performances and on-screen chemistry. The former comes into his own as a bona fide leading man as a result of the film.

Even still, it's hard not to be slightly disappointed with the sequel. People will be satisfied with the stellar below-the-line work, which should garner awards attention next year, but the Dune: Part Two newcomers are largely wasted, with Butler being the biggest disappointment.

Grade: B

Dune: Part Two will be released on March 1.