Dune: Part Two confirms Denis Villeneuve's place on Hollywood A list

The new Dune film is one of the most exciting movies you’ll ever see, writes Brendan Kelly.

Article content

Dune: Part Two is set to cement Denis Villeneuve’s position as one of the hottest filmmakers on the planet.

The planet Earth that is. Not the planet Arrakis, or Dune if you want to be more colloquial, which is where the action takes place in the two Dune films directed by Villeneuve.

Article content

In a way, it seems funny to even suggest Villeneuve’s place at the top of the Hollywood directors gang needs any cementing. The first Dune film by Villeneuve grossed just over $400 million U.S. globally following its release in 2021. Keep in mind this is in a world where film box office is way down, still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic and competing with the rising popularity of Netflix and the other streaming services.

Advertisement 2

Article content

Last year the Rotten Tomatoes website held a massive bracket poll to name the best director of the past 25 years and the winner was Oppenheimer and The Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan. But Villeneuve gave Nolan a run for his money, with a 56 per cent to 44 per cent vote split in the head-to-head final. Not too shabby for a soft-spoken francophone filmmaker from Gentilly who until a decade back was known for making critically-acclaimed French-language auteur films here in Canada.

So he is already one of the hottest directors in the world. But here’s suggesting Dune: Part Two is going to just propel Villeneuve into the Tinseltown stratosphere. The reviews are in and most are downright ecstatic and with good reason.

The new Dune film, which is not a sequel but rather the second part of the adaptation of the 1965 novel of the same name by Frank Herbert, is quite simply one of the most exciting movies you’ll see this or any other year. I actually liked it way more than the first one. Epic science fiction is very much not my cup of cinematic tea. I couldn’t follow the later Star Wars movies and Dune (part one) had some of the same complexity that strains my brain.

Advertisement 3

Article content

This time ’round, there is a central driving narrative that’s impossible not to get caught up in. Paul Atreides, played with much nuance by the unlikely action hero Timothée Chalamet, is leading the Fremen people in ferocious battle against the ultra-evil Harkonnen rulers, who will do whatever it takes to control Arrakis and its precious Spice production. There are plenty of huge battle scenes but Villeneuve — and his co-screenwriter John Spaihts — wisely also spent a lot of time on more intimate moments, notably between Paul and Chani (Zendaya), a young Fremen warrior. Yes, sparks do fly!

There’s also an incredibly captivating and scary gallery of bad guys here, including the Emperor (Christopher Walken), the Baron (Stellan Skarsgard), and most notably the Baron’s nephew Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen, played with psychotic highly-sexualized charisma by Austin Butler. Honestly Butler just eats up the screen, pun intended (you’ll have to see the film to get the joke).

Recommended from Editorial

Advertisement 4

Article content

I saw it at a press screening on the Imax screen at the Banque Scotia Cinema, and when it starts screening here Feb. 29, I recommend you try to see it on the giant screen to better appreciate the stunning desert visuals. There is nothing quite like seeing those giant desert earth worms exploding out of the sand in Imax!

But what most impressed me was how along with the crazily entertaining action, Villeneuve also manages to include meditations on everything from the price of waging bloody wars to people’s need to look for messiahs. One of the central points is the debate about whether Paul is the saviour many Fremen have been waiting for or simply a guy who turned up in the right place at the right time with the right agenda.

In short it’s a master class in filmmaking and it’s so cool to think it’s a class being taught by our very own Denis Villeneuve. I still remember first meeting Villeneuve at a party at the Cannes Film Festival in 1996 and thinking that this budding 28-year-old filmmaker was one cool dude. He’d directed one short segment in the multi-director art film Cosmos, which was at Cannes that year, and it was clear he was going to be a notable filmmaker.

But I nor anyone else could’ve imagined he’d make it to where he is today. As François Legault might say, c’est pas mal cool ça.

[email protected]


Advertisement 5

Article content

Article content