In more ways than one, Dune: Part Two has a lot to live up to.

Dune: Part One was an incredible achievement. Not only did it manage to emerge as one of the very best science fiction epics, well, ever (it received ten Oscar nominations), wrestling a huge narrative into something compelling, comprehensible and wholly engrossing, it was also a box office hit on the back of a global a pandemic which saw people reluctant to go to the cinema at all. 

If anything, Part Two ramps up the ‘epicness’ even more. Much of the action this time around is set on the spiceworld itself, Arakis, as the story kicks off almost exactly where we left things in the first film. Paul Atreides and his mother are now with the Fremen. At first, Paul and Jessica must find acceptance among them. But soon, with growing belief in and support of the idea that Paul is the prophet who will lead these people to freedom, his rise to power and desire for revenge on those who destroyed his family provides the narrative thrust. That and the developing love story between Paul and Chani. 

Meanwhile, the political stability of the Emperor, the power of the Harkonnens and the floaty Baron, plus all of the great houses of the empire, all come under threat as religious fundamentalists gather behind their chosen messiah.

So, there’s politics, there’s religion, there’s mysticism, there’s love. There’s action so exciting you’ll be breathless, and sights so beautiful you’ll marvel at the craft on display. Some of the images here show a confidence and boldness from director Denis Villeneuve that is astonishing, and his ability to spin so many characters, and plot lines so exquisitely filmed, and not make it a confusing mess is miraculous.

Dune: Part Two, Warner Bros.

That said, there is an awful lot of plot to get through and some new characters to get to know too. With so much going on, the narrative doesn’t always flow as smoothly as it did in Part One where you were always clear what was happening without the need for easy exposition. It was complex but not confusing. Part Two sometimes leaves you between scenes having to do a quick mental catch up to fill in the blanks, but it’s nothing that impacts on the pleasure of watching the film too much.

Once again, the cast is outstanding. Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya are compelling leads, and Rebecca Ferguson, Stellan Skarsgård and Josh Brolin are powerful support. And while we might miss the gravitas of Oscar Isaac and the gusto of Jason Momoa, Javier Bardem stands out with some of the best and funniest lines of the whole story, and a menacing Austin Butler brings real threat to proceedings.

So, does Dune: Part Two live up to our expectations?

Yes. This is film-making on a scale we’re not really used to anymore and it’s occasionally overwhelming, especially on IMAX where you feel the film rumbling through your body. Its scale, ambition, tension, emotion and ability to thrill is incredible. The visuals are beautiful, as you’d expect from the man behind Arrival and the astonishing Blade Runner 2049 , as well as this film’s prequel. 

If it doesn’t quite match the first instalment, it certainly comes very close, and leaves you in no doubt that a third and final part is a must.

By Robert Martin

Main image: Dune: Part Two, Warner Bros.

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Dune is at cinemas now