Shropshire Star

Film Talk: Back to Arrakis with Dune: Part Two

The performance powerhouse that is Timothée Chalamet is topping the bill this week with a much-anticipated sci-fi sequel.

Dune Part Two: Timothee Chalamet as Paul Atreides and Zendaya as Chani

Dune: Part Two sees the American-French boy wonder once again step into the roll of Paul Atreides, as he unites with the blue-eyed Fremen people of the planet Arrakis to wage war against the dastardly House Harkonnen.

Considering that Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel was once described as ‘unfilmable’, the wonderful world of Dune has had its fair share of screen time over the years.

The 1984 film by David Lynch was panned by some critics, yet praised by Herbert himself, who reportedly quite simply stated “they’ve got it”. A 2000 miniseries by John Harrison was much more up critics’ street, and also bagged two Emmys.

Yet it was not until 2021 when Herbert’s breathtaking source material truly received the treatment it deserved, and an adaptation of his epic work finally made a momentous mark with the masses.

Directed by Denis Villeneuve, Dune: Part One wowed audiences across the globe, and even bagged six Oscars. With an ensemble cast including Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Zendaya, Jason Momoa and Javier Bardem, Herbert’s glorious vision was finally portrayed to perfection, and fans were left eager for the following instalment. Now, the wait is over, with many of the gang back for some sandworm-surfing action, and joined by a particularly malevolent-looking Austin Butler, and a rather regal Christopher Walken.

But does Dune: Part Two live up to the legacy of its predecessor and seal the deal on a worthy adaptation of one of science fiction’s most treasured properties? Or will film fans be left out in the desert? Let’s do this...

DUNE: PART TWO (UK 12A/ROI 12A, 167 mins)

Released: March 1 (UK & Ireland)

Bigger is not necessarily better when it comes to the spectacular second chapter of French Canadian director Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of Frank Herbert’s supposedly ‘unfilmable’ 1965 novel.

More bombastic and visually arresting than its predecessor, Dune: Part Two demands a gargantuan screen – preferably IMAX – with a sound system capable of conveying every bone-shaking roar of composer Hans Zimmer’s epic orchestral score.

Villeneuve’s brio energises thunderous set pieces including bloodthirsty skirmishes in the desert between Fremen and heavily-armed enemies and the long-awaited moment Timothee Chalamet’s vengeful son must prove his worth by surfing on the back of a hulking sandworm.

Impressive visual effects marry seamlessly with practical filmmaking, elevated by no-expense-spared production design, costumes and grotesque make-up effects to realise the bloated and shaven-headed House Harkonnen.

If audience’s appetites were fed solely by dazzling the eyes and ears, Villeneuve’s sensory banquet would flirt with the oft-used superlative of masterpiece.

However, a script co-written by the director and Jon Spaihts isn’t equally bountiful with narrative progression and character development.

It is ironic that a film which constantly berates protagonists for shedding tears and squandering the most precious resource on Arrakis should tread water for periods of its indulgent 167-minute running time.

The romance between Chalamet and Zendaya simmers to a final shot that winks knowingly to the proposed conclusion of a trilogy.

Paul Atreides (Chalamet) and his mother Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) continue to hide from Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgard) and his murderous horde in the deserts of Arrakis.

They are sheltered by Stilgar (Javier Bardem) and members of the superstitious Fremen whose eyes glow blue from prolonged exposure to highly addictive Spice.

Stilgar fervently believes that Paul is a messiah from prophecy and Lady Jessica fans flames of religious fervour to instal herself as the Fremen’s new Reverend Mother.

Her son holds firm to a different course, fighting alongside lover Chani (Zendaya) and warrior compatriot Shishakli (Souheila Yacoub) to dismantle the Spice-harvesting operation spearheaded by Glossu Rabban Harkonnen (Dave Bautista).

Meanwhile, scheming Reverend Mother Mohiam (Charlotte Rampling) dispatches her ally Lady Margot Fenring (Lea Seydoux) to seduce the Baron’s anointed successor Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen (Austin Butler).

Dune: Part Two is a colossal exercise in world-building, which empowers female characters and expedites the narrative through detours from Herbert’s text.

Oscar nominee Butler makes an immediate impact as the sociopathic heir to the Harkonnen empire and his inevitable collision with Chalamet’s rival is suitably brutal and bloody. “I will love you as long as I breathe,” Paul repeatedly coos to Chani.

We’re not so hopelessly and deliriously enamoured by Villeneuve’s sequel but we’re certainly smitten with the creativity and verve required to tame a cinematic beast of this muscular, jaw-dropping scale.


Released: March 1 (UK & Ireland, selected cinemas)

Lisa Frankenstein: Kathryn Newton as Lisa Swallows

During the 1980s, teenage misfits found their groove in seminal films like The Breakfast Club, The Goonies, Weird Science and Heathers.

Diablo Cody, Oscar-winning screenwriter of Juno, nods affectionately to this era of adolescent underdogs in a bloodthirsty horror comedy set in 1989, which marks the feature directorial debut of Zelda Williams, daughter of master improviser Robin Williams.

Gorgeous opening credits, stylised as a monochrome shadow puppet show, succinctly recount the untimely demise of a nameless Victorian-era pianist (Cole Sprouse), whose reanimated form – courtesy of a lightning strike – is a pungent and unlikely romantic suitor in Williams’s tonally disjointed picture.

The disorienting mish-mash of genres – slasher, coming-of-age comedy, Gothic horror, romance, ghoulish crime caper – is loosely stitched together, rather like the zombified paramour and his “acquired” fresh body parts.

Cody’s script trades in darkly humorously one-liners (“You don’t have to worry about anything because your mum has already been murdered”) and the outlandish bloodletting elicits some of the biggest laughs.

Sprouse exercises his physical comedy muscles as the monstrous suitor, who looks strikingly similar to Johnny Depp’s Sweeney Todd when wielding an axe, while co-star Kathryn Newton channels Desperately Seeking Susan-era Madonna for her goth-lite attire.

A palpable absence of screen chemistry between the pair leaves the film with one severed foot perpetually in the grave.

Socially awkward teenager Lisa Swallows (Newton) slowly emerges from traumatic mutism after witnessing the death of her mother (Jennifer Pierce Mathus) by the blade of a masked maniac.

Six months after this devastating loss, her father Dale (Joe Chrest) marries a cruel, self-obsessed nurse named Janet (Carla Gugino), who already has a perky cheerleader daughter named Taffy (Liza Soberano) from a previous relationship.

Consumed by morbid thoughts, Lisa visits her favourite headstone in the local cemetery and whispers her desire to join the dead: “I wish I could be with you”.

That night, a bolt of green lightning strikes the grave and reanimates a Victorian man (Sprouse), whose zombified form develops a deep romantic attachment to Lisa.

The shuffling stranger intimates he can be made physically whole again with freshly harvested human body parts and electrical discharges from Taffy’s short-circuiting horizontal tanning bed.

Utilising rudimentary sewing skills picked up at her part-time job, Lisa wreaks revenge on her tormentors and stitches their severed appendages onto her grateful undead paramour.

Lisa Frankenstein is supposedly brought to life by a miraculous bolt from the heavens but Williams’s picture feels oddly lifeless for extended periods, hampered by inconsistent pacing and tone.

A clear emotional through-line proves elusive between appealingly macabre vignettes including a bedroom scene with an unexpected climax.

“I just don’t think anyone should be forgotten,” observes Lisa, referring to the dearly departed.

Sadly, the film that takes her name might be.

RED ISLAND (UK 12A/ROI 12A, 117 mins)

Released: March 1 (UK & Ireland, selected cinemas)

Red Island: Charlie Vauselle as Thomas Lopez

Award-winning Moroccan-born filmmaker Robin Campillo, director of 120 BPM (Beats Per Minute), taps into the creative wellspring of his upbringing in post-colonial Madagascar for a tender coming-of-age story.

The setting is a 1970s French Air Force base on the newly independent nation of Madagascar off the southeastern coast of Africa. Robert Lopez (Quim Gutierrez) is stationed on the island with his wife Colette Lopez (Nadia Tereszkiewicz) and eight-year-old son Thomas (Charlie Vauselle).

The boy is blissfully unaware of underlying political tensions and views his current home in the Indian Ocean as a breathtaking, unspoilt paradise.

Over time, Thomas’s innocent eyes are opened to racism and hypocrisy and he begins to question the impact of France’s military involvement on the island and the roles played by his parents and their close circle of friends.

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