A masterful take: ‘Dune: Part Two’ proves Denis Villeneuve is the best visual filmmaker working now

Director Denis Villeneuve has confirmed that his cinematic take on Frank Herbert’s Dune is far and away the best with Dune: Part Two, a movie as good, and actually even a little better, than the first chapter released in 2021.

I never read the novels, so it’s always been a little hard for me to follow along with the Herbert mythology—but after multiple viewings of the 2021 film, and a couple of viewings of David Lynch’s completely crazy and disgusting take in the ’80s, I think I’m finally starting to understand what the hell is going on.

The completely adorable Timothee Chalamet returns as Paul Atreides, the possible messiah of the sand planet where big worms make it impossible to hold a desert music festival, and old, obese men bathe in dirty oil. Paul was a bit of a softie during most of the first installment, but the end of that movie put him in more of a boss-man mode.

Part Two picks up exactly where the first film left off (the corpse of a guy who died at the end of the movie is still hanging around), as Paul starts his run with characters played by Javier Bardem and Zendaya. While they basically made cameos in the first film, this one takes their characters to new levels, and they are both up to the task.

Stellan Skarsgard returns as the repulsive Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, while Austin Butler is new to the enterprise as Feyd-Rautha (infamously played by Sting in the Lynch film). Butler might be my favorite thing about this film series so far; he plays Feyd with a white-hot fury, which is helped along by his all-white, no-eyebrow makeup. He is a terrifying spectacle.

As far as visuals go, Villeneuve is in a class all his own. Every shot of this movie is a work of art, as is the case with all of his movies. When it comes to sheer visual mastery, nobody is even competing with Villeneuve right now. He also knows how to make a knife fight exciting; these fights rival the best lightsaber duels in Star Wars. I haven’t been this into a cinematic knife fight since Riff and Bernardo went at it in West Side Story.

There’s no doubt that the franchise will get a third film, although it hasn’t been officially announced yet. Villeneuve has already penned most of the script, which covers material in Herbert’s Dune: Messiah. It might be a few extra years until we get that next chapter, since the director says he wants to do something different before diving back in again. Either way, given the critical and box-office success of this one, Part Three is a lock.

To my fellow non-Herbert aficionados: These movies have done a lot for me in understanding why so many people love Herbert’s original novels. It took some work, but I’m starting to get it now. All the houses, the bloodlines, the dream stuff, the crazy worms—it’s coming together for me.

Maybe I should’ve read his books instead of all those Stephen King novels back in high school. I had the Dune novels on my bookshelf, but I abandoned the story after a couple of attempts. It didn’t hook me; I think my mistake was trying to tackle them after reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Tolkien tapped me out for dense fantasy fare.

Maybe the final part of the proposed/hypothetical Villeneuve trilogy will wrap things up in a way that will get me so excited that I will dive back into those books. Nah, probably not. Reading makes me sleepy.