Courtesy of Warner Brothers

The lights went down in the cinema, and paired with the low murmurs of composer Hans Zimmer’s score, seven words came on to the black screen: “Power over spice is power over all.” Those words kicked off the two hour and 46 minutes of Denis Villeneuve’s astonishing, science-fiction epic, “Dune: Part Two.”

“Dune: Part Two” was released in the United States on March 1 and has been at the forefront of online and media conversations, with local cinemas in Goleta having sold out showings according to staff. 

In a fictional world where space travel is fuelled by spice, Arrakis, the planet where this natural resource can be found, is the most important part of the spatial empire, made up of a variety of “houses,” wealthy families that control the planet(s).

The story kicks off mere moments after the end of “Dune: Part One” (2021). Paul Atreides (played by Timothée Chalamet) and his mother, Lady Jessica (played by Rebecca Ferguson), are trying to survive in the desert of Arrakis after having just escaped the attack on their family by the Harkonnen (a competing house). Having newly met a group of Fremen people, who are Indigenous to Arrakis and live in equilibrium with the dunes and the creatures that inhabit them, the mother and son duo try to assimilate into the group to survive. 

Undoubtedly, the effect of filming the movie on location in the Sahara makes the cinematography and the acting enthralling for the audience, immersing them in a world where the desert is king, those who respect it survive and those who do not will perish at its feet. 

Chani (played by Zendaya) and Stilgar, their leader (played by Javier Bardem), are two Atreidis that are adored by half. Many see Paul as the “Lisan al Gaib,” which means the voice from the outer world, a foretold messiah, meant to give back control to the Fremen people over their own planet, while the other half sees them as unworthy and, at times, dangerous outsiders. 

The film is a beautiful mix of questioning power, specifically in the contexts of religion and brutal force and the ways that they hold onto it, in essence, the strength of the plot is its political thriller nature within the setting of a science fiction. 

The star-studded cast delivered a variety of performances. Zendaya as the multi-dimensional righteous Chani was impressive. Chalamet and Ferguson give an ambiguous and unreliable representation of their characters, pushing the audience to both like and dislike them. 

Austin Butler’s performance is notably bone-chilling as antagonist Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen, a highly-skilled fighter and sociopath who is tasked to take control of Arrakis. Florence Pugh, who has also taken a huge part in the promotion of the movie, playing the emperor’s daughter, although having a small amount of screen time, makes the most of her role. Bardem, however, steals the show as Stilgar. While his character is a showstopper, he also gives a deeper look at the struggles faced by the strong leader of the suffering Fremen people. 

Cinematographer Greig Fraser was able to make the dunes in the movie simultaneously beautiful and terrifying. The camera pans out into the abyss of the beautiful Sahara while also instilling fear of the sandworms. The view highlights not only the opportunities for Paul and the Fremen people but also shows them as vulnerable and exposed, with nowhere to hide except under the dunes, which also offers a variety of dangers. 

Zimmer’s score is also one of the highlights of the movie, giving the film an aura of grandiosity and calmness. Yet the score takes on a dual purpose — it also forces unease upon the audience, matching the amazing visuals on screen. The song “Only I Will Remain” is especially representative of this, starting as the calm ritualistic song of the Fremen people and expanding into an instrumental orchestra. 

A small downfall to this impressive film is the screenplay, which at times fails to adapt to the intensity of the scenes. The limited script sounds patchy at times, although the visuals of the movie have a definite idea of what they are representing. The text seems like an awkward mix between very formal Old English and today’s more casual English.

“Dune: Part Two” is a majestic and immersive story that looks at the relationships between power, their beholder and those affected by them. The film is a study of the friction of power, set on the stage of a planet covered in dunes and desperation, analyzing humanity and its intersection with the past and present.