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Dune: Part Two is a wild, violent, plot-changing masterpiece | Radio-Canada News

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The only thing we could criticize about Denis Villeneuve’s 2021 epic Dune because that was also, in reality, the only reason it worked.

After all, Frank Herbert’s 1965 science fiction novel, a mythopoeic, quasi-religious, desertpunk, anti-colonial, anti-demagoguery, speculative history masterpiece, has long been considered virtually unfilmable. Simply making it a coherent film is the Hollywood equivalent of splitting the atom – and others have tried.

Already saddled with a faithful but bloated 2000s miniseries, a self-described “failure” of a film by David Lynch, and another by surrealist director Alejandro Jodorowsky that was somehow so terribly weird it was canceled when his other nightmare in the desert of the 1970s, El Topo, arrived at the cinema, adaptations of Dune carry bad blood.

This is why Villeneuve Dune: part one It was an act of cinematic magic: racking up more than $400 million at the box office, winning six Academy Awards, and making Timothée Chalamet an unlikely man. And it all hinged on the director’s ability to ignore an impulse toward condensation and spread a single story across two films released years apart.

In the sequel, finally released this week, Villeneuve managed to start again. Dune: part two is a towering achievement of artistic vision, clearly conceived by a man with both a deep love for the source material and a mastery of his craft.

The only problem is, like Part onethe only way to do that was to make something that, for all intents and purposes, wasn’t even really a movie.

WATCH | Dune Trailer: Part Two:

A return to a complex world

Focusing on a single planet caught in the crosshairs of an interstellar feud, Dune follows the powerful Atreides family as they attempt to rule the desert world of Arrakis.

This position is particularly valuable to the patriarch Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac in Part one) and his son Paul (Chalamet), because Arrakis is the only known source of “spices”. Both a drug and a kind of fuel, but not really (forgive me Duneheads, I have a word limit), this substance happens to be the most important resource in the universe.

Atreides’ management of the planet, which was previously controlled by the decidedly more evil Harkonnens (led by Stellan Skarsgård’s fantastically disgusting Baron Harkonnen), is hampered by threats that more than justified the first book’s four appendices and 30-page glossary. .

Paul is confronted by everything from the native “Fremen” to the “Bene Gesserit” witch sororities, Sardaukar, slip-tips, shigawire and, of course, Shai Hulud – the gigantic sandworms who are the source of both the spice and the movie. uncomfortably familiar popcorn bucket.

The background is an extremely complex and, to the uninitiated, potentially impenetrable soup of words. But Villeneuve’s genius did not lie in simplifying or substantially modifying Herbert’s plot; instead, he went the other way.

An incredibly tall bald man bathes in a black bathtub.  He is pale and blue veins are visible under his skin.  He smokes with a long, thin pipe.
Stellan Skarsgård appears as Baron Harkonnen in a still from Dune: Part Two. (Warner Bros. Entertainment)

Before even having confirmation that it would have a sequel, the Quebec director divided the novel in two — and the first film was marketed as simply Dunewithout the “first part” which would indicate to the audience that it was part of a franchise.

Dune: part onewhile beautiful and made with obvious intent, functioned more as an introduction to a hypothetical future film than as a standalone story. Dune: part two don’t close the loop. Instead, it kicks the can down the road again – calling for a sequel that could finally tie the jaw-dropping whole thing together.

Another beginning

In Part one, the stumbling block was simple: a singular focus on the exhibition. Due to the need to get moviegoers to understand which crysknife pierced which Mentat rifle, we ultimately arrive at the end with a better understanding of the characters and the world – but at the expense of any fully realized character arc.

Second part looks equally impressive but not quite finished, although for a different reason. It begins with Paul wandering the desert after a violent coup and an attempt on his life by the Harkonnens. Forced to take refuge with the Fremen, he resorts to an old trick.

Having predicted a situation like this, the Bene Gesserit mystic had already sowed the planet with fabricated prophecies of the coming of a messiah from beyond their world. Paul and his mother, Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), take advantage of this to position Paul as the legendary Lisan al Gaib, who has come to bring freedom to the Fremen and transform their planet into a lush paradise.

A woman with bright blue eyes peeks out from under a hood.  His face is covered in tattooed letters from a language other than English.
Rebecca Ferguson appears as Lady Jessica from Dune in a still from the film. (Warner Bros. Entertainment)

It gives Second part a much more cinematic path to follow: the Avatar, Pocahontas, Fern Ravine Or Laurence of Arabia (a direct inspiration for Herbert Dune) formula of a renegade colonial hero who comes to identify himself and save a persecuted population.

But one of the main reasons Herbert’s novel ultimately found such a wide audience is a fundamental misunderstanding of his intention. By fixing this, Dune: part two now foregrounds a subtext that demands more closure than it gets.

Messiah of the dunes is Frank Herbert’s most misunderstood novel,” writes Frank Herbert’s son Brian in the introduction to DuneThe sequel to – initially hated for the same reasons the original was loved.

“The second novel in the series overturned Paul Muad’Dib’s carefully crafted hero myth and revealed the dark side of the messiah phenomenon that seemed so glorious in Dune. Many readers didn’t want that dose of reality. »

Villeneuve, a life Dune The fan who engraved Paul’s Fremen name on his graduation ring got this message: the theme that so clearly follows Bertolt Brecht’s quote “Unfortunate is the country that needs heroes”, it seems to be echoed in the text with “No more terrible disaster could befall your people”. rather than letting them fall into the hands of a hero. »

WATCH | Quebec director Denis Villeneuve on bringing Dune home:

Dune director Denis Villeneuve on the film’s premiere in his home province of Quebec

Director Denis Villeneuve attended the premiere of Dune: Part Two in Montreal on Wednesday. The French-Canadian filmmaker was born in Quebec and began his career in Canada before directing Hollywood films such as Arrival, Prisoners and Dune.

To get this across, he made some changes.

“People thought Paul was a hero, (Herbert) wanted to be the opposite. He wanted Paul to be (an) anti-hero,” Villeneuve told CBC at the Montreal premiere. “I, knowing this, decided to make my adaptation to be more faithful to Frank Herbert than to the book.”

Dune: part two directly makes his audience aware that Paul’s successes are not successes; these are dangerous manipulations. And when you’re not allowed to see his actions as direct labors of Hercules, but rather as actions that exist only to get to the true point of the story, even this masterpiece can’t be called perfect.

But it’s also the film’s saving grace. Because Villeneuve subtly darkens Paul’s choices and gives many of them much more freedom. DuneThe women of – like Princess Irulan by Florence Pugh and especially Chani by Zendaya – Dune: part two prepares a future film to confront its main theme more sharply and explosively.

If and when a sequel – or sequels – sticks this landing, Villeneuve Dune the franchise could be considered a flawless triumph. But how do you judge a never-ending story?

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