Most reviews of Denis Villeneuve's Dune: Part Two so far have been generous, to say the least. But as a fan of the books, I must take the road less travelled and state the difficulty in admitting the same. With over six books, Frank Herbert's Dune is a dense universe — far more cerebral than any movie can contain (David Lynch sure tried his luck in 1984). 

Perhaps it would have been better if the text was adapted as a series extending over a period of time, for a sudden plunge into the water-pumping and tear-tasting world of Arrakis elicited many laughs from the audience, who could only read Fremen's obsessive act of preserving water as some kind of water fetish (the scene where Stilgar tells Jessica to hold her vomit calls for a Freudian reading). (Also read: Dune 2 first reactions: Villeneuve's futuristic vision earns rave reviews, deemed Sci-Fi legend)

Because of such gaps in context, the sacred waters — water collected from the body of the dead — that hold the key to changing the entire topography of the planet (and simultaneously reshaping the intergalactic power dynamics with curbed production of spice) fall flat on the screen. With this, the statement about spice, which stands as a smokescreen for petroleum in our own world (relevant in Herbert’s time and with an ongoing war in the Middle East — even more relevant today), is completely lost.

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The Surrealist Take

But what impresses is Feyd-Rautha's (played by Austin Butler, who seems like a Skarsgård brother lookalike) birthday duel. The scene isn't exemplary by any means. The dialogues are standard, and so is the style of the duel. But the award-winning cinematography returns to the screen with a bolder gait, as if Villeneuve and his crew, waiting in the shadows, leap out to deliver a scene that is no less than a segment from an indie art film. The stark monochrome colours, placed to remind one of WW2 footage and Nazi Germany, pan over appealing symmetrical shots that almost lean into a surrealist take. The looming guards behind Rautha are the most pleasing stage props. The Bene Gesserit spying on Rautha with her opera glasses took me by surprise and pushed me into a French Noir, if only for a second.

The Holy Birthday of Feyd-Rautha.

The Holy Birthday of Feyd-Rautha.

However, a similar black-and-white placement did not work well when it came to the plot. When we are reintroduced to Rabban (Dave Bautista), a whiff of Marvel and their common, but not rare, two-dimensional villains creep in. Granted, Rabban is true to the books, but given the paucity of time, it would have been wiser to expand the Baron's (Stellan Skarsgård) screen time instead. The book fans might already know that Baron is more than a meat suit and how his "plans within plans" leap with politics worthy of a Game of Thrones episode.