Salty Air

‘Dune’ time: Enough with the visions — Play It Again, Tim

Timothy Chalamet and Zendaya star in "Dune." (Warner Bros. Pictures)
Written by Cape Cod Wave

I drank a Red Bull before seeing “Dune: Part 2” (PG-13, 166 minutes, in theaters).

I should have had two.

Maybe then it would have been easier to get through this at times ponderous and repetitive sci-fi sequel, which combines elements of “Lawrence of Arabia,” “Tremors” and the Beach Boys’ “Surfin’ Safari” (though, to be honest, the tune that kept going through my head was a variation of an old Beatles song: “What You’re Dune.”)

Timothy Chalamet and Zendaya star in "Dune." (Warner Bros. Pictures)

Timothy Chalamet and Zendaya star in “Dune.” (Warner Bros. Pictures)

Here director Denis Villenueve continues his adaptation of the classic Frank Herbert novel about war on the desert planet Arrakis. Timothy Chalamet is back as Paul Atreides, a duke’s son, who just might be the messiah expected to lead Arrakis desert warriors the Fremen against the ruthless House Harkonnen, who want control of the valuable “spice” that can be harvested on the planet.

Besides the danger the two sides create for each other, there are humongous sandworms that, when they hear sounds on the desert surface, come barreling to the source like a deadly wave and devour its prey. One way the Fremen prove themselves to each other is to catch a ride on these sandworms – “hanging 10,” so to speak, on the backs of these giant critters.

The supporting cast – many returning from “Dune: Part 1” – includes Zendaya (as Paul’s pouty Fremen love interest), Rebecca Ferguson, Josh Brolin, Austin Butler, Florence Pugh, Dave Bautista, Christopher Walken, Lea Seydoux, Stellen Skarsgard, Charlotte Rampling, Anya Taylor-Joy (briefly) and Javier Bardem (as a subdued variation of Anthony Quinn in “Lawrence”). They play an impressive array of colorful characters, with Skarsgard, Bautista and Butler standing out as the unabashedly evil, pasty-faced Harkonnen leaders.

There’s a lot of good here: the characters, exciting action sequences, the way Villenueve and crew through sights and sounds successfully engulf us in a strange new world. But the film eventually gets bogged down by its self-importance.

Villenueve, who co-wrote the screenplay with Jon Spaihts, seems so intent on dealing with themes such as destiny and religious fundamentalism that he keeps interrupting the story with Paul’s dreams and visions of a troubling future, and drags out repetitive scenes of Fremen folk debating whether Paul is The Guy to lead them. Obviously, all of this is, to a degree, central to the story, but at a certain point it’s time to move on. “Dune: Part 2” takes too long to move on.

Also, Villenueve never gets us fully invested in the characters or their story. He’s so busy wowing us with the epic scale of everything that the human drama gets lost. With what arguably were the two most likable characters meeting their demise in “Dune: Part 1” (spoiler alert: the characters played by Oscar Isaac and Jason Mamoa), it’s hard to care much what happens to anyone here, including young Paul. That’s a problem.

Finally, there’s the way the movie ends: with a non-ending. Yes, there’s no doubt more “Dune” on the cinematic horizon, just as there were more “Dune” books from Herbert. I can’t say I’m excited. **½ (our of four)

Less is more (more or less)

In less time than it takes to watch “Dune: Part 2,” you can see all five films nominated for this year’s best live-action short film Oscar. They are currently playing together in theaters.

Wes Anderson’s “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar” (United Kingdom/United States, 37 minutes, also on Netflix) is the most high profile of the bunch, given the director (“The Royal Tenenbaums,” “Rushmore”) and all-star cast, and it’s probably the most likely to win the Oscar. Anderson’s whimsical, storybook approach fits perfectly for this playful adaptation of a 1977 Roald Dahl short story about how a gambler learns to cheat by seeing through cards. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the gambler, Ralph Fiennes as the storyteller, Ben Kingsley and Dev Patel, it’s fast-paced, funny and wildly imaginative. ***½

Just as good but entirely different, “Invincible” (Canada, 30 minutes), directed by Vincent Rene-Lortie, tells the true story of a 14-year-old boy (Léokim Beaumier-Lépine) who spends a furlough with his family before returning to a youth detention center. Sensitively directed and acted, it shows the boy’s struggle with confinement and conformity, and the price he will pay for freedom. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking. ***½

Nazrin Choudhury’s “Red, White and Blue” (United States, 23 minutes) stars Brittany Snow as a financially struggling waitress and single mom who must cross state lines for a legal abortion. A message film in the best sense, it challenges our assumptions and has a powerful impact. ***½

David Oyelowo gives a devastatingly emotional performance in Misan Harriman’s “The After” (United Kingdom, 18 minutes, also on Netflix). He plays a London executive who, after experiencing a horrific family tragedy, becomes a taxi driver and is triggered to let loose with his pain when he picks up a couple and their daughter. More than just a portrait of loss, the film suggests people should appreciate what’s right in front of them, before it’s too late. ***

In Lasse Lyskjær Noer’s “Knight of Fortune” (Denmark, 25 minutes), two widowers meet in a morgue, with offbeat results. The story involves how people deal with the death of loved ones in different ways and how even strangers can help each other with the grieving process. The film is OK, but a little too self-consciously odd to have the intended comedic or emotional impact. **

Short stuff

Also in theaters:

Drive-Away Dolls” (R, 84 minutes). Ethan Coen, the younger half of the Coen brothers, directed and wrote, with wife Tricia Cooke, this sexually graphic, violent comedy about two lesbian friends, wild Jamie (Margaret Qualley) and reserved Marian (Geraldine Viswanathan), who go on a road trip and are unknowingly pursued by a gang of inept gangsters. Unabashedly in your face (in more ways than one), the Coen-Cooke collaboration benefits from an uproarious performance by Qualley as the motor-mouthed free spirit. ***

Madame Web” (PG-13, 116 minutes). Dakota Johnson stars in this latest Marvel superhero origin story, which at one point even includes the birth of future Spider-man Peter Parker. Johnson plays Cassandra Webb (cringe), who can see the future because a spider bit her mom and … never mind. Anyway, Cassandra winds up protecting three young women (one played by Sydney Sweeney), who also will become spider-related heroes. Ho-hum. It’s already one of the worst reviewed movies in recent memory, though, I have to admit, I’ve seen worse. **

Lisa Frankenstein” (PG-13, 101 minutes). Remember when I said I’ve seen worse? Director Zelda Williams (daughter of Robin) and writer Diablo Cody (please, Diablo, return to your “Juno” form) have come up with this clunker of a horror comedy about a high school girl (Kathryn Newton) who brings a corpse (Cole Sprouse) back to life. Over the top and painfully unfunny, it makes “Madame Web” seem like “Madame Bovary.” *

Yep, more shameless self-promotion

I’ll be back at Sturgis Library in Barnstable to host a free screening of “Spotlight” at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, March 2. Did I say “free”? Yes. Yes I did.

The screening, which will be followed by a discussion, is the finale of the five-part series “Fighting the Good Fight: Movies About Journalism.”

Released in 2015, “Spotlight” tells the true story of how The Boston Globe’s Spotlight Team uncovered the history of child sexual abuse by Catholic priests in the Boston area. The film, which won the best picture Oscar (and deservedly so), stars Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdam as the journalists working on the story. Like “All the President’s Men,” it realistically shows the kind of relentless hard work that goes into producing quality journalism.

Sturgis library is located at 3090 Main St. (Route 6A). More information:

** Click here for  Tim Miller’s previous movie columns for Cape Cod Wave **

Please like Cape Cod Wave  on Facebook.

Cape Cod Wave Magazine covers the character & culture of Cape Cod. Please see our Longform stories.


Tim Miller

Tim Miller

Tim Miller is co-president of the Boston Society of Film Critics and a Tomatometer-approved critic. He teaches film and journalism at Cape Cod Community College in West Barnstable. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or follow him onTwitter @TimMillerCritic. Or you can ignore him completely.


About the author

Cape Cod Wave

Cape Cod Wave is an online magazine covering the character and culture of Cape Cod. We feature long-form journalism, slices of Cape Cod life, scenic slide shows, and music videos of local bands playing original music.

Leave a Comment

error: Content is protected !!