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  • Writer's pictureJacob Boelman

Dune: Part 2 - What's Different?

Dune: Part Two's secret to success

The results show that Dune 2 is a resounding box office success. Reviews aren't that bad, either. So, the question becomes, what is the critical ingredient to Dune: Part 2 success? Most movies to come out lately have been a bit of a disappointment. Disney's successful formula of remakes and sequels has taken a dramatic turn for the worse. Who knew a film industry that increasingly relies on rushed, effects-driven, paint-by-the-numbers, visionless films would struggle to captivate an audience?

Dune 2 is not a perfect film. After seeing it in the theaters, I felt several story elements were lacking. The arc our main protagonist, Paul Atreides, goes through in this film seems only half-baked. The scope is so grand that I felt they sacrificed some key story beats essential to buying into Paul's transformation. But this is not a review. I felt the need to write about this movie because I could tell from the first few seconds of watching the film that something was extraordinarily different. Even with a few issues about the story, I was utterly captivated. The greatest compliment I could give the movie is that it gave me the cinematic experience. I was transported into a dramatically realized world that excited me about cinema again.

Only after watching a movie like Dune: Part 2 does one realize how thirsty we are. We have found ourselves in the desert, where the epic film comes in a formula almost entirely void of originality or purpose. To change analogies, it is like being fed McDonalds or Burger King every night. What generic food do you want tonight, the shot-by-shot remake of an old classic or the hundredth sequel of the Marvel Universe? Some magnificent cinema has come out in the last year, but these usually come in much smaller pieces, often tailored for a more specific audience. But the event film has been almost entirely overtaken by the overstuffed Marvel Universe or other lackluster efforts to create an endless franchise. I know many will even consider the success of Dune: Part 2 as an example of the power of franchise building. It is, after all, a sequel in a lengthy series of books. But I propose an element nobody talks about as one of the main reasons for Dune: Part 2's success. Nature.

Yes, you heard that right. I had the "Ah-ha!" moment when listening to the director Denis Villeneuve talk with Roger and James Deakins about making his first Dune in 2021. "At the end of the day, [film] needs nature," he said in the interview. "You need nature on your side, and you can't invite nature. It's something you need to dance with". One of the unique qualities of the making of Dune: Part 2 was the location shooting. They shot in the desert for close to a month. Their location shooting reached three different continents, and Villeneuve embraced nature's uncontrollable elements. As he said, it's a dance. This simple change of going outside and "dancing" with the elements makes a massive difference in a world where the big studio blockbuster is more controlled than ever.

Villeneuve described nature as a director's greatest ally. His embrace of this ally is why Villeneuve's Dune has a weight to it. The feeling one gets when watching Dune is one of a realized world. It might not be everyone's cup of tea, but the honesty of each environment can't be questioned.

During the shooting of Peter Jackson's trilogy The Hobbit, Sir Ian McKellen, who played the great wizard Gandalf, broke down in tears. He couldn't handle the green screen that surrounded him in every scene. The Hobbit films completely changed from the prominent practical effect-driven Lord of The Rings series from a decade prior. Though there were green screen elements in the original Lord of The Rings, Sir Ian McKellen said he didn't remember those elements. When it was supposed to be an exterior scene involving him traveling across Middle Earth, he said you'd find him on a mountain somewhere acting.

We have the unique privilege of showing whatever the imagination can imagine. A great deal of this is achieved through the magic of visual effects. Dune: Part 2 has many awe-inspiring visual effects, such as the great image of the Sand Worms arriving at the battle shown above. But the power of reality can't be underestimated in film. Nature is the original inspiration and holds magic that can not be reproduced on a set. Letting go of control and being willing to dance with the elements may be scary, but the results seem to be speaking for themselves with the success of Dune: Part Two.

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