Freeman Cebu Entertainment

Movie Review: ‘Dune: Part Two’ is beautifully action-packed with Dolby Atmos

Januar Junior Aguja - The Freeman

When I was still a college student in 2020, one of the movies I was looking forward to watching on the big screen was Denis Villeneuve’s take on Frank Herbert’s novel “Dune”, a story that some thought was unfilmable because of how it is incredibly long and complex.

Previously adapted in 1984 with David Lynch as director and starring Kyle MacLachlan, it was panned by critics and derided by Lynch’s fans, so much so that the “Twin Peaks” creator disowned the movie from his otherwise stellar filmography.

Given French-Canadian Villeneuve’s impressive credentials after helming “Arrival” and “Blade Runner 2049”, I was excited to see if the risk paid off because he is a great visual storyteller. I even put aside a bit of my lunch money for months so I could watch it in IMAX.

The pandemic delayed the movie’s release in theaters to October 2021 when it was simultaneously dropped on streaming in the US through HBO Max (now called Max). However, cinemas in Cebu were still closed due to community quarantine protocols.

Until last month, I wasn’t able to watch “Dune” because I was hoping to see it on the big screen at some point. When it was briefly re-released in IMAX theaters last February 7 by Warner Bros Pictures to build hype for the sequel, I finally took the opportunity to watch it the way I originally intended four years after its initial November 2020 release.

I had the privilege to watch the follow-up, aptly titled “Dune: Part Two”, on its first day in Philippine theaters on February 28, at Ayala Center Cebu where they upgraded Cinema 1 and 2 with Dolby Atmos speakers installed at every corner of the cinema hall, including the back and the ceiling.

Dolby’s spatial audio technology is intended to give viewers a more immersive experience wherein they can hear every single sound as if they are inside the movie witnessing as it is happening in real-time. In layman’s terms, it’s like 3D but with your ears.

If something is falling towards the land and it explodes, you will hear it from the Dolby Atmos speaker from the top. If you hear a whisper coming from someone on the right side of the screen, you will hear it from the right speakers.

This made me realize how important sound design is especially for these large-scale films. It’s a testament of how much Villeneuve wanted to treat his blockbusters as “art.” And it showed with his care to detail, even with the sound design, as any filmmaker should, in a time when blockbusters feel like IP cash grabs with little care on making a good story.

Anyone familiar with Villeneuve’s movies shouldn’t be surprised that he has a knack for transforming unfilmable stories to work on the big screen. A cinephile or filmmaker would know the common rule in screenwriting which is “show, don’t tell” and it’s presented here with how the characters react and adjust to their environment – not heavily relying on expositions or dialogue.

Unlike the slow-paced Part One which felt like a prologue as it establishes the lore of Herbert’s worldbuilding, the follow-up is more action-packed. This surely feels like a reward for those who sat through the first chapter and were expecting action scenes.

Timothée Chalamet strongly commands the screen with his journey as Paul Atreides who hesitantly accepts his destiny as the messiah of the Fremen. Viewers may notice some allusions to Jesus Christ’s journey to Paul, with how it explores themes of heroism that turns into idolatry. For sure, this will create online discourse on how these two are often blurred, and whether this heroism could turn into villainy at some point because of idolatry and a strong emphasis on prophecy.

Those disappointed with Zendaya’s little screen time as Chani in the first movie will be happy to see more of her in “Part Two” as she helps Paul into his journey of saving Arrakis from the House Harkonnen’s regime.

Florence Pugh does takes Zendaya’s place as the “female main star with little screen time” in this second installment. While she did the best she could given her limited role, some fans of the British actress may feel disappointed.

Austin Butler as the villainous Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen is effectively scary, and the ‘Elvis-isms’ he developed are not quite evident in this movie, which is impressive given how much his Oscar-nominated role hugely affected his speaking voice in press interviews.

If there is something to nitpick about “Dune: Part Two”, it’s how much of the lore was inspired by Arabian culture. One can’t help but feel sad that these elements are only appreciated if it’s been tackled and appropriated in a Hollywood movie. This isn’t necessarily a complaint against the creative force of Dune, but rather, against the viewers who may not realize that parts of the culture and its people that the books and the movies were inspired from exist in the real world and need to be appreciated and respected more. I hope this is something that they would ponder, especially with what’s happening in the Middle East.

Many would say that the bigger the screen, the better the movie experience. I usually agree with that statement, but it’s pointless to watch something when the speakers in a theater are subpar. Given how much Villeneuve exerted a lot of his artistic vision, “Dune: Part Two” is one that should be seen on the big screen, especially for cinephiles to appreciate the little details and casual moviegoers who just want to see an exciting flick.

If you are looking for a great cinematic experience at a reasonable price, the Dolby Atmos-certified theaters at Ayala Center Cebu are worth it with their ?350 ticket. You will feel immersed in Villeneuve’s vision of Arrakis and Paul’s action-packed journey that is beautifully presented on the big screen. Four stars out of five.

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