SCREEN TIME: The Worm Turns

Spectacular ‘Dune: Part Two’ improves on predecessor in every way

#1 Dune2
Photo credit: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
BLUE STEEL: Zendaya (center) smolders as an alien freedom fighter in ‘Dune: Part Two,’ the second half of the sci-fi epic.

For a film that won six Oscars and grossed more than $400 million, 2021’s Dune feels like a movie more respected than loved. Adapting the first half of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi novel, director Denis Villeneuve crafted a dense, lavishly-appointed depiction of palace intrigue with futuristic factions battling for control of the desert planet Arrakis. Compelling and technically impressive, Dune also proved surprisingly muted in both its visual sheen and its emotional content.

Dune: Part Two, opening March 1, improves on its predecessor by every measure. Villeneuve brings more passion, excitement, humor and thematic depth in adapting the novel’s second half. Did Villeneuve make the first movie more restrained so Dune: Part Two would hit harder? Or did the filmmaker correct his course following earlier critiques? Either way, Dune: Part Two’s sandy space opera engages both the heart and the head, telling a breathtaking escapist adventure that wrestles with challenging ideas.

When last we left Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) and his mother Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), the aristocratic outworlders were two of the only survivors of an attack from the evil, greedy Harkonnens. The pair found sanctuary with a group of Fremen, Arrakis’ oppressed, desert-dwelling natives. Part Two takes up seemingly mere days after the first film ends as Paul works to win the Fremen’s respect. But some, like tribal leader Stillgar (a boisterous Javier Bardem), believe Paul could be the Fremen’s long-prophesied messiah, an idea that Jessica encourages to ensure her son’s safety.

The chilliness of the prior chapter gives way to warmer scenes as Paul, a capable but pampered rich kid, proves himself to the earthy Fremen, including young warrior Chani (Zendaya), who gradually falls in love with Paul despite her ambivalence about an outsider taking over their cause. Following the first film’s world-building and table-setting, Dune: Part Two has more room for thrilling action scenes of the low-tech Fremen outmaneuvering the Harkonnen’s shock-and-awe attacks. Greig Fraser’s cinematography shines like full daylight compared to the fog-of-war shadows of the predecessor.

Dune: Part Two’s derring-do has a moral weight that’s sharply different from, say, Luke Skywalker fighting the Empire. Paul experiences visions of embracing his messianic role and launching a bloody jihad across the galaxy. Chalamet’s performance slowly builds across the two movies as Paul grows from tentative teenager to consciously theatrical rebel leader.

It’s easy to read the novel as a white savior narrative on an alien planet, but the script by Villeneuve and Jon Spaights emphasizes the ethics of Paul’s dilemma. Is exploiting the Fremen’s belief system justifiable in fighting the planet’s brutal colonizers? Is Paul right to fear that absolute power will corrupt him absolutely? Chani emerges as the conscience of the film, with Zandaya movingly conveying the young woman’s divided emotions.

The film has occasional pacing issues, particularly when, an hour through, the perspective shifts for an extremely drawn-out introduction of Feyd-Rautha (Elvis’ Austin Butler), a charismatic Harkonnen heir built up late in the game as a rival to Paul. Fortunately Dune: Part Two resolves with a gigantic set-piece that, unlike most contemporary blockbusters, is not numbingly protracted.

Without spoiling any details, I’ll say that Dune: Part Two’s finale brings the story to a highly satisfying resolution that’s open-ended enough to leave you craving a continuation. It’s uncertain whether Villeneuve will go on to adapt Herbert’s sequel novel, Dune Messiah, but Warner Brothers would be foolish not to sign him up. Dune: Part Two operates on a level that leaves other epic fantastical films in the dust. —CL—


Sat., Mar. 2



Mad Monster Party? In this stop-motion animated feature film from 1967, Dr. Frankenstein hosts a gathering of iconic monsters who get into crazy hijinks. Presented by the Silver Scream Spook Show, a live, burlesque tribute to the classic horror hosts of yesteryear. 1:30 and 10 p.m. Sat., Mar. 2. Plaza Theatre, 1049 Ponce de Leon Ave NE, Atlanta, 30306.


Tue., Mar. 5


ADOLESCENCE: Ming-liang Tsai’s accomplished debut of the ‘90s. PHOTO CREDIT: From DVD cover

Rebels of the Neon God — Acclaimed Malaysian-born filmmaker Tsai Ming-Liang made his 1992 film debut with this film about restless youth in Taipei, part of the Taiwanese New Wave. This showing launches a three-part “Taradrome” series with the Tara Theatre in partnership with Videodrome. 7:30 p.m. Tue., Mar. 5. Tara Theatre, 2345 Cheshire Bridge Rd. NE, Atlanta, 30324.


Wed., Mar. 6, and Sun., Mar. 10


PAINS OF GROWING UP: Jennifer Connelly and David Bowie have problems. PHOTO CREDIT: Detail from DVD cover

Labyrinth A teenage babysitter (Jennifer Connelly) must journey to a magical realm to save her younger brother from the enigmatic Goblin King (David Bowie). This musical fantasy features puppetry from Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, some of which you can see at Atlanta’s Center for Puppetry Arts. Wed., Mar. 6, and Sun., Mar. 10. Atlanta area theaters.


Fri., Mar. 8


A New Leaf A pampered but penniless Manhattanite (Walter Matthau) marries a rich, mousy botanist (Elaine May) and contemplates murder for her money. Elaine May wrote, directed and gave a superb comedic performance in this neglected black comedy from 1971 that is finally finding its audience. Fri., Mar. 8. Plaza Theatre, 1049 Ponce de Leon Ave NE, Atlanta, 30306. 



Fri., Mar. 15


LOVE HURTS: Kristen Stewart stars in the steamy noir thriller ‘Love Lies Bleeding,’ directed by Rose Glass. PHOTO CREDIT: Courtesy of A24

Love Lies Bleeding A reclusive gym manager (Kristen Stewart) falls for an ambitious female bodybuilder (Katy O’Brian) but gets drawn into the activities of her criminal family (led by Ed Harris). Rose Glass, director of the spooky character study Saint Maud, helms this stylish, steamy-looking 21st century film noir. Opens Fri., Mar. 15. Atlanta area theaters



ART ATTACK: Julio Torres and Tilda Swinton star in Torres’ directorial debut ‘Problemista,’ a surreal satire of U.S. immigration and the art scene. PHOTO CREDIT: Courtesy of A24

Problemista A toy designer from El Salvador struggles to find a way to stay in New York before his visa runs out in this surreal comedy starring Julio Torres, Tilda Swinton and RZA. Expect Julio Torres, co-creator of “Los Espookys,” to bring similar stylishness and pointed politics to his directorial debut. Opens Fri., Mar. 15. Atlanta area theaters




Fri., Mar. 22

PROTON PACKS: Ernie Hudson (left) and Bill Murray suit up in ‘Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire’. PHOTO CREDIT: Sony Pictures

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire In this direct sequel to 2021’s Ghostbusters: Afterlife, the new generation of paranormal investigators go to New York to team up with the originals when ice-themed spirits attack the city. Veterans Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Ernie Hudson are joined by such relative newcomers to the franchise as Paul Rudd, Carrie Coon and some meddling kids. Fri., Mar. 22. At area theaters. 



HOST ORGANISM: Ingrid Torelli (from left), David Dastmalchian and Laura Gordon bring the supernatural to a 1970s talk show in ‘Late Night With the Devil.’ PHOTO CREDIT: Courtesy of Kelly Gardener

Late Night With the Devil — This clever-looking take on found footage horror takes place in the style of a fictional 1970s late night talk/variety show, in which all hell breaks loose. Reliably unnerving character actor David Dastmalchian plays the host.
Fri., Mar. 22. At area theaters.




Sat., Mar. 23-Sun., Mar. 24


GLOBAL ENTRIES: Atlanta DocuFest celebrates 19 years. PHOTO CREDIT: Atlanta DocuFest

Atlanta DocuFest — The 19th annual Atlanta International Documentary Film Festival, or Atlanta DocuFest, offers a program of independent nonfiction films and videos from around the world. Atlanta Docufest is held during the Atlanta Film Series, an annual showcase of independent film designed to spotlight every genre of cinema imaginable. Atlanta Film Series Events include: Atlanta Micro Short Film Fest (Mar. 22), Atlanta Shortsfest (June 21 - 23), Atlanta Underground Film Festival (Aug. 16 - 18), Atlanta Horror Film Festival (Oct. 4). Atlanta DocuFest, Sat., Mar. 23-Sun., Mar. 24. Limelight Theater, 349 Decatur St. SE, Atlanta, 30312.


Fri., Mar. 29


GODZILLA PLUS ONE: The famous kaiju team up again in ‘Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire.’ PHOTO CREDIT: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire This direct sequel to 2021’s Godzilla vs. Kong teams up the famous monsters in the face of a new threat. Given the standard set by Japan’s Oscar-nominated Godzilla Minus One, this Hollywood version will have to be pretty darn good to compete. Fri., Mar. 29. At area theaters.