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timothee chalamet in dune part two
timothee chalamet in dune part two
Niko Tavernise / Warner Bros
Culture > Entertainment

It Was Hard To Watch ‘Dune: Part Two’ 

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at VCU chapter.

Dune: Part Two released March 1, quickly became the highest-grossing films of 2024. Its global office has made about $494.7 million, and  $208 million of that figure comes from North America, with the rest earned overseas. The movie is the sequel to the movie Dune, which was released back in October 2021. It follows Paul Atreides, played by Timothée Chalamet, as he slowly accepts his prophecy of being the messiah of planet Arrakis. While doing so he meets his great love Chani and her people the Fremen. He has to learn how to adapt to being on a new planet where most aren’t that accepting of him. Compared to its predecessor, the sequel had a lot happening to the screen. With a runtime of 2 hours and 46 minutes, this movie did an astounding job of introducing new characters, all while developing the characters that had previously been introduced in the first movie. I would say that its sequel shines more than the first by a long run. I believe there was more to work with, however, I would not change the first movie at all. It was beautiful and it set the story well due to its incredible worldbuilding and acting. 

The main storyline of this movie is how Paul slowly becomes the Messiah of the Fremen people. As that story unfolds we see the Fremen people in their state of belief and their culture. One that is heavily influenced by Islam, the Middle east, and North African culture. Which I would say was fun to see but also felt unsettling. Being a part of a culture in which a majority of my life has been treated as a joke or seen in fear being displayed and being benefited from, felt wrong. 

I think having any type of culture portrayed on screen is a triumph. The world is filled with an abundance of civilizations and I think it’s an honor to have others to see their beauty. However, I think this is best done when having people who associate with that culture help carry that role. This was something “Dune” lacked severely. 

On one hand, I think the casting was amazing. At the moment, I can’t imagine anyone else playing the Fremen characters, I think Zendaya as Chani and Javier Bardem as Stilgar were ultimately great choices. However, when the chance to have people who belong to that culture is not given, it feels like a missed opportunity. “The film was shot in the United Arab Emirates and Jordan yet failed to feature such talent.” To this, I just ask why. I understand a person’s discography and name play a part when choosing roles but this also could have been a big moment for someone. There are many talented actors out there and I feel like the argument of not finding anyone capable of playing the roles isn’t strong enough. This isn’t an independent thought, after doing research, I found many who were also disappointed in the lack of inclusiveness to said respective cultures. Amani Al-Khatahtbehm founder of MuslimGirl.com stated “One of the big things we hear when it comes to Middle Eastern people getting cast or brown people getting cast is there is not enough talent. Yet there is no hesitation and no challenge for the industry to cast those actors from those backgrounds in the stereotypical roles of being terrorists or villains. Conveniently, we are at a surplus of Middle Eastern actors when it comes to negative portrayal.” I do see that there are some rebuttals to my emotions. One that I think would be prominent is the whole world of Dune is set thousands of years ahead of our timeline and the characters live on planets that differ severely from the one that we belong to. Although this is true, it doesn’t erase the fact of the influences the movie’s worldbuilding takes. Also, I’m pretty sure thousands of years down our timeline people of those respective cultures will exist, so it shouldn’t be a problem in resembling those who would.

Islam, a religion that is a source of influence for the Fremen’s way of belief, was one of the aspects I liked about this film. Unlike the first movie, we see the way of life of the Fremen, more specifically their way of belief. “Holy war,” a term used in the first of Paul’s monologues, which is a major turning point of the film, is derived from the word Jihad. Jihad, or Holy War, comes from the Islamic religion and the Arabic root jahada which means, “to exert strength and effort.” Now when Paul said this during the film, I easily clocked what word they were referring to. This was also a moment where I had the initial thought of the movie being hard to watch. I was also replaying the image of the Fremen praying, which was portrayed towards the beginning of the film and was pretty similar to the way Muslims do their daily prayers. Now I know I talked about how representation is a good thing and I want to say that I understand that the Fremen have influences of Islam and aren’t portraying Muslims specifically, but it still rubbed me the wrong way. I just thought of the countless years in which people would view Islam as a violent religion. How the way we pray has been ridiculed and then to see it portrayed on screen with it being no big deal kind of hurt, I do not know maybe I’m just bitter.

Another aspect is when it comes to the costumes of the characters. Yes, they wear things such as head coverings to protect themselves while being outside the desert, but one can not deny the root of its influences. A prime example would be what Anya Taylor Joy wore for the London premiere of the movie. She wore a white gown that was paired with a matching khimar. A khimar is a hijab that is long and wider than the regular scarf. In terms of length, it usually runs from the top of the head to past the person’s back and/or knee. Red carpet looks of premieres mostly mimic the aesthetic of the movie, in this case, Anya Taylor Joy did. It was frustrating to watch because many have called the piece beautiful, which it was, I won’t deny that but I couldn’t help but think if it was the other way around what would people say? 

Overall, I can’t say my emotions of frustration have subsided from the time I watched the movie. I think it will forever be in the back of my mind as I see the Dune franchise. The whole cinematic adaptation is a theme of what could have been to me. If I’m being honest I’m at a fork in the road where I can’t choose if this is something I should have negative feelings towards or something I should cheer on. Having this sense of bitterness sucks because I do love Dune. I enjoy the storyline and I do wish to see a third movie be made in the future. If it does come out, I will most likely see it in theaters and my ticket will add to the movie’s revenue. I also bet that when watching the movie, somewhere deep down, I will have that resentment, knowing that the culture we hold is fun in retrospect for an image but in real life, it has been one that like many cultures struggled to be seen in a positive light. 

Samah Elhassan is a writer at the Her Campus at VCU and she is very eager to share her ideas and broaden her skills in writing. She is currently a senior who is majoring in biomedical engineering. She loves the idea of using biomedical sciences to help improve the lives of others. Although this is her last year she is still eager to learn more within the field. In her free time, Samah likes to watch movies, hang out with friends, and play games. She doesn't have a favorite movie but tends to recommend Perfect Blue to anyone who asks. One fun fact about Samah is that she likes to crochet. She has made scarves and table clothes for friends and hopes to crochet clothes in the future.