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Trailer Analysis: ‘Dune: Part Two’ second trailer shows Denis Villeneuve reaching new cinematic heights

Just when “Dune” fans and cinephiles were starting to settle back down after the release of the first trailer for “Dune: Part Two” – less than two months ago – Warner Bros. and Legendary decided to blast us with an extra high dosage of spice in the form of a second trailer.

The first trailer was a great reintroduction to the world, but this one pulls out all the stops in terms of action, effects and characterizing this film as a true, all-out war. It’s the exact type of trailer this film needs to grab attention and catapult the interest of general audiences forward – especially with it likely to play in theaters around the world this month with “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One,” “Oppenheimer” and even WB’s own “Barbie.”

To avoid redundancies, I am not going to touch on anything explored in Trailer 1, as I already covered that in my first trailer breakdown. Like last time, I will not go into any plot points or details that were not already established in the first film, so non-book readers can consider this article spoiler-free.

Our first moment of action shows a Harkonnen gunship unleashing a barrage of fire on a rocky hillside, with what looks to be holes and paths lining the sides of the hills and hilltops. This may be a take on the “sietch”Fremen community from the novel, or some sort of other Fremen stronghold. Guerrilla warfare is a constant in this trailer.

Next, The Baron (Stellan Skarsgård) seems to be delivering a speech to Rabban (Dave Bautista) and his Harkonnen troops, and maybe there is a ceremony going on, comparable to the one with saw with the Emperor’s Sardaukar troops in the first film. Initially, it would appear this is a new look at Giedi Prime in the daylight, but there is considerable mountainous terrain in the surrounding area, and Giedi Prime is an entirely urban and industrial planet. This may be a new basecamp established somewhere on Arrakis or a new installation in the capital Arrakeen, with no shortage of bulbous architecture and oily black color palette.

Paul talks about the massacre of his family as we see piles of burning Atreides corpses, ignited by Harkonnens with flamethrowers. Atreides barracks to the left of frame are visible, which we saw Atreides troops running out of in “Part One” during the night attack on Arrakeen. Paul (Timothée Chalamet) is telling this to Chani (Zendaya), alongside other Fremen, and they appear to be in a stilltent. We also get another look at the bright orange-colored sequence from the first trailer, this time featuring Lady Jessica ambushing a Harkonnen soldier and beating him with a rock. A later shot shows Paul and Chani hiding on a dune, with a group of Harkonnen approaching. It is still unclear what the cause of the coloring is, whether it is a vision sequence, a natural phenomenon of Arrakis or something else.

In another action sequence that is revisited throughout the trailer, we see a shot of Fremen running under/in between treads on a spice harvester during what looks like an ambush. There is a Harkonnen ornithopter shown hovering next to the harvester, with the thopter’s shield being penetrated and the thopter exploding. We cut to Chani holding a rocket launcher-type weapon, ducking back under the harvester. She is firing the weapon, while Paul is reloading for her. Right before the WB and Legendary logos, we get an awesome close-up of Chani gazing through the sight of the weapon, with the thopter reflected in the sight.

We get another establishing shot of an expanse of desert, with a wide and bubbly rock formation and what appear to be holes in the top. At a glance, this could be another sietch community, but it is later shots that seems to confirm it. We see Paul delivering a speech in the center of a truly enormous cavern, with countless Fremen rising throughout and raising their crysknives in salute. Light pours in through holes in the ceiling of the space, providing depth and showing off the scale in this brilliantly-designed shot.

While most of the trailer highlights the violence and darker tone, there is a nice beat of levity when Paul and Chani appear to encounter another group of Fremen, and they say Paul is not welcome… which Paul picks up on pretty easily.

Another lighter moment comes when Gurney Halleck (Josh Brolin) reunites with Paul. This reveal tees up a point of conflict between the two, however, where Gurney – not unlike Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) – pushes Paul to embrace the work done by the Bene Gesserit to position Paul as a prophetic figure. “Why is that a bad thing?” Gurney asks, before urging him to use it. “Because all my visions lead to horror,” Paul says. Just like in “Part One,” Villeneuve continues to emphasize the disturbing weight of Paul’s visions and the potential for disaster. The sequence concludes with Paul saying the horror comes as a result of him gaining control, leading to a close-up of a bloody crysknife (likely held by Paul) and what is actually our very first look at the Emperor Shaddam Corrino IV (Christopher Walken), dressed in white and standing in the background.

This leads to a proper introduction to the Emperor and his homeworld of Kaitain, the capital of the imperium. We see bright but pleasant sunlight, lush flora, Princess Irulan (Florence Pugh) playing a board game with her father. After getting the news that Paul is still alive, we hear the Emperor order someone to “deal with this prophet.” The line introduces just the person who perhaps can topple Paul: Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen (Austin Butler). We start with a close-up of his hands holding his dueling blades, combined with his outfit to almost make him look like a butcher. We then get a great close-up of Feyd as he stares up at who we can assume is the Baron. It is an infantilizing view of Feyd, which reinforces how he is ultimately just a pawn to be played in the Baron’s schemes and (at least in the book) a young man or borderline teenager – comparable to Paul in age.

“Show me who you are,” Baron says, presumably looking down at the gladiatorial arena. Feyd charges at the prisoner-gladiator, and we get a new look at his ferocious combat style, as well as a better glimpse of the absolutely nightmare-fuel gladiatorial handlers from the first trailer. These handlers are mentioned offhand in the book, with no description, and they are responsible for overlooking and assisting Feyd in the arena. Here, they appear frighteningly tall, drenched in black and with very lithe builds. The most striking feature, however, is the massive and horn-like headpiece. It is unclear if these are some sort of Harkonnen-engineered humanoid creature or if these are some other race of Harkonnen that are selected for this special role, and I almost hope that Villeneuve leaves it to the audience’s imagination.

The figure in this first shot is holding what looks like some sort of long cane or riding crop-type weapon, and we can see what must be the body of another gladiator laying in the background. We see at least three more of these handler figures in the shadows of the reverse shot, with two of them holding a long weapon in each hand and stalking Feyd and Atreides Lieutenant Lanville (Roger Yuan). Feyd takes down Lanville, and we get to see Feyd cut into him with both blades for the killing blow. We cap off our time on Giedi Prime in this trailer with an incredible view of Feyd raising his hand in victory, below the hundreds of thousands of Harkonnen spectators that fill the enormous coliseum. 

We get one more moment with Walken as the Emperor, face-to-face with Paul and telling him “Your father was a weak man.” His icy delivery and piercing eyes remind me how great it is to have Walken back in a big, dramatic film role. The reverse shot of Paul has him almost twitch or wince at the words, and Paul looks like he has been through hell; blood and dirt cakes his face.

We get another view of Harkonnens bombing a large rock formation, which must be another Fremen stronghold, and this time it looks like the armada of thopters we saw flying in formation in the first trailer. It is no surprise at this point, but it is worth noting how exceptional the effects look on the thopters and the explosions, especially four months from release.

We get a mind-blowing bird’s-eye view shot above a crowd of thousands of Fremen. Upon first glance on my phone, I thought this was a shot of shifting sand, but it is Paul walking through the crowd as they part for him. It is an incredible use of scale and perspective by cinematographer Greig Fraser. A close-up reveals Paul with his most Fremen-like appearance: stillsuit, nose plugs, a full hood and cloak, sporting the blue eyes of Ibad.

In the final third of the trailer, the pace speeds up and the action intensifies. Chani is shown fighting through a crowd of Sardaukar in a sequence of moves that clearly recalls Paul’s vision of fighting the Sardaukar on the plains of Arrakeen. The Sardaukar have their same designs, but the armor of Chani and the other Fremen is drastically different from the gold design in the first film. It looks far more understated and organic, even evoking the texture and color of the sandworms.

“This prophecy is how they enslave us!” yells Chani. This is not the first moment of friction we get from her in the trailer, including another shot of her looking more than a little concerned. It will be interesting to see what Chani’s elevated involvement in this adaptation means for her relationships with the other characters compared to the novel. We then get a quick look at the duel between Paul and Feyd, with the latter having a bloody nose and mouth but having his hand wrapped behind Paul’s neck and his knife driving toward Paul’s face. This deserves to be one of the most intense and suspenseful scenes in both movies, and it looks like it should live up to the hype.

As we barrel toward the trailer’s conclusion, Paul’s speech starts up, with us finally hearing his Muad’Dib title spoken for the first time. He appears to be inside the enormous sietch that we saw earlier in the trailer, declaring himself “Duke of Arrakis” as he rallies the Fremen. Paul then shouts “Long live the fighters!” from the rocky precipice we saw in the first trailer, followed by a cut to a massive battle charge on the plains of Arrakeen, with a metallic pyramid towering in the background.

We close out the trailer with an iconic line from the novel: “He who can destroy a thing has the real control of it.” Spoken by Paul, the line plays over a close-up of Paul that zooms in just as a massive explosion goes off, over-exposing his face with light. The final, reverse shot reveals the explosion in the distance, near the aforementioned pyramid and what looks to be a round imperial ship, like the one seen in the first film. Paul stands on a cliff and basks in the glow of his violent work.

Denis Villeneuve expressed plenty of excitement about tackling the second half of this story when promoting the first film, describing it as “much more fun,” “much more dynamic” and “pure cinematic joy.” Villeneuve looks to be living up to that billing, challenging himself with new styles of filmmaking and pushing the envelope for what the modern Hollywood blockbuster is capable of.

In just four months, we will all be able to bear witness to the definitive sci-fi epic.

“Dune: Part Two” releases in theaters November 3, 2023.

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Johnny Sobczak View All

Johnny Sobczak is an entertainment journalist and graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he majored in Media and Journalism and minored in Global Cinema. Johnny is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association and has been with Inside the Film Room since August 2019. He was named Senior Writer in January 2020 and co-hosts the Inside the Film Room podcast with Zach Goins. Johnny spends his days job-hunting, watching films and obsessing over every new detail of Denis Villeneuve's "Dune."

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