The Dune universe, as conceived by the novelist Frank Herbert, has little space for progressive nostrums. Set some 8,000 years into the future, it is defined by patriarchal feudalism and chiliastic messianism; having mastered interstellar travel, humankind has also forsworn computing technology. Yet progressive nostrums are just what the celebrated Canadian director Denis Villeneuve gives us in Dune: Part Two, the second film in his planned trilogy based on the saga.

A particularly didactic and cringe-inducing political moment takes place during one of the on-the-hot-sand love scenes between Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) and his love interest, Chani (Zendaya). Paul is the “Chosen One” of the first two of Herbert’s novels, Dune and Dune Messiah. He is the son of Duke Leto of House Atreides, the ruling house of what might be called a planetary fief within a system of thousands of planetary fiefs, each with its own ruling house. Over this feudal order of planet-fiefs reigns an enervated, though somehow still menacing, Christopher Walken as the Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV.

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