Photo courtesy Warner Bros.

At its best, science fiction can use a fantastical backdrop to wrestle with some very down-to-earth issues and ideals.

“Dune: Part Two” allows writer/director Denis Villeneuve to examine some weighty things like religion, politics and destiny in the middle of a sweeping, epic, visually stunning film. Plus, sandworms!

Frank Herbert’s wildly influential novel “Dune” has seen its share of adaptations, but Villeneuve is the first to present its complexities and nuances in the grandest, most thrilling way imaginable.

Villeneuve used 2021’s “Dune” to set the stage of this intergalactic power struggle. In the distant future, the royal Atreides family is given control of the desert planet of Arrakis which is home to an incredibly valuable natural resource known as “spice.”

Young Paul Atreides (Timothee Chalamet) joins his family on the planet only to be ambushed by the rival Harkonnen family, led by the super-evil Baron Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgard).

While the Atreides family and their entire military are wiped out, Paul and his mother Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) escape into the desert and are taken in by the Fremen, the indigenous people of Arrakis.

In “Dune: Part Two,” Paul and Jessica learn the ways of the desert, while tribal leader Stilgar (Javier Bardem) starts to believe that Paul may be a prophesized messiah come to free the Fremen from oppression and restore Arrakis to glory.

Young warrior Chani (Zendaya) is skeptical of Paul’s status as the “chosen one,” but is still drawn to his bravery and determination, and romance begins to spark between the two.

Revenge against the Harkonnens is at the top of Paul’s mind and he bides his time in the desert while being haunted by visions of the future where he is the leader of a bloody genocide.

While the story has a lot to chew on, the visual spectacle on display here is one of the main reasons we go to the movies in the first place. “Dune: Part Two” is packed to the gills with thrilling battles, sweeping vistas and movie stars.

Chalamet and Zendaya are two of the hottest commodities Gen Z has to offer and they are joined in the cast by fellow trending up-and-comers Austin Butler and Florence Pugh. Holding down the fort of excellent, established actors with Ferguson, Bardem and Skarsgard are Josh Brolin, Dave Bautista and Christopher Walken. It’s like an entire awards show crammed into one movie.

“Dune: Part Two” solidifies Villeneuve’s vision as the sci-fi epic of our time and I can’t wait for the inevitable return to Arrakis to see what happens next.

“Dune: Part Two” is rated PG-13 for sequences of strong violence, some suggestive material and brief strong language.

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