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Here’s why Dune: Part One is still better than Dune: Part Two

Two men stand next to each other in Dune.
Warner Bros.

After several years of hype and anticipation, Dune is back. Denis Villeneuve’s mammoth adaptation of the Frank Herbert novel of the same name has gotten the sequel treatment, and Dune: Part 2 is receiving many of the same plaudits and praise that Part 1 received when it was released in 2021. It grossed over $80 million in its opening weekend, and is on the path to outdo its predecessor.

Now that we have two parts to compare, though, the natural question is which is better. While Part 2 is certainly more action forward, and a lot of the setup from Part 1 is paid off in the sequel, here are some reasons why Part 1 may still be the better movie.

Dune gave us our first look at Arrakis

Arrival To Arrakis | Dune (2021) [4K 60FPS]

Among the things that Part 1 does so well is world-building. There’s a sense of grandeur and scale here that very few blockbusters manage to achieve, and much of that accomplishment comes when we’re first introduced to the desert world of Arrakis.

Although Part 2 maintains much of the world-building that makes this series feel so distinctive, none of it feels quite as impressive as the totally new world that we’re introduced to in Part 1. Maybe it’s just our familiarity with these environments, but Part 1 did the world-building first, and it did it better.

Dune has more time for its characters than Dune: Part Two

Zendaya and Timothée Chalamet as Chani and Paul looking to the distance in Dune.
Warner Bros. Pictures

Because Part 2 is so focused on the actual mechanics of Paul’s return to power following his exile at the end of Part 1, the movie has a little bit less time to focus on establishing its characters and what the dynamics are between them.

Part 2 still has moments like this, but none of them live up to the early scenes in Part 1 where you get a full sense of what Paul’s life was like when things were OK for him. Part 2 jumps us right into a crisis, and while its character beats are compelling, they wouldn’t work at all without the more careful work done in Part 1. 

Jason Momoa’s Duncan Idaho is a scene-stealer (and is missed in Part Two)

Duncan Idaho prepares to fight in Dune.
Warner Bros.

It’s not a spoiler to reveal that Jason Momoa’s charismatic rogue, Duncan Idaho, doesn’t make it out of Dune alive. The right-hand man of Duke Leto goes down admirably in a last-stand fight to save an escaping Paul and Lady Jessica from the invading Harkonnens.

That’s a shame, as Momoa gave the first movie a vital shot of energy that cut through Paul’s weepy moping and the heavy portentousness of the story. Duncan recalls another similar sci-fi scene-stealer, Star Wars‘ Han Solo, and both of them were needed to give levity to the story and lighten things up a bit with some humor. Dune: Part Two is serious, sometimes to its detriment, and you really feel the absence of his character in the film.

Rebecca Ferguson had more to do in the original

Timothee Chalamet and Rebecca Fergusson in one of the scenes from Dune
Warner Bros. Pictures

Both installments of Dune are carried by their remarkable casts, but the stealth MVP of this franchise to date remains Rebecca Ferguson, who plays Lady Jessica. In the first movie, Jessica is essentially a co-lead, and it’s clear that it’s because of her machinations that Paul is positioned the way that he is as a potential messiah.

While Jessica remains an important player in Part 2, she’s given a little bit less to do, and seems a little bit less human than she is in Part 1. Movies are better when they let Ferguson cook (just witness any of the last three Mission: Impossible movies, which excel because of her), and on that score, Part 1 gets the edge.

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Joe Allen
Joe Allen is a freelance writer based in upstate New York focused on movies and TV.
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