Dune: Part 2 was released to much praise on March 1st, 2024 in theatres– praise came for the space opera timeline that took the usually hard to digest genre of hard sci-fi and made it palatable for all audience, as well as the intricacy of the set design, costuming and stellar story-telling. With films that have a longer run-time making an exaggerated come back on cinema screens, the 166-minute runtime sci-fi, action packed film was termed “a rare achievement” by Adam Mullins-Khatib of Chicago Reader.

Kyle Smith of Wall Street Journal was in awe of the cinematography: “Instead of a theme park, it's more of a cathedral -- solemn, sober, beautiful and forbidding. Greig Fraser's photography and Hans Zimmer's score are full of majesty.”

If compared to the first instalment of the series, people seemed to enjoy how the director had learned from the critique of the too uptight sombreness of the first movie to come out with something that stayed true to the original story and still captured the thematic concerns Max Weiss of Baltimore Magazine wrote: “I was a fan of first Dune in this series, although I logged similar complaints about its self-seriousness. This one is a little better; the action is just as thrilling but the characters are given more depth,” giving it a ¾ score. Peter Travers of ABC News too, wrote in awe of how the film had outdone the first part:

“The years first surefire blockbuster is a sequel that outdoes Denis Villeneuve’s first epic 2021 sand opera. OK, it’s a tad long and solemn, but Chalamet and Zendaya are destiny-kissed lovers to die for, and the thundering spectacle is off the charts.”

However, there was rigmarole on social media since the film was not yet released, especially over Anya Taylor Joy's outfit of choice at the Dune premiere. Christin El-Kholy at New Lines Magazine wrote of the outfit choice, reminiscent of a veil and abaya:

Similarly, as we have seen with “Dune,” Hollywood is happy to celebrate the appearance of Muslim women, so long as it does not actually have to put them in movies. Dior, one of France’s most famous fashion houses, is happy to drape a Hollywood actress in a simulacrum of Islamic clothing, while real Muslim women in France are fined for wearing similar items.”

“When is it deemed acceptable for women to wear their traditional clothing, and when is it labelled ‘terrorism’ enough to ban it and wage a war against it?” read one social media caption addressing Taylor-Joy’s outfit choice, by creative platform Slow Factory. Nadeine Asbali of The New Arab talks about commodification of Muslimness in a piece, saying, “Media outlets who have lauded Taylor-Joy’s “bride-like” ethereal look, the Instagram comments complimenting her timeless style and her fellow celebrities who posed beside her hijab-covered form have mostly been deafeningly silent on the plight of the women of Gaza.” This sentiment was shared after the release of the movie as well, as several social media posters, critics and analysts came forward to bash the movie for its orientalism.

Odie Henderson of Boston Globe writes: “Dune: Part Two” tries to explore ideas about whether an outsider should lead and/or save a race of people, but the half-hearted efforts are almost as bad as if these notions hadn’t been interrogated at all,” giving the movie a 1.5/5 stars. Kevin Maher of Times (UK) wrote: “Villeneuve has taken the worst and most preachy bits from Avatar, about how imperialism is fuelled by the exploitation of natural resources, and seemingly repackaged them with an orange Instagram filter and a couple of dozen heavy brass “braaaaam”s… Hanna Flint of the New Arab wrote a scathing review of the film, calling it a flawed “Muslim v Crusades” masterpiece: “There are too many characters to do them justice in a film more focused on the grandiose than the granular motivations of its side players or a more fervent exploration of imperialism and colonialism beyond 'good vs bad' and cultural aesthetics.” Ayan Artun of Digital Spy writes: “Take a step back for a moment from the star-studded cast and their wonderful performances and look at what they are performing in service of: a movie that is about the destruction of a MENA-coded (Middle Eastern/North African) community that has nobody from a MENA background anywhere in the main cast of actors.” X, formerly Twitter too, found itself abuzz with similar rhetoric of criticism as major media outlets– people whipping out their copy of Said’s seminal work, ‘Orientalism’ to critique the movie in the current socio-political climate.

Nevertheless, Dune: Part 2 has found itself at the forefront of discourse from critics and netizens alike and is perhaps the cinematic frontrunner for this year.

Sara Javed Rathore is an author and poet from Lahore. Her first collection of poetry, titled 'Meraki' won the Daud Kamal Presidential Award from the Pakistan Academy of Letters in 2020. She has also published another collection of poetry titled ‘Obituaries for the Dead and the Undead.’ She has interned as a radio host for Radio Kinnaird, as well as a mentor and radio coordinator. She also is a Staff Writer for The Friday Times on pop culture, media, entertainment, art and film.

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