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Steven Spielberg Reviews ‘Dune 2’: “One of the Most Brilliant Sci-Fi Films I’ve Ever Seen”

Steven Spielberg has weighed in on Dune: Part Two, and the iconic filmmaker had some strong praise for director Denis Villeneuve’s sequel — and for one scene in particular.

The duo appeared together on DGA’s Director’s Cut podcast, where the filmmaker behind sci-fi classics Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T. The Extra Terrestrial heaped praise on the Dune and Arrival director.

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“This is truly a visual epic, and it’s also filled with deeply, deeply drawn characters,” Spielberg said. “Yet the dialogue is very sparse when you look at it proportionately to the running time of the film. It’s such cinema. The shots are so painterly, yet there’s not an angle or single setup that’s pretentious … you have made one of the most brilliant science fiction films I have ever seen.”

Spielberg also got detailed in his praise for the blockbuster film. “There is such a yearning for water in this movie. For all the sand you have in this film, it’s really about water — the sacred waters that you are yearning for; green meadows and the blue water of life. You filmed the desert to resemble an ocean, a sea. The sand worms were like sea serpents and that scene [of Paul] surfing the sand worm is one of the greatest things I have ever seen, ever. But you made the desert look like a liquid.”

Villeneuve noted he shot specific scenes during specific times of the day — the scene where Paul [Timothée Chalamet] and Chani [Zendaya] kiss was shot over the course of four days, always in the same hour of each day, to maintain continuity. He added that sand dunes were “cast” for their orientation to each other within the frame. “It was the strangest casting I’ve done in my life,” Villeneuve said.

Spielberg also praised the effects work on the spice harvesters, particularly compared to the first film. “Those machines were incredible,” he said. “I thought the machines were incredible in the first Dune, and I don’t know what you did, but you did something to detail them more this time with the sand falling off the treads, that was awesome … Warner Bros. paid for more pixels, is that right? Because of the success of the first film, it’s good to have more pixels in our business.”

At the start of the podcast, Spielberg said that Villeneuve belonged in the pantheon of great world-building fantasy directors.

“So let me start by saying that there are filmmakers who are the builders of worlds and we know it’s a not a long list, but we know who a lot of them are,” Spielberg said. “Starting with [Georges] Méliès and of course [Walt] Disney and [Stanley] Kubrick. George Lucas, George Pal, Ray Harryhausen … [Frederico] Fellini built his own worlds. Tim Burton, obviously. Wes Anderson. Peter Jackson. James Cameron. Christopher Nolan. Ridley Scott, Guillermo del Toro. The list goes on. But it’s not that long of a list, and I deeply, fervently believe that you are one of its newest members of that list.”

In another interesting exchange, Spielberg asked Villeneuve about working with the cast, and Villeneuve noted Zendaya seemed particularly interested in his direction, coming to set and watching him and listening even when it wasn’t her scene.

“There’s someone that spent a lot of time behind the camera listening — Zendaya,” he said. “She’s very clever. I would not be surprised if one day we learn she wants to go behind [the camera].”

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