Setting the Tone | Hans Zimmer and Dune: Part Two

Examining the music of Dune: Part Two’s most vital scene.

Mark Chinapen
Modern Music Analysis


Source: Deadline.
  • Major story spoilers will be discussed.

Denis Villeneuve’s latest sci-fi blockbuster Dune: Part Two was released last Friday, and has already become one of 2024’s most talked about films. Based on the novel of the same name by Frank Herbert, the film continues the story of Paul Atreides and his journey on the desert planet of Arrakis. I recently had the chance to watch Dune 2 this past weekend and I must say, I was in complete awe with what I watched.

Villeneuve has been one of my favourite filmmakers in recent years and for good reason. He is excellent when it comes to casting (Prisoners), world-building (Blade Runner 2049) and storytelling (Sicario). Moreover, cinematographer Greg Fraiser helps bring Dune to life with excellent shot choices that convey a ton of emotion and emphasize the grand scope of Dune. Most importantly, composer Hans Zimmer helps bring everything together with an exceptional musical score that only he could come up with.

Instead of a traditional album review, I wanted to take a look at just one example from Dune 2’s score that showcases how the composition and the scene itself work together to make for one of the film’s most memorable moments. In case you missed the header above, I will be spoiling some aspects of the film, so read at your own risk.

Source: Nerdist.

By the halfway point in the film, protagonist Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) has undergone a drastic change in character. Despite the proclamations from fellow Fremen that he is the Messiah who will bring peace to Arrakis, his visions foresee that a holy war will occur if he does take up this mantle. Following an attack from the rival Harkonnens, Paul is given no choice but to drink from the Water of Life, a fatal liquid that can open up a person’s mind, and accept his fate as the “Lisan al Gaib” (prophet for the Fremen people).

As Paul makes his way to the southern regions of Arrakis where various Fremen leaders are meeting, the song “Southern Messiah” begins to play. The 5-and-a-half-minute composition effectively sets the tone for the duration of the scene. We get shots of Paul making his way through a huge (I must emphasize: HUGE) crowd of people, splitting them apart like Moses did the Red Sea. The horns swell and echo, and we hear voices harmonize and chant but it's clear from the get-go that this is not some heroic anthem. The mood is incredibly foreboding and sinister.

This first bit of Zimmer’s composition tells the audience that Paul has indeed accepted his role as a Messiah, but his intentions are not peaceful. He plans to fight back against the Harkonnens, weed out the Emperor, and establish full control of Arrakis. The once feeble boy from the first film is becoming a force to be reckoned with, and Hans Zimmer perfectly captures that change.

Source: Den of Geek.

As the scene unfolds, Paul begins to prove himself to the Fremen people despite his lover Chani’s (Zendaya) detest of his actions. Chalamet commands this whole scene with a powerful monologue, meanwhile “Southern Messiah” becomes more chilling. The horns and percussion kick in, while the string section plays an evil tune as Paul addresses the Fremen with hostility. The music that plays here now indicates that Paul has fully given in to his role as the “Lisan al Gaib”, and is deadset on leading an attack against the film’s antagonists. This section of the composition is much more ominous and clues the audience in on Paul’s vengeful intentions, while also showing off the sheer power he now holds.

The piece also captures the fears that must be running through Chani’s head. Notably, the violins that follow this section give a feeling of disappointment and betrayal. It illustrates how Zendaya’s character must feel, knowing that despite her best efforts to stop Paul from going down this path, he inevitably ended up doing so.

While Dune: Part Two has many more notable pieces of music by Hans Zimmer, I believe “Southern Messiah” outshines all of the compositions by Zimmer and fellow musicians made for the film. It does a great job at setting the overall tone for the scene, it indicates the change in Timothée Chalamet’s character, and lastly, it captures the emotional brevity felt throughout the scene as we witness one of the vital parts of the whole film.

For the last 3 days, all I can think about is Dune. I’ve become so enamored by this new film, the story, and so forth. Even going as far as starting to read the books on which they’re based. This will be one of 2024’s most talked-about films for sure (as if it isn’t already!) and Zimmer’s score will surely and hopefully, score him another Oscar nom for his work.



Mark Chinapen
Modern Music Analysis

I like to pretend I’m a critic. Writer and editor for Modern Music Analysis