Dune 2 Preview

So what is director Villeneuve creating out of the original book?

by Tom Hartig on November 26, 2021

Denis Villeneuve's "Dune" was definitely one of the hits of this movie year. Still, the blockbuster based on the book series of the same name by Frank Herbert in fact only showed part of what we know from the original books. Today we want to talk about "Dune: Part 2" and offer a small preview of the sequel, which will be groundbreaking for the further development of the "Dune" franchise. We will cover lots of events from the books, from the theatrical film and from David Lynch's old movie, so of course there is a correspondingly high risk of spoilers.


In "Dune", we were already introduced to the gigantic universe during the almost two and a half hour duration. The story takes place in the year 10191 and deals with the power struggle for control over the Galactic Empire of mankind. The focus is on Paul Atreides, a smart young man who cannot quite grasp yet what his great destiny will turn out to be. The son of Lady Jessica and Duke Leto Atreides I is not really finding his way around his new home planet of Arrakis, and is soon confronted with the death of his father and his escape with his mother from the forces of the hostile Harkonnen family. At the end of the film, he meets the girl Chani, whom he had previously only seen in his dreams, and joins the native Fremen. 

The ending of Part 1 is not as abrupt as it might seem at first glance, given the large-scale story. The first movie covered roughly half of Herbert's book "Dune" and concludes when House Atreides is more or less non-existent and it looks like an outnumbered battle. A ritual by which Paul and his mother gain the respect of the Fremen has already been depicted in the film: Paul fights Jamis in a knife fight to the death, as the laws of the Fremen demand. 

The second ritual, on the other hand, did not occur, which is why we assume that we will see it at the beginning of "Dune 2". This time it is the turn of Paul's mother Jessica as she has to drink from the Water of Life. However, contrary to its euphonious name, the Water of Life is not a tasty magic potion, but the poisonous excretion of a young sandworm drowned in water. The procedure has to do with the beliefs of the Fremen, because worms play a major role there. They are characterized by a great duality, since the worm can represent both God and Satan. By drinking the water, she becomes the Reverend Mother of the Fremen, a kind of spiritual leader. As Reverend Mother, she must then transform the Water of Life into a harmless drug that the Fremen enjoy to consume at their gatherings.

But how does the story go on in "Dune 2"? Those who know the books will know that after Jessica's ritual, there is a big time jump. Here, director Villeneuve should be particularly careful not to rush the story, after all, that was one of the major flaws of the first movie adaptation from 1984. So it may well be that they will take their time to depict the arrival and further life of Paul and Jessica with the Fremen. In particular, we have in mind the birth of Paul's sister Alia, who has already gained consciousness in her mother's womb through the water ritual and possesses special powers. She is also the girl with blue eyes, of whom Paul has some visions. Because of his successful fight against Jamis, Paul is called Usul by tribe leader Stilgar. It is translated as "the strength of the base of the pillar". Stilgar will later become a loyal companion and important advisor to the main character. The final acceptance by the Fremen is then also expressed in a completely new name for Paul, and that is Muad'Dib. In contrast to Usul, this is his common name, with which everyone addresses him from now on. Actually, in Arabic a similar word means "teacher".

A second story aspect that unfortunately comes up far too short in the book is the initial love affair between Paul and Chani, which also took its course during the great time jump. One could certainly fill hours with the unfolding of the relationship between Paul and Chani up until the birth of their first child. However, the challenge will be to find the balance between a debauched love story and interesting story details.

Either way, the book picks up quite late after the time jump. In addition to his personal family happiness, Paul grows more and more into a leader position among the Fremen and his initially not yet developed strength also becomes increasingly powerful. He is seen by the Fremen as the great savior that has been repeatedly prophesied to them, and many of the visions that have long haunted Paul will also eventually coalesce. Particularly with all the Spice the Fremen consume, Paul's powers continue to increase. As a result, Paul becomes sort of overpowering and is capable of looking into the past and the future, as well as seeing all the events of the universe at the same time.

It will be a special treat to see Paul riding the true fan favorites later in the film, namely the sandworms. When he then also drinks the Water of Life, which can actually only be survived by women, his powers will complete and he will be ready to finally face Baron Harkonnen.

Fate of Minor Characters

Interesting is the future of the character Gurney Halleck, embodied by Thanos actor Josh Brolin. The Duke's armorer is also Paul's trainer and has trained him for the adverse conditions of the desert planet. Similar to the Mentat Thufir Hawat, it is unclear whether and how they survived the Harkonnen's insidious attack. In the book, the Mentat is later forced into service by Baron Harkonnen, as his own Mentat Peter de Vries was in fact killed by Duke Leto due to a mix-up.

A different fate happens to Gurney, as he surprisingly survives the big battle and devotes himself to a life as a spice smuggler. In the course of the story, he also meets Paul and Jessica again, who, let's say, he is not too fond of. Particularly with the latter he finds himself at odds. There are, of course, more presumed dead characters with questionable destinies. On the one hand, there is the planetary ecologist Liet Kynes, who appears for the first time as a woman in Villeneuve's film adaptation, unlike in the book and in the 1984 film. According to the book, she is indeed dead, but then again, the question can be raised whether Villeneuve perhaps recast her for the reason of having her appear in the second part as well. In any case, the director can be credited with that much artistic freedom in a movie adaptation that is otherwise very close to the book. 

Even more likely is a reappearance of Duncan Idaho, who was possibly merely wounded but not killed in the attack on Arrakis. The likeable character, who is also played by the popular Jason Momoa, at least appears to have a future in the world imagined by Frank Herbert. He no longer appears in the old "Dune" film, but he does celebrate his return as Ghola in the second book. Strictly speaking, however, Duncan is no longer alive, because a ghola is an artificially created human being who preserves the memories of an individual and thus lets him live on in a certain way. 

Someone who was missing from the book is Shaddam IV, the emperor of the entire universe and undoubtedly one of the most powerful figures. Perhaps Villeneuve deliberately withholds him from us in order to then abruptly sic him on Paul and his companions as a new villain. The comparison to David Lynch's movie is interesting here, because there the emperor has a normal appearance. Anyhow, quite a few casting possibilities are circulating on the net, from Michael Fassbender and Jared Harris to Mads Mikkelsen or Ralph Fiennes. The slim, elegant man with the cold eyes described in the book would be perfectly suited for many actors, but there is no reliable information about casting yet.

All things considered, it can be said that "Dune: Part 1" takes place in a relatively short period of time compared to the possible plot of Part 2. The difficulty with the sequel is making a meaningful connection between the end of the first movie and the beginning of the second. Between Paul and Jessica's joining the Fremen and the big attack on the Baron, or even the Emperor later on, a fair amount of time passes. In between, Villeneuve has to accommodate a gigantic plethora of events, or at least cut them down enough in order to do justice to the scope of the book and an adequate big screen adventure at the same time. Jessica has to face the ritual, Paul becomes a Muad'Dib and learns to ride sandworms, and then simultaneously they have to prepare for the grand finale of the second part and include many of the aforementioned characters. Anyway, we are very excited about "Dune: Part 2" and look forward to the planned release in almost two years time on October 20, 2023.

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