Like Zendaya’s Chani says at the end of Denis Villeneuve’s Dune: “This is only the beginning.” That’s because the highly anticipated movie is actually Dune Part One – not the entire story of Paul Atreides and his messianic rise. Dune wasn’t loudly billed as a two-parter, but as the opening credits roll, it’s hard to miss the “Part One” under the title card.
Villeneuve hasn’t been quiet about his desire to split Dune into two movies. He told Total Film back in August “there’s no such thing as Dune 1 and Dune 2, it’s Dune: Part One and Dune: Part Two” before pointing out that only “a really bad outcome at the box office” would result in no Dune: Part Two. Frank Herbert’s original novel is a hefty one, and even with Villeneuve’s impressive streamlining of what is most definitely a heady and tough-to-conquer plot, Dune still demands two films. The book itself is split into three parts, but it’s clear Villeneuve has taken part two of the books and straddled it between the two movies.
So, you’ve seen Dune and you were wowed by the sweeping sands of Arrakis and the hardiness of its people, the Fremen. You’ve seen the beginnings of Paul’s journey towards something far bigger than him or his noble family. Maybe you haven’t read our Dune beginner’s guide or Herbert’s book, but you still want to know what Dune 2 will entail. Don’t worry, we got you covered.
SPOILERS AHEAD FOR THE 2021 DUNE FILM AND THE NOVELS
Lisan al-Gaib becomes Muad’Dib
At the end of Villeneuve’s Dune Part One, Paul and his mother Jessica have been accepted into the Fremen tribe. Just after Paul and Jessica narrowly escape a sandworm drawn by their footsteps in the sand, a Fremen named Jamis challenges Jessica, demanding she nominate a champion to fight in her stead, as Fremen men do not fight women. Paul steps up to fight on her behalf, but after trying several times to get Jamis to yield, he is forced to kill him. Paul and Jessica, having earned their place in the tribe, join up with the Fremen group that includes Stilgar and Chani and head to their Sietch, a hidden stronghold nestled amongst the dunes. As they’re walking, the two notice a Fremen riding a sandworm through the desert and realize that the Fremen are more in tune with Arrakis than they could have ever imagined. Chani turns back to Paul and says: “This is only the beginning.”
And indeed it is. Paul is well on his way to becoming the prophesied Messiah figure whose story the Bene Gesserit have planted on Arrakis ahead of the Atreides’ arrival. In the novel, shortly after Paul defeats Jamis, Stilgar gives Paul a name secret to their specific sietch: Usul. Paul then chooses a name that the entire tribe can call him, and picks Muad’Dib, a small mouse native to the dunes of Arrakis. In the novels, this is the name that Paul hears the Fremen calling him in his premonitions.
Paul’s killing of Jamis is a crucial rite of passage that allows him and Jessica to assimilate into the Fremen tribe. In Villeneuve’s film, Paul refers to Jamis as a guide, the person responsible for taking him down the path to becoming this powerful figure; when Jamis dies he takes a version of Paul with him and sets Paul squarely on his journey to becoming the Lisan al-Gaib, or the off-world prophet. However, from the moment Paul steps foot onto that path in the novel, he begins to butt heads with Jessica, whose Bene Gesserit teachings and beliefs trouble Paul. He fears the Bene Gesserit way will lead to an all-out war in his name and he rebukes this idea (in the novel, he fears his messianic rise will invoke a “jihad”).
The Kwisatz Haderach
Shortly after they are welcomed into Sietch Tabr, Jessica takes part in a ceremony in which she ingests the Water of LIfe, a poisonous blue liquid that she must convert into a powerful drug that gives her hyperawareness. This act is done by Bene Gesserit in order to become reverend mothers, and Jessica does this to replace the Fremen clan’s dying reverend mother. The ceremony causes her to be flooded with the knowledge of all of the reverend mothers before her, as well as knowledge of the history of the world even before the Bene Gesserit. Jessica’s unborn child, Alia, is subjected to the same influx of information. When she is born, Alia is aware of humanity’s entire history and its collective consciousness.
A good chunk of Dune Book 2is covered in the first Dune film by Villeneueve, so expect the first half of the second film to move swiftly as it shifts into Dune Book 3, which takes place two years after the end of Book 2. Alia is a toddler who has given the Fremen people the creeps because of her ability to walk and talk like an adult, and the Harkonnens are still trying to gain an even stronger foothold in the galaxy, with the Baron grooming his nephew Feyd-Rautha to succeed him (Feyd was cut from Villeneuve’s Part One, and it’s unclear if he’ll be in Part Two). By Book 3, Paul has established himself as a leader on Arrakis both politically and religiously – he even learns how to ride a sandworm. He has a child with Chani, who he names Leto II.
Paul and Jessica train the Fremen in the weirding way of battle and Paul leads them in raids against the Harkonne’s spice gathering efforts. The Baron instructs Beast Rabban to tighten his grip on Arrakis so that he can instate his quieter, calmer nephew at a later date to the relief of the planet’s people. Gurney Halleck, alive and now a smuggler, is reunited with Paul and Jessica after the Fremen raid his harvester. In the novels, Gurney and Duke Leto have doubts over Jessica’s loyalty to the Atreides, but Villeneueve cut this plot point out of the film entirely, so – if it happens – expect Gurney and Jessica’s reunion to be a bit warmer in the movie than in the novels.
However, Paul does not foresee a reunion with Gurney, and worries that his prescience is waning. He decides to drink the Water of Life, which is fatal to men. He falls unconscious for weeks but awakens as the Kwisatz Haderach and has the ability to see across time and space. Fearful of unleashing the power of the Fremen on the galaxy, but aware of the Emperor and Baron’s plans, Paul and Gurney prepare to defend Arrakis against an attack.
The Harkonnens and the Emperor’s troops (the Sardaukar) capture Alia and kill many Fremen, but Paul and the Fremen lead an attack on the back of sandworms that ultimately defeats the villainous House. Alia assassinates the Baron and Paul demands the Emperor give up the throne. Paul suggests that he should ascend to the throne by way of marriage (he mentions this in Villeneuve’s film when talking to Liet Kynes). He marries Princess Irulan, daughter of the Emperor, but keeps Chani as his concubine and true wife.
Now in control of the Empire, Paul realizes that, despite his efforts, the Fremen’s belief in his power as the Kwisatz Haderach is too strong for him to contain them, and he fears they will cause many deaths across the galaxy. The end!
Now, that’s how the Dune book plays out, but we already know that Villeneuve is okay with changing some things around, so expect some deviation from the text. Let’s hope that with the studio’s decision to not film the two parts back-to-back, we get Dune Part Two sometime soon.
While we wait for the sequel, check out our interview with Denis Villeneuve, talking the books, Part Two, and the future of cinema.