At least director Denis Villeneuve is upfront about it. Before you see much of anything in his new film Dune, the opening title card says “Dune Part 1.” It’s an admission that what you’re about to see isn’t the whole story—and by the end, whether you liked the film or not, you’ll certainly be curious what comes next.
Those answers are fairly easy to find. Just go get a copy of Frank Herbert’s Dune, which was originally published in 1965 and has been adapted in its entirety several times before. But as someone who once tried to read Dune and got about 30 pages before putting it down for several years, I know that isn’t the easiest ask. Even the adaptations can, at times, leave things to be desired. So io9 is here to help. Below, read how Dune Part 1 teases its potential sequel and what will happen in that movie if Warner Bros decides to greenlight it, which it has not yet (but is all but assured at this point).
First things first. Why end Dune Part 1 where it does, with Paul just meeting the Fremen? Simple: it’s Paul story. For the most part, Villeneuve’s adaptation of Dune focuses on young Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet), a teenager forced to move off his homeworld of Caladan to the desert planet Arrakis. Paul, the son of a duke (Oscar Isaac) and Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson)—a member of the powerful religious group Bene Gesserit—has visions of this planet and sees inherent danger and possibility there. Throughout the course of the movie, those visions persist and some of them come true, and after losing his father and most of his Atreides army in a battle with the evil Harkonnens, he finds safety in the deserts of Arrakis, a wild, unknown land occupied by an equally mysterious group of people called the Fremen. The Fremen live and thrive in the desert through discipline and tradition. Traditions that force Paul to kill a member of their group named Jamis (Babs Olusanmokun) in combat. Paul’s victory assures he and his mother have a place with the Freman, if he so chooses, and Paul does choose. He says his future lies in the desert.
So that’s where Dune Part 1 ends. Paul, his mother, and a group of Freman including a leader named Stilgar (Javier Bardem) and a young woman named Chani (Zendaya) heading off into the desert. Throughout the film, Paul has visions of Chani, which seems to play a big role in his decision to go with the Freman. And that choice is largely why this film ends where it does. It’s all about Paul’s character development. For the entire movie, he’s been unsure what his purpose is. Is he supposed to be the military and political leader of House Atreides like his father? Or an important religious figure as suggested by his mother? Paul’s decision to go with the Freman marks a crucial moment in his story—this is where he takes control of his own destiny.
Part 2 then, will be Paul fulfilling his destiny, and the first movie is filled with hints toward what’s to come. Paul talks of a plot to overthrow the Emperor by marrying one of his daughters. There’s a scene of Paul fighting with the Fremen where he has their trademark blue eyes. Many of his dreams featured him and Chani frolicking across Arrakis, clearly exploring some kind of romance. The Freman throughout whisper of ancient prophecies involving a boy and his mother coming to their planet, and Paul mentions to his mother that he knows she’s pregnant with a daughter.
All of those things should come to light in Dune Part 2. Villeneuve tweaked a bit of the story, making the ending slightly different (in the book Paul defeats Jamis back at the Freman home, called a Sietch, not immediately after they meet), and Part 2 is likely to pick up with Paul arriving at the Sietch and dealing with the consequences of that victory. Death is no small matter to the Freman and Paul will have to take on not just Jamis’ family, including a wife and kids, but his business as well. He struggles with it but also embraces it, and it’s the first of many, many acts that continue to endear him to the Freman. Also, those ancient prophecies of a great, spiritual leader begin to come true.
Paul embraces and relishes Freman life, quickly rising up the ranks to become their de facto leader—which, hmm—culminates in one of the series’ most famous scenes, where he finally snags and rides a sandworm. Along the way, he and Chani also fall in love and have a child. From there, Paul’s full Freman life gives him the confidence to hatch a plan to not just overthrow the Harkkonen leader that the Emperor placed on Arrakis after Duke Leto’s murder, but the Emperor himself. Major spoiler alert: after a massive battle, it works. Paul and the Fremen are victorious, though Paul and Chani’s child is killed in the battle. Paul then basically forces the Emperor to make his daughter, Princess Irulan, marry him, which assures his rise to the throne. A rise that Paul foresees could be hugely detrimental to the galaxy.
There are many, many more things to come in the second half, including a focus on new and existing characters. Bardem’s Stilgar is a huge player in this half, Josh Brolin’s Gurney Halleck makes a return, and, most crucially, Paul’s sister Alia is born. She’s one of the most fascinating characters in the entire series because at birth she already has the mind of every Bene Gesserit who was ever a Reverend Mother. That makes her a little creepy, very powerful, and hugely important to the ultimate end of Dune and the books that follow.
There are plenty more books, so yes, there could be. While basically all of Dune Part 2 sees Paul fulfill his destiny and rise to become the Emperor of the galaxy, that’s kind of a cliffhanger as well. What does he do once he has that power? Well, Villeneuve has said, if both movies do well, he’d also like to make Herbert’s second book, Dune Messiah. That book, just like Dune Part 1, is very much about the journey of Paul Atreides. Again, it’s exceedingly more complex than that (cough reincarnated Duncan Idaho cough)—Dune as a franchise continues in numerous other books—but Paul’s story, for the most part, concludes in Messiah. From all we know so far, it seems like Villeneuve is most interested in telling the complete saga of Paul Atreides, much of which is set up in Dune Part 1, but most of which will pay off in Dune Part 2.
Dune Part 1 is now in theaters and on HBO Max. Part 2 is rumored to shoot next year if it gets greenlighted.
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