illustration of landscape from Dune with the word Dune Part II on it
Illustration by Laura Browning, University of Colorado, Denver

What Can We Expect From the Upcoming ‘Dune’ Movies?

Denis Villeneuve’s 2021 film adaptation of the classic sci-fi novel was a huge hit. Amid discussion of the sequel, it’s the perfect time to ask what else is in store.

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illustration of landscape from Dune with the word Dune Part II on it
Illustration by Laura Browning, University of Colorado, Denver

Denis Villeneuve’s 2021 film adaptation of the classic sci-fi novel was a huge hit. Amid discussion of the sequel, it’s the perfect time to ask what else is in store.

“Dune,” the 1965 epic by Frank Herbert, is hailed as one of the best science fiction novels of all time. The classic was adapted to film by David Lynch in 1984, however, the movie disappointed many of the saga’s diehard fans and bombed at the box office. Flash forward to 2021, and Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve has delivered the “Dune” rendition that fans were waiting for. Meeting great success at the box office, the film grossed over $400 million worldwide and is up for 10 Oscars. Clearly, Villeneuve was able to do “Dune” justice on the big screen. However, this movie was only one of three projected films, with “Dune: Part Two” expected to hit theaters in November 2023. With such attention now on the franchise, what can be excepted from the upcoming movies?

Mary Parent, the film’s Oscar-nominated producer, revealed that shooting for “Dune: Part Two” will begin this fall. With a $165 million production budget, no detail will be spared. The team will return to Jordan — where the first movie was filmed — where they work nights and early mornings to avoid the desert heat. “It’s going to be another beautiful journey in the desert again,” Villeneuve told Deadline in a recent interview. He also added, “It’s a movie that will be more cinematic.” And we can all be sure, more sandworm.

Okay, but Why Chris Pratt?
Okay, but Why Chris Pratt?

Much of what made the previous “Dune” movie so successful will be carried into the new movies. Villeneuve will continue to bring his skill for translating the complex world of Arrakis onto the screen. Previously, it had been said that it was impossible to successfully adapt “Dune” for film, as the books themselves are incredibly complicated, with heavy worldbuilding, politics and plenty of strange names such as “gom jabbar” and “Bene Gesserit” that can leave even avid readers confused. This makes it incredibly hard to transform the source material into a comprehensive film. Even Lynch, an acclaimed director who is known for his work with the bizarre, was unable to do the story justice. This makes Villeneuve’s success even more impressive. Fans, you can rest easy. The future of Arrakis is in good hands.

In the sequel, the plot will center more on the second half of the book, following Paul and his journey among the Fremen. Paul and Chani, falling in line with Paul’s prophetic visions, will also become romantically involved. The House of Atreides will also expand to include Lady Jessica’s daughter, Alia, and her powerful Bene Gesserit powers. The Harkonnens will also play a bigger role as Paul builds his rebellion against them.

This general plot is something that readers of the novel are all familiar with. However, how much does Villeneuve plan on staying true to the original source material? In a recent interview, he revealed: “In the second one, I want to have more flexibility, and it will be possible to go a little bit deeper into some of these details.” He continued to explain his approach to the story building, stating, “It’s like a chess game. Some new characters will be introduced in the second part. A decision I made very early on was that this first part would be more about Paul Atreides and the Bene Gesserit, and his experience of being in contact for the first time with a different culture. Second part, there will be much more Harkonnen stuff.”

Javier Bardem, who plays Stilgar, the Fremen leader, shone a light on the details of Villeneuve’s adaptation in a speech at the Cannes Film Festival. “I’ve read the new draft and I think they’ve done an amazing job of putting together the pieces in a way that is going to surprise people. They won’t be surprised [by what happens], obviously, because they’ve read the book, but they’ll be surprised by the way they put it together. I was very moved by it. It’s a movie that is full, and you can feel the weight of it, and at the same time, [you can enjoy] the spectacularity of it. [I can’t wait] to go back to the desert with those people, and I’m so happy to go back with Denis, who is one of the greatest directors ever.”

In addition to some possible plot surprises, fans can get excited about some big casting decisions that are sure to make “Dune: Part Two” live up to the buzz. Austin Butler will take on the role of Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen, the bitter enemy of Paul. From Elvis to fantasy antagonist, we can’t get enough of him. Villeneuve assures us that Butler will have a big role to play, saying that Feyd-Rautha will “definitely be a very, very important character” in “Dune: Part Two.”

Christopher Walken, who you may recognize from “Pulp Fiction,” joins the cast as Shaddam IV, Emperor of the Known Universe. Paul’s wife, Princess Irulan, will be played by Florence Pugh, the daughter of Shaddam IV. Following 2019’s “Little Women,” this will be Pugh and Chalamet’s second time playing on-screen spouses, and their chemistry is unmatched. As filming has already begun, Pugh was spotted donning a linen shift and golden circlet, giving us a peak at what her costume as Princess Irulan may look like.

Good news for Zendaya fans as well. Chani will play a much bigger role in the sequel, which will hopefully satiate some of the disappointed viewers who were unhappy with her limited screen time in part one. Villeneuve told Variety, “For Zendaya, I will say Part One was a promise. I know that we saw a glimpse of her in Part One, but in Part Two, she’ll have a prominent part. We will follow Timothée [Chalamet] and Zendaya on their adventures in the desert. The thing that excited me most about going back to Arrakis is to spend time with those characters again.”

When Zendaya was asked about her role in “Dune: Part Two,” she told Deadline, “Well, I can be there for longer, which is cool. I want to grow with the characters I play, and with the people that I get to learn from. Anybody who has read the books knows there’s so much more to explore and deal with. What was cool for me, having not been around for much of the first shoot, was getting to see the movie from a completely fresh perspective, because I hadn’t seen the sets and the scenes for most of the movie. Watching it felt like just the beginning of this story.”

With so much to look forward to, it’s sad to think that fans will have to wait a whole year to see how the saga unfolds. However, with such a promising director and a star-studded cast, the film is sure to be worth the anticipation. Villeneuve has projected a third movie to follow “Dune: Part Two,” using the plot of Herbert’s second novel, “Dune Messiah.” There will also be a spin-off TV series on HBO Max called “The Sisterhood,” set to be centered around the Bene Gesserit. So, “Dune” fans, get ready. The horizon ahead is glittering with spice.

 

Writer Profile

Kaitlyn Anderson

Cornell University
Communication, Biology and Society

Kaitlyn Anderson is a student at Cornell University. She loves to explore the intersection between science and humanitarian studies. She lives in New Hampshire where she enjoys hiking and surfing.

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