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Dune: Part Two arrived in theaters last week to save the box office and take a victory lap as Frank Herbert’s classic sci-fi novel finally has a film adaptation the majority of critics and audiences love. It wraps up plot points from director Denis Villeneuve’s first film and completes the adaptation of the source novel in a genuinely surprising way – particularly for book readers who may have expected certain moments and phrases. But it is also clear the director is not done with the Dune world, as the film leaves several ideas hanging for an eventual follow-up.

Beyond the ideas he seeds in Part Two, Villeneuve has plenty of material to work with, of course. Besides the next book in Herbert’s initial six-novel cycle, his son Brian Herbert and sci-fi author Kevin J. Anderson finished the original saga with a two-novel conclusion (based on Herbert’s notes for a seventh book) and continued to expand the nature of the universe in many spin-offs focusing on the noble houses, the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood, and more. Thanks to the work of all three writers, Dune chronicles roughly 15,000 years of future human history. And that means book readers will have some idea of what comes next.

Nevertheless, the precise release window of the third film is unknown, as Villeneuve has stated it will not necessarily be his next film, but that won’t stop us from speculating. This is Dune, after all. Join us as we eat a bowl of spiced porridge, take a spice candy, and drink some spice coffee to open our prescient vision and visualize what a Dune: Part Three might look like and what might happen in subsequent installments.

[Note: This article contains spoilers for Dune: Part Two]


On The Trail Of Dune Messiah

Star Timothée Chalamet and director Denis Villeneuve on the set of Dune: Part Two (2024)

(Photo by Niko Tavernise/©Warner Bros.)

Although Villeneuve is being coy about when the third film will materialize, he has publicly stated (on a platform as large as Stephen Colbert’s talk show, no less) that he would love to “complete the arc of Paul Atreides” with an adaptation of Herbert’s second novel, Dune Messiah. Released in 1969, it is the slimmest of the author’s sequels and its most divisive.

Set 12 or so years after Paul Muad’Dib unleashes the Fremen jihad across the stars and 60 billion people lie dead, he ponders his choices and the version of the Imperium that now exists thanks to his choices as a young man. It is a more contemplative novel than the first Dune, a remarkable achievement considering the earlier novel mostly pushes its action into the gutters between chapters, but rounds out Herbert’s own misgivings about charismatic leaders.

Beyond Paul’s ponderings, the plot also includes a cabal of individuals — made up of both familiar faces and some new characters — crafting an assassination attempt while avoiding Maud’Dib’s prescient gaze. Evading the seeing eye is an idea foreshadowed in Dune: Part Two when Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) fails to predict Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen’s (Austin Butler) attack on Sietch Tabr.

Austin Butler in Dune: Part Two (2024)

(Photo by Warner Bros. Pictures)

Although not articulated in the film to any great extent, it points to an idea Herbert plays with in Dune with another character. Paul’s prescience does not include others who are also capable of seeing possible futures. Very late in the novel, he becomes aware of a character he never saw in his visions because that person was another potential Kwisatz Haderach. With all the talk of Feyd being an optional superbeing the Bene Gesserit could control though his vices, we’re convinced this idea was transferred to him and part of the reason why Paul’s fight with him was so difficult. They could not rely on their abilities to anticipate attacks.

This blind spot is of great importance to the conspirators in Dune Messiah.

Other faces you can expect to see in a Part Three — or, potentially, Dune Messiah — if it follows the plot of the next book include Charlotte Rampling as the Bene Gesserit Reverend Mother Helen Gaius Mohiam, Florence Pugh as Princess Irulan Corrino (now Paul’s wife), Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica, Javier Bardem as Stilgar, Josh Brolin as Gurney Halleck, and Zendaya as Chani.

There’s also one other face whose return would be something of a shock to those who have only watched the two Villeneuve films. We won’t spoil it here except to say if he does come back (in the form of a clone known as a ghola), it will suggest Legendary and Warner Bros. Pictures (the two production houses behind Dune) are committed to making more films after Part Three.


The Future Is Always Moving

Anya Taylor-Joy attends the "Dune: Part Two" New York Premiere at Lincoln Center on February 25, 2024 in New York City.

(Photo by John Nacion/Getty Images)

Of course, our predictions about Dune Messiah are based on more of a straightforward adaptation of the novel. But, at this point, Villeneuve and co-writer Jon Spaihts have introduced a number of surprising divergences that will have an impact on Part Three’s plot. Chief among them: Paul’s sister Alia.

In the first Dune novel, she is born shortly after Jessica drinks the Water of Life, aging rapidly thereafter. In Part Two, the poisonous water interacts with Alia’s developing embryo, giving her full consciousness but not accelerating her physical development. Instead, she makes her presence known telepathically through Jessica and through visions of Anya Taylor-Joy once Paul also drinks the Water of Life.

Although Villeneuve is coy about the actor’s further commitment to Dune, Taylor-Joy will presumably play a more mature Alia. Going by the book, she will be roughly 12 years old, but present as a fully grown woman thanks to the Water’s effects. But with the director already dropping the two-year time jump in the latter half of Dune, it is possible Part Three may take place shortly after Part Two ends, with Alia still in utero. Either way, Part Two leaves some wondering if Alia is meant to be the true Kwisatz Haderach or another of the potentials Mohiam and Irulan discuss in Part Two. Considering Alia’s story in the novels, it is possible she will want to be the One.

Also, to illustrate how much of the Dune future has already shifted for the film series, it is Alia, not Paul, who kills Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgård) in the book. Stabbing her maternal grandfather to death aged all of two years (while looking and acting more like she’s three times that age) has a profound impact on her character and her role in subsequent novels. The Water of Life may yet give her a lot of the same qualities as her book counterpart, but it may also lead to other outcomes.


The Real Kwisatz Haderach

Austin Butler and Léa Seydoux in Dune: Part Two (2024)

(Photo by Niko Tavernise/©Warner Bros.)

One of these outcomes may be her role in the prophecies the Bene Gesserit planted on Arrakis and countless other worlds. She may claim to be the Lisan Al-Ghaib and prove as worthy an adversary to Paul as Feyd.

But we do have other potentials to worry about. Consider, for a moment, Part Two taking its time to introduce Lady Margot Fenring (Léa Seydoux) and making it clear she slept with Feyd to “secure the bloodline.” While that exact tangent occurs in Dune, Herbert never follows up on it (his son and Anderson do eventually resolve this in the 2008 novel Paul of Dune). A movie cannot afford to introduce an idea like that just to shrug it off – although Part Two did shrug at Thufir Hawat’s (Stephen McKinley Henderson) part in the latter half of the novel – so Lady Fenring’s child may show up in Part Three as a rival to Paul or Alia.

Léa Seydoux in Dune: Part Two (2024)

(Photo by Niko Tavernise/©Warner Bros.)

Yes, it’s speculation of the highest degree, but also consider this: Tim Blake Nelson was cast in Part Two in an undisclosed role. His scenes were cut, but many assume he played Lady Fenring’s husband, Count Hasimir Fenring, the almost-Kwisatz Haderach Paul could not sense in the novel. Is it possible Villeneuve decided to hold the Count in reserve for Part Three and portray him as Lady Fenring’s son (her child is female in Paul of Dune)? Such a character could easily assume the role of yet another character introduced in Dune Messiah and pay off the Lady Fenring scenes in a really compelling way. Also, positioning Margot as a counter to Jessica would give the two actors a lot of interesting material to perform.

Presuming Part Three takes place a decade or so after Part Two, of course.

And that’s still a wild assumption at this point, thanks to the final shot of Chani and Part Two leaving her relationship with Paul in doubt. Would Villeneuve drive such a pronounced wedge between them if he did not mean to dramatize their reconciliation (or the complete disintegration of their realtionship)? Also, Chani’s final major contribution to the overall Dune narrative flies in the face of the character the director, Spaihts, and Zendaya have created. It would take an entire film just to get her comfortable with what occurs next. At the same time, though, if Villeneuve waits five or more years to make Part Three, then the time jump feels like more of a certainty, as do the events following that third film.


Following The Golden Path

Image of sandworms in Dune: Part Two (2024)

(Photo by ©Warner Bros.)

As we mentioned earlier, one particular familiar face will presage any Dune films past Part Three. As it happens, the character becomes the face of Dune following Dune Messiah, as their presence is the only consistent thing going forward. Book three, Children of Dune, follows Paul’s progeny, Alia, and a few other established characters on what Paul’s son will come to call The Golden Path.

Book four, God Emperor of Dune, revolves around Paul’s son, now aged some 3500 years thanks to events of Children of Dune, and his further designs for the human race along the Golden Path. The next books, Heretics of Dune and Chapterhouse: Dune, skip ahead another millennium to see the Imperium ripe for conquest and a new order pushing the Bene Gesserit out of their prominence as they prepare for an unseen threat. Books seven and eight — Hunters of Dune and Sandworms of Dune — resolve the last few novels and pivot Dune back to its beginnings. The ideas get headier and headier, leaving some to dimly recall how the first book was more of a pulpy adventure. It’s a lot of mid-1970s science fiction that, frankly, we doubt Warner Bros. has the intestinal fortitude to adapt. And that’s even before you consider finding a filmmaker willing to make a talking sandworm with little arms a major character.

All that said, a shrewd creative producer could make Dune a seven- or eight-film epic with directors switching out every two or three installments.

Director Denis Villeneuve and star Timothée Chalamet on the set of Dune: Part Two (2024)

(Photo by Niko Tavernise/©Warner Bros.)

Which brings us back to Villeneuve. Although he consistently states a desire to walk away after Part Three, will he really be able to leave a Children of Dune adaptation to someone else? Will he reach a point where he wants to realize the God Emperor in all its worm-like glory? Or, does he know that, for as difficult a challenge adapting Dune was, the difficulty curve spikes with book five to an astronomical degree?

It all, of course, remains to be seen. Part Three will present a logical and satisfying ending for the director, his team, and the studio. But the siren call of the other books, to say nothing of the expanded material spearheaded by Herbert’s son and Anderson, may be too tempting to resist.

For the first time in its life as a media property, Dune is an undeniable commercial success and a valuable asset for a media conglomerate. To continue, though, is to introduce ideas that are antithetical to that corporation. True, Part Two already features images and concepts not in line with the Warner Bros. Discovery’s corporate strategy, but the counter-culture notions amplify just a few pages into Dune Messiah and do not let up. Paul’s emerging darkness at the end of Part Two is only the beginning.

But if all we get is a Part Three (or Dune Messiah) after this, it will still be a staggering achievement and more than any spice-addicted Dune fan could ever have dreamed up.




94%


Dune: Part Two
(2024)
is currently in theaters.

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