What is ‘Dune: Part Two’ based on?

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If you were someone who came into Dune not knowing much about it, you might not have known that it was a part one. The movie clearly ends in the middle of the story it’s telling, and at the time, there was basically no guarantee that we would ever get to see part two. Thankfully, the movie was a pretty big hit, and now Dune: Part Two will hit theaters in November of 2023.

What is the second Dune movie based on?

Dune: Part Two adapts the second half of Frank Herbert’s novel Dune. In the first movie, we saw Paul Atreides (Timothee Chalamaet) and his family travel to the planet Arrakis, where they were eventually betrayed and his father Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac) was killed. Paul and his mother Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) managed to escape, and they now find themselves living among the Fremen, the planet’s native population.

The betrayal of the Atreides family, which serves as the climax for the first film, was undeniably thrilling, but the story of Dune is far from over. Part Two will pick up at some point after Part One, although it’s possible that a fairly significant chunk of time will have elapsed. Part Two should, however, adapt the rest of the novel, which means that any future sequels will have to adapt the other books in Herbert’s broader story.

What will happen in Dune: Part Two?

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Image via Warner Bros.

Warning: the rest of this post contains spoilers for the plot developments in Dune.

If director Denis Villeneuve continues to stick fairly closely to the events of the novel, then Paul will likely be living among the Fremen when Part Two picks up the story. The novel contains a two-year time jump, but one thing that still has to happen before that time jump is Paul’s mother Jessica’s decision to become a Reverend Mother by drinking the water of life. It’s a move that will only increase her magic as a member of the Bene Gesserit, and it’s also one that will make the daughter she’s currently pregnant with incredibly powerful.

Following the time jump, we’ll likely find that Paul and Chani, the Fremen played by Zendaya, are in a relationship and have a son together who is named after Paul’s late father. We understand that Paul’s ability to see the future is real, and the Fremen begin to see him as their messiah. This narrative is complicated, though, by the revelation that the messiah myth that the Fremen believe in was actually planned centuries ago by the Bene Gesserit, the maternal order of witches that Jessica is a part of. Paul understands his power over them, but also realizes that their faith in him could ultimately spur unrestrained violence across the entire known universe.

Paul also recognizes that the Fremen could be just the fighting force he needs to take back Arrakis from Baron Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgard), the man who orchestrated the murder of Paul’s father. Harkonnen becomes aware of the new leadership of the Fremen thanks to their successful raids on spice mines all over the planet, which is reducing the spice output from Arrakis. Harkonnen is also attempting to pit his two nephews against one another with the goal of elevating Feyd Rautha (Austin Butler) to be the new head of Arrakis one day.

Harkonnen, who allied with the Galactic Emperor (Christopher Walken) to take out Paul’s father, also finds that that alliance is strained as the Emperor begins to suspect that Harkonnen means to supplant him. The Emperor eventually sends spies to monitor the planet, and Harkonnen’s activities more specifically.

Paul, meanwhile, is reunited with Gurney Hallick (Josh Brolin), one of his father’s most loyal foot soldiers. Gurney has been working as a smuggler since the Harkonnen’s recaptured the planet, and he initially believes that Jessica was responsible for betraying Paul’s father. Paul convinces him otherwise, but is alarmed by the fact that he didn’t foresee Gurney’s return. As a result, he decides to drink the water of life, which is typically fatal in males. He is knocked unconscious for several weeks, but when he wakes up, he has become the Kwisatz Haderach, the mythical being that the Bene Gesserit have been working toward for millennia.

Paul retakes Arrakis

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Image via Warner Bros.

Paul begins to sense that the Emperor and the Baron are planning an attack on the Fremen, and the Emperor does attack a Fremen outpost, killing Paul’s son and capturing his sister. The Fremen then invade the capital under cover of a massive electrical storm, and thanks in part to their ability to ride sandworms, manage to overwhelm the combined forces of the Emperor and the Baron pretty easily. Paul’s sister, meanwhile, escapes capture and manages to assassinate the Baron.

Paul then confronts the Emperor, who arrived on the planet along with the Baron before the fighting began. He threatens to cut off all spice production unless the Emperor agrees to abdicate the throne. Feyd Rautha then interrupts, challenging Paul to a ritualistic knife fight. Rautha attempts to cheat during their duel using poison, but Paul ultimately gets the upper hand and kills him.

The Emperor then cedes the throne and promises his own daughter to Paul who becomes the galaxy’s new galactic Emperor, and simultaneously realizes that he may have unleashed the Fremen on the entire world.

Dune: Part Two may make some changes to the source material

As you can see, there’s plenty of plot to get through in Dune: Part Two, but it’s likely that the screenwriters behind the movie will make some choices that condense and simplify the various plot elements at work here. We do know that Christopher Walken, Florence Pugh, and Austin Butler are joining the cast as the Emperor, the Emperor’s daughter, and Feyd Rautha respectively. Given those additions, it’s possible that we’ll see more of both the Emperor and his daughter than we do in the novel. Whatever changes are made, though, they will likely keep the core story beats, which director Denis Villeneuve reveres, largely intact.