Dune: Part Two – The Mythic Saga Continues

The saga continues as award-winning filmmaker Denis Villeneuve embarks on Dune: Part Two, the next chapter of Frank Herbert’s celebrated novel Dune. Villeneuve directed from a screenplay he and Jon Spaihts wrote based on Herbert’s novel.

Set thousands of years in the future and picking up where Dune left off, Dune: Part Two again follows the mythic journey of Paul Atreides, a young man propelled by fate into an intergalactic power struggle.  The son of the murdered ruler Duke Leto Atreides and mystical Bene Gesserit Lady Jessica, Paul was given the ultimate test in “Dune”: to conquer his fears when fate—and powerful unseen forces—pull him into the sands of the remote planet Arrakis. 

Copyright: © 2023 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved. Photo Credit: Niko Tavernise
Caption: (L-r) TIMOTHÉE CHALAMET as Paul Atreides and ZENDAYA as Chani in Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “DUNE: PART TWO,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

Exploring themes both timeless and timely, from romantic love and maternal love to globalism, loyalty, revenge and catharsis, “Dune: Part Two” furthers author Frank Herbert’s ecological themes in this tale about humanity versus nature.  At the core of the action is a timeless conflict between the forces of good and evil.  On one side are the Fremen, a representation of humanity fighting for the collective survival of the native people and of planet Arrakis.  On the other side lie the Harkonnen, a manifestation of corruption, violence and greed.  Where they meet is the conflicted story of Paul Atreides, leaning into Chani’s fierceness and Stilgar’s wisdom to gain the trust and support of the Fremen people, while the Harkonnens continue to ravage the sands of Arrakis for spice—though their efforts do not go unopposed, further enraging them and leading to an all-out war.

TIMOTHÉE CHALAMET and Director/Writer/Producer DENIS VILLENEUVE on the set of Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “DUNE: PART TWO,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Copyright: © 2024 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The immersive, dynamic exploration of this spectacular universe continues, with its champions and its plunderers, while also expanding on the theme of female empowerment begun in “Dune.”  Joining passionate Fremen warrior Chani, Lady Jessica and the holy Reverend Mother Mohiam from the first film are Princess Irulan, daughter of the Emperor, and Lady Fenring, an enigmatic Bene Gesserit whose interests appear to lie with the Harkonnen and the Baron’s bloodthirsty nephew, Feyd-Rautha. 

To take audiences deep into the Fremen world, further into the Baron’s realm on Giedi Prime, and introduce the Emperor and his world—bringing the previously unseen ruler out of the shadows for the first time—the cast and crew returned to the vast sands of Abu Dhabi, to Jordan and to Budapest, and took the production for the first time to Italy.

Adapting the 1965 novel by Frank Herbert

Dune is Dune, and while many things have been influenced by it – Game of Thrones, Star Wars – so much of what it’s doing has such a distinct fingerprint. It felt like all that was necessary was to be true to the book, to its spirit, to tell it straight.”

On how you approached the script for “Dune: Part Two”…

“In ‘Dune: Part One,’ Paul Atreides loses the only world he knows: Caladan, and the courtly society of the Great Houses.  In ‘Dune: Part Two,’ Paul gains a new world—the desert of Arrakis, where he must survive, prove himself, and find a way to belong.  He risks his life to make common cause with the Fremen, the powerful people of the desert that he deeply admires.  ‘Part One’ was a terrible crucible in which Paul came of age.  In ‘Part Two,’ Paul must become a man in the eyes of the Fremen.  Only then can he take control of his destiny, charting a course through the desert toward revenge.”

Why Dune still feels fresh, even after more than 50 years of influence on sci-fi …

I think Frank Herbert did something incredibly savvy. He created a world whose rules essentially banish many of the stock elements of science fiction. There are personal shields that make projectile weapons useless, so there are no blaster pistols and ray gun fights. Sword and knife play have returned to the center of combat. Human skill and coordination are suddenly the greatest weapons. People have developed the human mind to its fullest extent, human beings become the replacement for computers. It’s a world where human beings are in the foreground.

Dune‘s worldbuilding, and Herbert’s elaborations on the technology …

I fight that fight on everything I write, because I tend to do world-building fiction. When you build a world, you want everyone to understand how clever and wonderful it is, how everything works together, and it’s almost never the right answer. There are some stories where technology is at the center, but Dune has lived as a story for so long because it’s about people, about human nature, not spaceships, gadgets, or some futuristic culture that’s been built. That was always the compass we followed: what does the human story require? That’s the beating heart of the novel and film. [Denis] said to me early on that his ideal Dune would be a Dune without dialogue, just a dreamlike sequence of images, and he’s talking about one of the wordiest novels in science fiction. But I think it was the right goal, one that you’ll never achieve but that can school you along the way.

On leaving elaborate explanations out of the script …

I have felt for many years that most movies overexplain themselves. We, as people, step into the middle of stories all the time. You arrive at a party and you don’t know who everybody is. You pick it up as you go, and you realize there’s backstory, you slowly put the picture together. That’s the best way to take in stories. It’s beautiful to step into things midstream, they come alive and feel real. Poetry is stronger, very often, than preaching.

On creating a more coherent structure …

As we move to the second half of the book, we’re looking to make sure that the powerful women in the first half stay central, and have powerful hands to play. The politics of the book feel absolutely modern with respect to imperialism, resource extraction. The patriarchal monarchy feels antiquated, but that’s something the book itself is in dialogue about. I think that’s the right way forward when dealing with a dated piece of source material. Rather than throwing away whole chunks of it, it can be more profitable to let elements of that remain and let your story be in dialogue with them. We hope to do that with Dune. We know where we’re going, we’re still guided very faithfully by the book, but the second half of the novel leaves more for us to solve. That part of the book takes greater leaps, and will oblige us to create a more coherent structure.

On why it was important to explore Chani’s story in this film, both as a young Fremen warrior and her relationship with Paul…

“Frank Herbert wanted Dune to serve as a cautionary tale about imperialism and the allure of ‘saviors.’  Denis and I wanted to make sure this message rang out clearly in the film.  In the novel, much of the Fremen point of view lives in the interior monologues of various characters.  We needed to pull those arguments into the action.  That meant elevating Chani in the latter chapters of the story, and giving her voice greater power.  Chani stands for Fremen freedom—both freedom from colonial rule, and freedom from the dictates of prophecy.  She believes in the Fremen people above all. In ‘Dune: Part Two,’ we see not only that Chani loves Paul, but that she is a leader of equal force and vision.”

On getting to bring in Feyd-Rautha, the Emperor and Princess Irulan, and expand the Bene Gesserit stories, including Lady Jessica’s journey…

“The conflict on Arrakis is the focal point of a galactic game—and the prize of that game is control of the Imperium, and the throne of the Emperor himself.  In ‘Part One,’ the opening moves of this game brought ruin on House Atreides.  In ‘Part Two,’ other players will enter the field: Feyd-Rautha, the Baron Harkonnen’s nephew and Paul’s cruel rival, and Princess Irulan, the Emperor’s daughter and a key to the ultimate power play.  It’s a game of savagery and cunning in which the future of an empire can hang on the point of a knife.  As the Great Houses vie for political power, Paul’s mother Jessica strives to fulfill an ancient prophecy.  As a Sister of the Bene Gesserit order, she hopes to bring forth the One they call the Kwisatz Haderach—the prophet who will see all futures.  A thousand years of careful Bene Gesserit planning all come down to the choices Jessica must make.  And the fate of the Imperium, the Fremen people, and the Bene Gesserit order all come together in the person of her son, Paul.”

On taking inspiration from the incredible visuals in the first film to expand the worlds we see in “Dune: Part Two”…

“World-building is the great challenge of elevated science fiction.  In ‘Dune: Part One,’ an incredible team of artists led by Denis Villeneuve realized one of the most breathtaking and believable universes in the history of sci-fi film.  In writing ‘Part Two,’ we had the incredible luxury of writing for a world we had already seen, and experienced viscerally.  We could practically taste the sand on the wind.  It made it easier to breathe life into every scene.  It also challenged us to raise the bar—taking the audience to new places not yet seen, and reaching for a scale of spectacle that would match or surpass the first film.  An exhilarating process.”

On working with Denis Villeneuve…

“Denis is one of the great living filmmakers.  It’s an honor and a delight to work with him.  And with all his prodigious talents, he is unfailingly humble, collaborative, kind, and creatively fearless.  It leads to the best sort of artistic process. He surrounds himself with creatives he trusts, and he listens to them, giving them space to express their vision.  At the same time, he is certain of his course: a consistent visionary. The sense of safety that provides makes it easier for everyone to take creative leaps.”

The future of Dune, from a potential third film adapted from Dune Messiah, to Dune: The Sisterhood, the HBO Max prequel centered around the Bene Gesserit that is currently in development.

The prospect of launching Dune as a wider cinematic universe lets you get into some of the beautiful weeds that surround foreground action. They allow you to flesh out the institutions of this world that we’ll never have time to shine a bright light on while we’re telling the central story of ‘Dune’ and its novels, because movies require an economy of us that makes that impossible. Branching projects that follow sub-strands of our story give us the possibility of digging into that.

Director/Writer/Producer DENIS VILLENEUVE and Director of Photography GREIG FRASER on the set of Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “DUNE: PART TWO,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Copyright: © 2024 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved. Photo Credit: Niko Tavernise

On where the story begins in “Dune: Part Two”…

“We pick up the story only a few hours after the end of “Dune,” with Paul and Jessica in the middle of the desert with the Fremen—with Stilgar and Chani—walking toward the Sietch Tabr, trying to find shelter.  We start exactly at a moment where they are about to get ambushed by a Harkonnen patrol.”

On Paul’s journey in this film…

“This film is about the integration of Paul and his mother, Jessica, into the Fremen culture, into the Fremen tribes.  During this time, Paul and Chani fall in love, and together they start a campaign against the oppressors, their enemies.  Paul gets closer to one of his worst nightmares, which is the fulfillment of a prophecy he foresaw—a holy war fought in his name.”

On Paul’s internal struggles…

“Paul is torn between his desire of vengeance and the fact that he has a strong intuition that the path he is on could bring him to catastrophe; that by trying to avenge his father, he could bring his friends, the Fremen, chaos and war.  It’s a moral dilemma and he is walking a very fine line, trying to fight his enemies without walking the path of the prophecy that has been laid by the Bene Gesserit sisters before him.”

TIMOTHÉE CHALAMET and Director/Writer/Producer DENIS VILLENEUVE on the set of Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “DUNE: PART TWO,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Copyright: © 2024 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

On what is at the root of the Fremen culture…

“The Fremen culture is absolutely inspired by the severe condition of the environment, the ecosystem of Arrakis.  It’s a planet where the temperatures are super high, where water is like gold, it’s so rare.  For the Fremen, water is life, water is everything, water is sacred.  In the film, we see how when someone dies, they extract the water from the body and put it into a massive cistern to later be used to bring back the trees on Arrakis.  It’s through this process that the Fremen plan to bring back life on this desert planet.”

On bringing the sandworm riding to life in the film…

“In the book, sandworm riding… it reads spectacularly!  It is one of the coolest things about the novel, that the Fremen have the technique to ride the worms and to use them as a method of transport.  But reading it is one thing—seeing it is something else.  I had to define and create the logic and the technique myself, how to get on a sandworm.  I wrote and drew the technique—I had graphics and I explained to the crew how the Fremen ride on the worm, because I wanted it to look as real as possible.  I wanted to shoot under real sunlight and on a structure that would look like the worm.  It took a few months of work and a lot of trial and error for our unit to shoot that specifically and if I had done it myself, I would still be shooting right now!  It was under the supervision of Tanya Lapointe, the second unit director, in coordination with me.  It required a lot of patience, and it was so experimental, it’s by far the most complex sequence I’ve done.”

Copyright: © 2024 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

On his hopes for the audience experience of “Dune: Part Two”…

“I hope that audiences will be moved by the relationship of Paul and Chani—‘Part Two,’ at its core, is a love story.  And I hope that they feel what it is to ride a sandworm!  The exhilarating and dangerous experience of transport.  The chess game between Paul and the Fremen, the Harkonnens, and the Imperium that creates epic battles and subtle mind games.  And the amazing fight scenes!  Everything about ‘Dune: Part Two’ was designed for audiences to see in the cinema, with the big screen and the proper sound, together—the most powerful way to enjoy movies!”


DENIS VILLENEUVE (Director / Screenplay by / Producer) is an Academy Award-nominated filmmaker and screenwriter whose astute attention to detail and unique visuals have established him as one of the premier filmmakers working today. His most recent film, the highly acclaimed adaptation of Frank Herbert’s science fiction novel Dune, received six Academy Awards, five BAFTAs, three Critics Choice Awards, and nominations from the Producers Guild, Directors Guild, and Writers Guild of America, as well as recognition across the globe. Villeneuve’s other directorial credits include Blade Runner 2049, Arrival, Sicario, Prisoners and Incendies.  

JON SPAIHTS (Screenplay by / Executive Producer) is an Oscar-nominated screenwriter of high-concept films and elevated science fiction, dedicated to exploring human nature and human passions through the lens of extraordinary stories.  He is best known for Prometheus, Passengers, Doctor Strange, and of course, Dune: Part One.