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Dune: Part Two (2024) Explained

Dune: Part Two (2024) Explained

dune 2 explained

Paul Atreides was destined to lead the Fremen of Arrakis. This is what was promised for Dune: Part 2, having been teased in Part 1. The wheels for this revolution are set in motion after the genocide of House Atreides on Arrakis. House Harkonnen has successfully invaded the planet and now controls the spice.

At the beginning of the film, a central player who was not present in Part 1 is introduced. Shaddam the Fourth is the Padishah Emperor (played by Christopher Walken) of the Known Universe and the leader of the House Corrino. He resides on his paradise planet of Corrin with daughter, Princess Irulan. Irulan was a narrating voice for key events and backstories of the book. Here, she fulfills those duties by vocally documenting and relaying to the audience the proceeding events. 


WATCH: Dune 2 Explained


WATCH: Dune 1 Explained


As the Emperor of the Known Universe, Shaddam gets to make the most crucial decisions. These include which House gets to mine the spice of Arrakis and which House gets to genocide that House. So when he learns of House Harkonnen slaughtering the occupying House Atreides on Arrakis, the Emperor puts on his best poker face in front of his daughter.

Meanwhile, Paul and his mother Jessica have been taken in by the Fremen tribe Sietch Tabr as refugees, although the tribe is not too keen on outsiders coming into their collective. Despite having defeated the Fremen warrior Jamis in a proposed duel at the end of Dune 1 and defeating some pursuing Harkonnens at the start of this movie, Paul and Jessica have a ways to go before they’ve proven they can stay among the Fremen. Finding potential in both of them is Stilgar, a leader within the Fremen warrior ranks known as the Fedaykin. It’s only by appealing to Stilgar’s spiritual beliefs in a messiah that Paul and Jessica will hope to find refuge and revenge.


The Fremen Way

The first act of the film reveals a lot about the Fremen in terms of their history, customs, rituals, and religion. Water holds a special place for the people who live among the dry dunes of Arrakis, but to varying degrees. After defeating some pursuing Harkonnens early in the film, the Fremen drain water from the bodies of soldiers before feeding them to the sandworms. As Stilgar tells Paul and Jessica, this water is too contaminated to drink, but is ideal for being used as coolant. They don’t seem to care much for Jessica’s puke water, though.

When the body of the deceased Jamis is returned to the mountain home of the Sietch Tabr tribe, his water is also drained, but for a different purpose. The water from the body of Fremen is considered sacred and placed within a special pool that acts as a cemetery. When Stilgar explains this to Jessica, she sheds a tear, which Stilgar catches and stresses that tears shouldn’t be wasted on the dead. Water is that sacred, which is why Stilgar eats that tear which is both fitting for his words and very weird.

With the only alternative being death in the desert, Paul and Jessica take note of the Fremen ways. While Paul asserts himself as one of the Fedaykin, Jessica undertakes the process of becoming a priestess, which involves Jessica consuming the Water of Life, worm juice that allows for transcendence and clearer visions of the future. In other words, it gets you really, really high.

However, the Water of Life is essentially poison and causes birth defects, like death. Luckily, Jessica’s training as a Bene Gesserit allows her to mitigate the poison. Her unborn child only comes down with a case of early sentience and political tact. All in all, Jessica’s Water of Life experience is a plus.

While Jessica works on conversion through religion, Paul works on establishing trust by helping the Fedaykin blow up Harkonnen spice crawlers. This is something Paul was already on board with from the start. These missions give Paul the chance to better form a romance with Chani, played by Zendaya, and further impress Stilgar, who is hoping that Paul will be the messiah of his people, the Lisan al Gaib.

It doesn’t take much to convince Stilgar, however, as something as wanting to be named after a desert kangaroo mouse is seen as wise and brave. This irrational belief continues later on when Paul states openly that he is not the Fremen messiah. Stilgar believes this is a sign that Paul is indeed the messiah because that’s something humble a messiah would say. Also, Stilgar is probably very gullible, which is equal parts concerning and funny.


The Cult of Tradition

Far more critical of the Fremen traditions is Chani. She doesn’t believe that drinking poison will make you magical or that messiahs are worth waiting for. While loyal to her people, Chani doesn’t like being easily manipulated with old tales. This is why she initially likes Paul being welcomed into her tribe. He knows more about the galaxy. In particular, he points out how it was not a miracle that his mother survived the Water of Life drinking challenge. But, again, faith is blind and Paul’s wisdom is mistaken for traits of a savior.

Chani’s role is expanded from the book where she was more of a love interest. While she still has feelings for Paul in Part 2, she worries for the future. Paul’s visions of a darker future get worse and he tries to fight back as well. When Jessica tries to explain to Paul that they’re giving the Fremen hope, Paul angrily shouts back that it’s not hope. That’s because it seems like a lie.

Paul’s doubts are washed down with a swig of the Water of Life, when he learns the truth about his mother. She was secretly born a Harkonnen. Since the Harkonnens are already power-hungry and violent people, Paul figures he might as well keep things in the family. By this point in the film, Paul has no hesitations about leading the Fremen to war against House Harkonnen. Nobody can stop him. Even the returning Gurney, played by Josh Brolin, is cool with this if it means revenge for House Atreides.

When Paul rises to become the leader of the Fremen, Chani tries to shout back that this is foolish. But it’s too late. Everybody has already accepted this sexy young outsider as their savior. Paul has followed his mother’s advice by preying on the easily manipulated faith of these people. And once they’ve already accepted him as their Lisan al Gaib of Arabia, there’s no stopping his plans to strike back against the Harkonnens.


The Dangers of Strength

While the Fremen chip away at the occupying Harkonnens, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgård), is trying to find someone to carry on his legacy. He entrusts Arrakis to his nephew Rabban, played by Dave Bautista, who isn’t doing a good job. Not only is spice mining being decimated under his rule, he also has an anger issue, taking it out on his own men. With Rabban failing, Vladimir decides to turn ownership of Arrakis over to his younger nephew, Feyd, played by Austin Butler doing his best Stellan Skarsgård impression.

Feyd is also favored by the Bene Gesserit to be an easier puppet for their plans. While Feyd is still just as violent as any Harkonnen, based on how he really loves slashing throats, he also has an ego, mommy issues, and is sexually vulnerable, according to the Bene Gesserit psyche profile. This leads to the Bene Gesserit visiting Feyd on his home planet for his birthday, where they regift him the same box of pain they used on Paul. The Bene Gesserit want to control Feyd as they believe he is strong enough on the outside, but weak enough on the inside to be easily manipulated, unlike Paul.

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Later in the film, Shaddam the Fourth says right to Paul’s face why he had to wipe out House Atreides. The emperor admitted that Duke Leto had a big heart and that those who wear their hearts on their sleeve are not fit to lead. But the facts are not on the emperor’s side, considering that Paul’s command of the Fremen successfully wipes out the Harkonnens and then holds the planet hostage with nukes until the other Houses back off the land of sand.

Paul is able to successfully steal the throne for the emperor of the known universe by force. A duel to decide this title is held between Paul and Feyd, with Feyd representing the emperor. Although it seems like a close match, Paul ultimately wins. But at what cost? By the time Paul makes Feyd’s life fade to black, Paul’s cold nature of seeking power fades in. When attaining the throne from Shaddam, Princess Irulan begs that Paul spare her father’s life in exchange for her hand in marriage. The fact that he can do this trumps his feelings for Chani.

This cold-hearted nature of Paul is foretold not just in his visions, but how the film is staged. Consider the opening scene where the Harkonnens burn up the bodies of the slaughtered House Atreides. A similar scene occurs in the climax, where the Fremen torch the bodies of the slain Harkonnens. This cyclical nature seems more prominent after the reveal that Jessica is a daughter of the Baron, leading Paul to view himself as a Harkonnen and just as capable of their cruelty.


A Foreboding Ending

Much like Part 1, Part 2 contains further premonitions about a dark future. This runs contrary to the tone of the book which treats Paul’s ascension as more victorious than foreboding. This tone isn’t just fitting for the darkness that director Denis Villeneuve delivered in the first half. The director has stated that he would like to continue the story by adapting the second Dune book, Dune Messiah. That book involved Paul becoming too big for his britches and being conspired against for having too much power.

Chani, in the context of the film, is getting tremors of that soon-to-come tale. She can see the writing on the wall and more or less prepares to assert herself for the war to come. Paul’s ultimate jihad on the other Houses is not treated like a victory for the Fremen of Arrakis, but a terrifying warning of what is to come.

The future is kept even more foreboding in this film as it retools a key part of the book. Paul and Jessica’s time with the Fremen originally spans two years in the novel. During that time, Jessica’s daughter Alia is prematurely born and becomes a key character. She goes so far as to murder the Baron, which is very impressive for a young child. Instead of all that, Alia is never born during the events and instead speaks to Jessica and Paul with her wild new fetus powers. This includes a vision of the future, where Alia is played by Anya Taylor-Joy. Get used to her, as Alia plays a bigger role in the following book.

Considering that Dune Part 2 happened due to the success of Part 1, the chances of seeing Dune Messiah on the big screen depends on the box office. In other words, we are definitely getting a sequel.


Final Thoughts

Dune Part 2 brings a strong end to the first Dune novel. It doesn’t just prove that director Denis Villeneuve can handle adapting Frank Herbert’s revered writing. It also proves he’s ready and willing to go further with the material. With the stage set for Dune Messiah, it’ll be exciting to see what he does with the first theatrical adaptation of the second Dune book. There was a time when it seemed adapting the first book was an impossible task. With Villeneuve having accomplished this task, we can now look to a brighter theatrical future for Dune.

What are your thoughts on Dune? What was your favorite part about the film? Let’s talk in the comments below. Check out our in-depth explainer piece on Dune: Part One here. 


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