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Lots of fighting in vivid but long sci-fi adaptation.

Dune Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

This film covers the first half of the source nove

Paul comes off as a fairly traditional hero but al

Male-driven narrative, but women in supporting rol

Sci-fi action-style guns and shooting. People get

Kissing. A man appears to be naked; nothing explic

Infrequent use of "hell," "s--t," "ass," "damn." "

"Spice" is described as a drug that has good prope

Parents need to know that Dune is based on Frank Herbert's epic 1965 novel (previously adapted for the big screen in 1984 and for TV in 2000). It covers the first half of the book and stars Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya. Sci-fi action violence includes lots of fighting, both on the battlefield and one on one,…

Positive Messages

This film covers the first half of the source novel, so many of the book's bigger themes -- including religion and environmentalism -- aren't fully explored. One theme that does arise involves control of Arrakis: The villains (House Harkonnen) oppress the Fremen, while the heroes (House Atreides) try to work alongside them.

Positive Role Models

Paul comes off as a fairly traditional hero but also has started down a dark path by beginning to use a prophecy to his own advantage, setting himself up as a kind of messiah. To prove himself worthy of the Fremen, he kills a man; there are no consequences. His father, Duke Leto, is a far better role model; he's shown to be kind, benevolent, wise, understanding, although his trust and loyalty eventually ( spoiler alert ) get him killed.

Diverse Representations

Male-driven narrative, but women in supporting roles are quite powerful and admirable. This version improves on previous iterations' all-White casts by including diverse actors (Latino, Hawaiian/Polynesian, Asian, Black), but main characters are still all White, and ( spoiler alert ) virtually all characters of color die. Has raised concerns in the way it leans on Middle Eastern culture for world-building but doesn't include any MENA actors. No body/size diversity, unless you count the Baron, whose grotesqueness is unfortunately tied to his larger size and eating.

Did we miss something on diversity? Suggest an update.

Violence & Scariness

Sci-fi action-style guns and shooting. People get shot; deaths/dead bodies. Fighting with swords, blades, other weapons. Battles. Explosions. Character stabbed. Character impaled with dart. Neck-slicing. Beheadings. Characters swallowed by sandworm. Not much blood, but scenes include a bloody hand, bloody knife, blood spot. Poison gas. Crash-landing. Rape is mentioned in dialogue.

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.

Sex, Romance & Nudity

Kissing. A man appears to be naked; nothing explicit shown. Shirtless man.

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.

Infrequent use of "hell," "s--t," "ass," "damn." "My God" used as an exclamation.

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

"Spice" is described as a drug that has good properties but is also addictive; the only side effect is that it turns users' eyes luminous blue. It's not really depicted as a substance that can be abused. It's more just "the thing" that both the heroes and villains want to get their hands on.

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Dune is based on Frank Herbert's epic 1965 novel (previously adapted for the big screen in 1984 and for TV in 2000). It covers the first half of the book and stars Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya . Sci-fi action violence includes lots of fighting, both on the battlefield and one on one, with guns, knives, and other weapons. There are also beheadings and explosions, and characters are stabbed and/or cut open, poisoned, and eaten by worms. A little bit of blood is shown, and characters die. There's kissing and partial male nudity (no sensitive body parts shown). Infrequent language includes "s--t," "ass," and "hell." The story is about a drug known as "spice," but it's more of a thing for everyone to fight over than a real drug. While this (long) movie isn't without its flaws, director Denis Villeneuve gives it a languid smoothness that makes for an enthralling tale (which continues in Dune: Part Two ). To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails .

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Community Reviews

  • Parents say (26)
  • Kids say (104)

Based on 26 parent reviews

Jaw-dropping prologue has intense violence

A fan and a father, what's the story.

In DUNE, the desert planet Arrakis is the source of a valuable drug, called "spice," that allows users to travel vast distances. Spice mining and distribution on Arrakis are controlled by the evil Baron Harkonnen ( Stellan Skarsgard ), whose armies oppress the planet's Fremen people. Under orders from the emperor, Duke Leto Atreides ( Oscar Isaac ) takes over the stewardship of Arrakis and moves there with his wife, Lady Jessica ( Rebecca Ferguson ), and son, Paul ( Timothée Chalamet ). Lady Jessica has been teaching Paul in the ways of the Bene Gesserit, and, once on Arrakis, some of the Fremen begin to suspect that Paul may be a prophesied "chosen one." But after a betrayal, Lady Jessica and Paul find themselves in the desert, hunted by giant sandworms, with the mysterious Fremen their only chance of survival.

Is It Any Good?

In this first of two Dune movies, director Denis Villeneuve smooths out the most cumbersome parts of Frank Herbert's original tale, providing enough spectacle to overcome the dull bits. With echoes of his earlier films Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 , Villeneuve brings a languid moodiness to the storytelling here, slowing things down and allowing viewers time to take in the vast sets (built broad and low to fit the widescreen frame) and devices -- like the amazing, if impractical, ships modeled after dragonflies -- and to keep track of the story's innumerable characters. This rhythm builds to the tale's memorable, invigorating highlights -- such as Paul dodging a life-threatening hunter-seeker or enduring the painful gom jabbar test, or the first appearance of the massive sandworms -- and makes them feel extra vivid.

The movie even manages to soften the old, tired "chosen one" device, as well as the simplistic plot strands that are covered up by heaps of sci-fi names (how do you pronounce "Thufir Hawat" anyway?), places, and devices, making things flow more organically. It's even possible to remember that the original novel, published in 1965, actually inspired much that came after it, including Star Wars and The Matrix . Villeneuve can't quite downplay the source material's choking seriousness, but there are lighter moments. Skarsgard's Baron is a highlight; he's so grotesque that you can't look away. And then there's a swaggering Jason Momoa as swordmaster Duncan, who seems to be the only one having any fun. As with Blade Runner 2049 , Dune goes on too long, with too many scenes of fighting, and this version lacks the quirky personality of the 1984 David Lynch take , but it's far more rousing.

Talk to Your Kids About ...

Families can talk about Dune 's violence . How did it make you feel? Was it exciting? Shocking? What did the movie show or not show to achieve this effect? Why is that important?

Why is "spice" considered a drug ? Is meant to represent drugs as we know them? Is it glamorized? Are there consequences for using it?

What are some of the movie's themes? How can sci-fi be used to explore real-life issues like colonialism and representation? How are the Fremen represented in the film?

How does this movie compare to the novel, the previous movie, and/or the TV movie? How is it different from those versions? How is it the same?

Is Paul a role model ? What makes him seem heroic? What behaviors suggest otherwise?

Movie Details

  • In theaters : October 22, 2021
  • On DVD or streaming : January 11, 2022
  • Cast : Timothée Chalamet , Zendaya , Rebecca Ferguson , Oscar Isaac
  • Director : Denis Villeneuve
  • Inclusion Information : Female actors, Black actors, Multiracial actors, Latino actors
  • Studio : Warner Bros.
  • Genre : Science Fiction
  • Topics : Book Characters , Space and Aliens
  • Run time : 155 minutes
  • MPAA rating : PG-13
  • MPAA explanation : sequences of strong violence, some disturbing images and suggestive material
  • Awards : Academy Award , Golden Globe
  • Last updated : May 13, 2024

Did we miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.

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Dune: Part Two Movie Poster: A collage of character images against an orange-red desert landscape that includes a sand worm

Dune: Part Two

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Back in the day, the two big counterculture sci-fi novels were the libertarian-division Stranger in a Strange Land  by Robert Heinlein, which made the word “grok” a thing for many years (not so much anymore; hardly even pops up in crossword puzzles today) and Frank Herbert ’s 1965 Dune , a futuristic geopolitical allegory that was anti-corporate, pro-eco-radicalism, and Islamophilic. Why mega-producers and mega-corporations have been pursuing the ideal film adaptation of this piece of intellectual property for so many decades is a question beyond the purview of this review, but it’s an interesting one.

As a pretentious teenager in the 1970s, I didn’t read much sci-fi, even countercultural sci-fi, so Dune  missed me. When David Lynch ’s 1984 film of the novel, backed by then mega-producer Dino De Laurentiis , came out I didn’t read it either. As a pretentious twentysomething film buff, not yet professional grade, the only thing that mattered to me was that it was a Lynch picture. But for some reason—due diligence, or curiosity about how my life might have been different had I gone with Herbert and Heinlein rather than Nabokov and Genet back in the day—I read Herbert’s book recently. Yeah, the prose is clunky and the dialogue often clunkier, but I liked much of it, particularly the way it threaded its social commentary with enough scenes of action and cliff-hanging suspense to fill an old-time serial.

The new film adaptation of the book, directed by Denis Villeneuve from a script he wrote with Eric Roth and Jon Spaihts , visualizes those scenes magnificently. As many of you are aware, “Dune” is set in the very distant future, in which humanity has evolved in many scientific respects and mutated in a lot of spiritual ones. Wherever Earth was, the people in this scenario aren’t on it, and the imperial family of Atreides is, in a power play we don’t become entirely conversant with for a while, tasked with ruling the desert planet of Arrakis. Which yields something called “the spice”—that’s crude oil for you eco-allegorists in the audience—and presents multivalent perils for off-worlders (that’s Westerners for you geo-political allegorists in the audience).

To say I have not admired Villeneuve’s prior films is something of an understatement. But I can’t deny that he’s made a more-than-satisfactory movie of the book. Or, I should say, two-thirds of the book. (The filmmaker says it’s half but I believe my estimate is correct.) The opening title calls it “Dune Part 1” and while this two-and-a-half hour movie provides a bonafide epic experience, it's not coy about connoting that there’s more to the story. Herbert’s own vision corresponds to Villeneuve’s own storytelling affinities to the extent that he apparently did not feel compelled to graft his own ideas to this work. And while Villeneuve has been and likely remains one of the most humorless filmmakers alive, the novel wasn’t a barrel of laughs either, and it’s salutary that Villeneuve honored the scant light notes in the script, which I suspect came from Roth.

Throughout, the filmmaker, working with amazing technicians including cinematographer Greig Fraser , editor Joe Walker , and production designer Patrice Vermette , manages to walk the thin line between grandeur and pomposity in between such unabashed thrill-generating sequences as the Gom Jabbar test, the spice herder rescue, the thopter-in-a-storm nail-biter, and various sandworm encounters and attacks. If you’re not a “Dune” person these listings sound like gibberish, and you will read other reviews complaining about how hard to follow this is. It’s not, if you pay attention, and the script does a good job with exposition without making it seem like EXPOSITION. Most of the time, anyway. But, by the same token, there may not be any reason for you to be interested in “Dune” if you’re not a science-fiction-movie person anyway. The novel’s influence is huge, particularly with respect to George Lucas . DESERT PLANET, people. The higher mystics in the “Dune” universe have this little thing they call “The Voice” that eventually became “Jedi Mind Tricks.” And so on.

Villeneuve’s massive cast embodies Herbert’s characters, who are generally speaking more archetypes than individuals, very well. Timothée Chalamet leans heavily on callowness in his early portrayal of Paul Atreides, and shakes it off compellingly as his character realizes his power and understands how to Follow His Destiny. Oscar Isaac is noble as Paul’s dad the Duke; Rebecca Ferguson both enigmatic and fierce as Jessica, Paul’s mother. Zendaya is an apt, a better than apt, Chani. In a deviation from Herbert’s novel, the ecologist Kynes is gender-switched, and played with intimidating force by Sharon Duncan-Brewster . And so on.

A little while back, complaining about the Warner Media deal that’s going to put “Dune” on streaming at the same time as it plays theaters, Villeneuve said the movie had been made “as a tribute to the big-screen experience.” At the time, that struck me as a pretty dumb reason to make a movie. Having seen “Dune,” I understand better what he meant, and I kind of approve. The movie is rife with cinematic allusions, mostly to pictures in the tradition of High Cinematic Spectacle. There’s “ Lawrence of Arabia ,” of course, because desert. But there’s also “ Apocalypse Now ” in the scene introducing Stellan Skarsgård ’s bald-as-an-egg Baron Harkonnen. There’s “ 2001: A Space Odyssey .” There are even arguable outliers but undeniable classics such as Hitchcock’s 1957 version of “The Man Who Knew Too Much” and Antonioni’s “Red Desert.” Hans Zimmer ’s let’s-test-those-subwoofers score evokes Christopher Nolan . (His music also nods to Maurice Jarre ’s “Lawrence” score and György Ligeti’s “Atmospheres” from “2001.”) But there are visual echoes of Nolan and of Ridley Scott as well.

These will tickle or infuriate certain cinephiles dependent on their immediate mood or general inclination. I thought them diverting. And they didn’t detract from the movie’s main brief. I’ll always love Lynch’s “Dune,” a severely compromised dream-work that (not surprising given Lynch’s own inclination) had little use for Herbert’s messaging. But Villeneuve’s movie is “Dune.”  

Opens in theaters on October 22nd, available on HBO Max the same day. This review was filed on September 3rd in conjunction with the world premiere at the Venice Film Festival.

Glenn Kenny

Glenn Kenny

Glenn Kenny was the chief film critic of Premiere magazine for almost half of its existence. He has written for a host of other publications and resides in Brooklyn. Read his answers to our Movie Love Questionnaire here .

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Dune movie poster

Dune (2021)

Rated PG-13 for sequences of strong violence, some disturbing images and suggestive material.

155 minutes

Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides

Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica

Oscar Isaac as Duke Leto Atreides

Josh Brolin as Gurney Halleck

Zendaya as Chani

Stellan Skarsgård as Baron Vladimir Harkonnen

Dave Bautista as Beast Rabban

Sharon Duncan-Brewster as Liet Kynes

Stephen Henderson as Thufir Hawat

Chang Chen as Dr. Wellington Yueh

David Dastmalchian as Piter De Vries

Charlotte Rampling as Reverend Mother Mohiam

Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho

Javier Bardem as Stilgar

Golda Rosheuvel as Shadout Mapes

  • Denis Villeneuve

Writer (based on the novel written by)

  • Frank Herbert
  • Jon Spaihts


  • Greig Fraser
  • Hans Zimmer

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Timothee chalamet in denis villeneuve’s ‘dune’: film review | venice 2021.

Frank Herbert’s 1965 sci-fi classic gets epic screen treatment, with an all-star cast that also features Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Jason Momoa and Zendaya.

By David Rooney

David Rooney

Chief Film Critic

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DUNE -Timothée Chalamet

Unless you’re sufficiently up on Frank Herbert’s 1965 sci-fi classic to know your Sardaukars from your Bene Gesserit, your crysknife from your hunter-seeker, chances are you’ll be glazing over not too far into Dune . Or wishing that House Atreides and House Harkonnen would kick off a vogue ball.

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Venue : Venice Film Festival (Out of Competition) Release date : Friday, Oct. 22 Cast : Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Zendaya, Jason Momoa Director : Denis Villeneuve Screenwriters : Jon Spaihts, Denis Villeneuve, Eric Roth

Decades after Alejandro Jodorowsky’s aborted 1970s attempt to bring Dune to the screen and David Lynch’s baffling 1984 version — which was memorable mostly for putting Sting in a winged metal diaper — Villeneuve’s film at least gets closer to the elusive goal than its predecessors. It has a reasonable semblance of narrative coherence, even if a glossary would be helpful to keep track of the Imperium’s various planets, dynastic Houses, mystical sects, desert tribes and their respective power players.

What the film doesn’t do is shape Herbert’s intricate world-building into satisfyingly digestible form. The history and complex societal structure that are integral to the author’s vision are condensed into a blur, cramping the mythology. The layers of political, religious, ecological and technological allegory that give the novel such exalted status get mulched in the screenplay by Jon Spaihts, Villeneuve and Eric Roth into an uninvolving trade war, with the blobby Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgard) ordering a genocide to secure a monopoly of the addictive Spice found only in the desert wastelands of the planet Arrakis.

That drug looks like a glitter bomb set off in the sand in the dreamlike visions of Paul Atreides (Chalamet) that punctuate the action with numbing regularity. The mind-expanding substance’s benefits to health, longevity and knowledge place it in high demand, as we learn during an exposition dump disguised as Paul’s study time. Those visions also feature Chani ( Zendaya ), a member of the Fremen civilization that lives on Arrakis; she haunts Paul throughout in a spiritual connection, but doesn’t show up physically until the final scenes, just in time to say, “This is only the beginning.” Never a good sign at the end of a two-and-a-half-hour movie that has long since been sagging under its dense thicket of plot.

It’s the year 10191, and House Harkonnen has been in charge of harvesting Spice for some time, ravaging the land and inflicting cruelty on the Fremen. But the emperor abruptly pulls them out and puts Paul’s father, Duke Leto ( Oscar Isaac ), in control, giving House Atreides exclusive stewardship over Arrakis. Leto and his concubine Jessica ( Rebecca Ferguson ), Paul’s mother, both see the vulnerability in their elevation, even if the Duke hopes to forge an alliance with the Fremen and bring peace. For reasons that the film hurries through with too much haste to clarify, the stage is set for war nonetheless, and Leto calls the reluctant Paul to power as the future of House Atreides.

Part hero’s journey and part survival story, the film keeps throwing arcane details at you, which might thrill the Herbert geeks but will have most everyone else zoning out. Villeneuve is a smart director who honed his chops on brainy sci-fi with Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 . For sheer monolithic scale, visual imagination and visceral soundscape alone, a number of the set pieces are arresting, and the film has the benefit of putting the focus on physical production, with far less CG saturation than most of its recent genre brethren.

There’s much to admire in Patrice Vermette’s production design, particularly the Zen elegance of the aristocratic Atreides household on their beautiful oceanic home planet of Caladan and the Arrakis stronghold Arrakeen, a sprawling structure that combines ancient Egyptian and Aztec influences. The costumes by Jacqueline West and Robert Morgan also are full of eye-catching touches, from the gauzy gowns of Jessica and other women billowing in the desert wind to the utilitarian body-cooling “stillsuit” developed by the Fremen for survival in the desert, equipped with a fluid-recycling system.

On a scene-by-scene basis, Dune is occasionally exciting, notably whenever Atreides swordmaster Duncan Idaho ( Jason Momoa ) is in action, backed by Hans Zimmer’s thundering orchestral score. (Duncan also benefits from being the only guy in this dull old universe with a sense of humor.) But the storytelling lacks the clean lines to make it consistently propulsive. Paradoxically, given its lofty position in the sci-fi canon, much of the narrative’s novelty has also been diluted, rendered stale by decades of imitation. Looking at you, George Lucas.

I found myself less interested in the human ordeals than the tech business — the giant Harkonnen harvesters raking the sands like desert beetles as monstrous sandworms tunnel up to the surface to suck everything into their huge fibrous maws; the wasp-winged choppers known as ornithopters, buzzing through the skies; the stillsuits and the recycling tubes of an emergency tent, turning sweat and tears into drinkable water.

Perhaps the biggest issue with Dune , however, is that this is only the first part, with the second film in preproduction. That means an awful lot of what we’re watching feels like laborious setup for a hopefully more gripping film to come — the boring homework before the juicy stuff starts happening.

Zendaya’s role, in particular, is basically a prelude to a larger arc that Paul has partly foreseen, where he lives among the Fremen as their “Lisan al Gaib,” or off-world prophet, as they plot to take back Arrakis. A quick glimpse of him rodeo-riding a sandworm signals the future extent of his powers. Other actors, like Javier Bardem as proud Fremen chieftain Stilgar, will presumably have more to do, as will good guys like Josh Brolin’s Atreides warmaster Gurney Halleck if part two sticks to Herbert’s plot. On the villainous side, Skarsgard’s levitating lard-ass Baron Harkonnen and his thuggish nephew Beast Rabban (Dave Bautista) seem sure to be back to wreak more destruction.

Whether audiences will choose to return for more after this often ponderous trudge through the desert is an open question.

Full credits

Venue: Venice Film Festival (Out of Competition) Distributor: Warner Bros. Production companies: Warner Bros. Pictures, Legendary Pictures Cast: Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgard, Dave Bautista, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Zendaya, Chang Chen, David Dastmalchian, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Charlotte Rampling, Jason Momoa, Javier Bardem, Babs Olusankokum, Golda Rosheuvel, Benjamin Clementine Director: Denis Villeneuve Screenwriters: Jon Spaihts, Denis Villeneuve, Eric Roth, based on the novel by Frank Herbert Producers: Mary Parent, Denis Villeneuve, Cale Boyter, Joe Caracciolo Jr. Executive producers: Tanya Lapointe, Joshua Grode, Herbert W. Gains, Jon Spaihts, Thomas Tull, Brian Herbert, Byron Merritt, Kim Herbert Director of photography: Greig Fraser Production designer: Patrice Vermette Costume designer: Jacqueline West, Robert Morgan Editor: Joe Walker Music: Hans Zimmer Visual effects supervisor: Paul Lambert Special effects supervisor: Gerd Nefzer Casting: Francine Maisler, Jina Jay

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‘Dune’ | Anatomy of a Scene

The director denis villeneuve narrates a combat training sequence from his film, featuring timothée chalamet and josh brolin..

My name is Denis Villeneuve and I’m the director of Dune. “Don’t stand with your back to the door!” This scene needed to serve four purposes. First, to establish the nature of the relationship between Paul Atreides and Gurney Halleck. Two, to give more insight about the context in which the Atreides will move to a new planet named Arrakis. Three, to induce the idea that Paul Atreides has been training for combat, but has never really experienced real violence. And four, to introduce the concept of the Holtzman Shields, and how they change the essence of combat. An Holtzman Shield is a technology that protects individuals or vehicles from any fast objects. Therefore, bullets or rockets are obsolete. So it means that man to man combat came back to sword fighting. The choreography between Timothée Chalamet, who plays Paul, and Josh Brolin, who plays Gurney Halleck, illustrate that each opponent is trying to distract his adversary by doing very fast moves in order to create an opportunity to insert slowly a blade inside the opponent’s shield. “Guess I’m not in the mood today.” “Mood?” “Mm.” “What’s mood to do with it? You fight when the necessity arises, no matter the mood. Now fight!” That choreography was designed by Roger Yuan. He developed the Atreides fighting style borrowing from a martial art technique developed in the ‘50s. This technique was called balintawak eskrima. It’s a style that involves blocking the opponent’s attack with both a weapon and the free hand. “I have you.” “Aye. But look down, my Lord. You’d have joined me in death. I see you found the mood.” Cinematographer Greig Fraser and I shot the fight like we will shoot a dance performance. The goal was to embrace the complexity of the movements with objective camera angles. We tried to make sure that the audience will understand the nature of this new way of fighting. “You don’t really understand the grave nature of what’s happening to us.” But more importantly, I wanted to feel that Josh Brolin’s character was caring about Paul like if he was his own son. “Can you imagine the wealth? In your eyes— I need to see it in your eyes. You never met Harkonnens before. I have. They’re not human. They’re brutal! You have to be ready.”

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By Manohla Dargis

In a galaxy far, far away, a young man in a sea of sand faces a foreboding destiny. The threat of war hangs in the air. At the brink of a crisis, he navigates a feudalistic world with an evil emperor, noble houses and subjugated peoples, a tale right out of mythology and right at home in George Lucas’s brainpan. But this is “ Dune ,” baby, Frank Herbert’s science-fiction opus, which is making another run at global box-office domination even as it heads toward controversy about what it and its messianic protagonist signify.

The movie is a herculean endeavor from the director Denis Villeneuve (“Arrival”), a starry, sumptuous take on the novel’s first half. Published in 1965, Herbert’s book is a beautiful behemoth (my copy runs almost 900 pages) crowded with rulers and rebels, witches and warriors. Herbert had a lot to say — about religion, ecology, the fate of humanity — and drew from an astonishment of sources, from Greek mythology to Indigenous cultures. Inspired by government efforts to keep sand dunes at bay, he dreamed up a desert planet where water was the new petroleum. The result is a future-shock epic that reads like a cautionary tale for our environmentally ravaged world.

Villeneuve likes to work on a large scale, but has a miniaturist’s attention to fine-grained detail, which fits for a story as equally sweeping and intricate as “ Dune .” Like the novel, the movie is set thousands of years in the future and centers on Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet), the scion of a noble family. With his father, Duke Leto (Oscar Isaac), and his mother, Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), Paul is about to depart for his new home on a desert planet called Arrakis, a.k.a. Dune . The Duke, on orders from the Emperor, is to take charge of the planet, which is home to monstrous sandworms, enigmatic Bedouin-like inhabitants and an addictive, highly valuable resource called spice.

focus on the family movie review dune

Much ensues. There are complicated intrigues along with sword fights, heroic deaths and many inserts of a mystery woman (Zendaya) throwing come-hither glances at the camera, a Malickian vision in flowing robes and liquid slow motion. She’s one piece of the multifaceted puzzle of Paul’s destiny, as is a mystical sisterhood (led by Charlotte Rampling in severe mistress mode) of psychic power brokers who share a collective consciousness. They’re playing the long game while the story’s most flamboyant villain, the Baron (Stellan Skarsgard), schemes and slays, floating above terrified minions and enemies like a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day balloon devised by Clive Barker.

The movie leans on a lot of exposition, partly to help guide viewers through the story’s denser thickets, but Villeneuve also uses his visuals to advance and clarify the narrative. The designs and textures of the movie’s various worlds and their inhabitants are arresting, filigreed and meaningful, with characters and their environments in sync. At times, though, Villeneuve lingers too long over his creations, as if he wanted you to check out his cool new line of dragonfly-style choppers and bleeding corpses. (This isn’t a funny movie but there are mordantly humorous flourishes, notably with the Baron, whose bald head and oily bath indicate that Villeneuve is a fan of “Apocalypse Now.”)

That impulse to linger is understandable given the monumentality of Villeneuve’s world building (and its price tag). But the movie’s spectacular scale combined with Herbert’s complex mythmaking also creates a not entirely productive tension between stasis and movement. Not long after he lands on Dune, Paul is ushered into the new world of its tribal people, the Fremen, a transitional passage leading from dark rooms to bright desert, from heavy machinery and vaulted spaces with friezes to gauzy robes and the meringue peaks of the dunes. Paul is on a journey filled with heavy deeds and thoughts, but en route he can seem caught in all this beauty, like a fly in fast-hardening sap.

Chalamet looks young enough for the role (Paul is 15 when the novel opens) and can certainly strike a Byronic pose, complete with black coat and anguished hair. The actor has his moments in “Dune,” including in an early scene with Rampling’s Reverend Mother, who puts Paul through a painful test; Chalamet excels at imparting a sense of confused woundedness, psychic and physical. But he doesn’t move with the coiled grace of the warrior that Paul is meant to be, which undermines both his training sessions with the family “warmaster” (Josh Brolin) and in his later role as a messianic figure, one who is considerably less complicated and conflicted onscreen than he is on the page.

Written by Villeneuve, Jon Spaihts and Eric Roth, the screenplay has taken predictable liberties. The movie retains the overall arc of the book despite having jettisoned characters and swaths of plot. There have been felicitous changes, as with the character Dr. Liet Kynes, an ecologist who’s a man in the book but is now a woman. Played by a formidably striking Sharon Duncan-Brewster, the character doesn’t receive nearly enough screen time, particularly given Kynes’s weighty patrimony and narrative function. But Duncan-Brewster — like so many of the other well-cast supporting performers — makes enough of an impression that she helps fill in the script’s ellipses.

Throughout “Dune,” you can feel Villeneuve caught and sometimes struggling between his fidelity to the source material and the demands of big-ticket mainstream moviemaking and selling. It’s easy to imagine that he owns several copies of the novel, each copiously dog-eared and heavily outlined. (The movie is relatively free of holiday-ready merch opportunities, outside of a cute desert mouse with saucer-sized ears.) At the same time, Villeneuve is making a movie in a Marvel-dominated industry that foregrounds obviousness and blunt action sequences over ambiguity and introspection. There’s talk and stillness here, true, but also plenty of fights, explosions and hardware.

The trickiest challenge is presented by the movie’s commercial imperatives and, by extension, the entire historical thrust of Hollywood with its demand for heroes and happy endings. This presents a problem that Villeneuve can’t or won’t solve. Paul is burdened by prophetic visions he doesn’t yet fully understand, and while he’s an appealing figure in the novel, he is also menacing. Herbert was interested in problematizing the figure of the classic champion, including the superhero, and he weaves his critique into the very fabric of his multilayered tale. “No more terrible disaster could befall your people,” a character warns, “than for them to fall into the hands of a Hero.”

There’s little overt menace to this Paul, who mostly registers as a sincere, sensitive, if callow hero-in-the-making. Mostly, the danger he telegraphs exists on a representational level and the dubiously romanticized image presented by a pale, white noble who’s hailed as a messiah by the planet’s darker-complexioned native population. Whether Paul is white in the novel is, I think, open to debate. Herbert’s focus is on the human race, which, as the writer Jordan S. Carroll notes in a fascinating essay in the Los Angeles Review of Books , hasn’t prevented white supremacists from embracing the book. “Fascists love ‘Dune,’” Carroll writes, though he sees this love as a self-serving misreading.

One of Herbert’s talents was his ability to blend his promiscuous borrowings — from Navajo, Aztec, Turkish, Persian and myriad other sources — into a smoothly unified future world that, as befits science fiction, is at once familiar and strange. The shadow of Lawrence of Arabia and colonialist fantasies does loom large, particularly because the Fremen and their language are drawn from Arabic origins. Still, the book gives you room to cast Paul in your head in whatever image you choose. But movies tend to visually lock in meaning, and, like David Lynch’s much-maligned 1984 adaptation with Kyle MacLachlan as Paul, this “Dune” is also about a white man leading a fateful charge.

That doesn’t make Villeneuve’s “Dune” a white-savior story or not exactly or maybe just not yet. The movie ends before everything wraps up too neatly or uncomfortably, which injects it with some welcome uncertainty. Herbert wrote five sequels, and Duneworld continued to expand after his death; if the movie hits the box-office sweet spot, the story can presumably continue, which would be a gift for a franchise-hungry industry. Whether it will become the kind of gift that keeps on giving is up to the audience. Villeneuve has made a serious, stately opus, and while he doesn’t have a pop bone in his body, he knows how to put on a show as he fans a timely argument about who gets to play the hero now.

Dune Rated PG-13 for war violence. Running time: 2 hours 35 minutes. In theaters and on HBO Max .

Manohla Dargis has been the co-chief film critic since 2004. She started writing about movies professionally in 1987 while earning her M.A. in cinema studies at New York University, and her work has been anthologized in several books. More about Manohla Dargis

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Review: 'dune: part two' delivers on the thrilling promise of 'part one'.

"Dune: Part Two" is spectacular, in both meanings of the word.

The second half of the science fiction movie (yes, it's annoying to only get part of a movie) is huge and hugely entertaining. It's also a series of gigantic setpieces, including gladiators fighting in front of possibly the most enormous (digital) crowd I've ever seen in the movies, battles featuring thousands of warriors in outsized spacecraft and palace hallways that appear to go on into infinity.

I emphasize the movie's bigness because it's so integral to its appeal. There's a lot going on, so much that, even if you do remember "Part One," you may occasionally get lost. But what Denis Villeneuve's movie lacks in narrative clarity it makes up in sheer visual spectacle. Most of "Part Two" must have been created with special effects but, somehow, Villeneuve and his team give it a natural quality, so it never conveys the feeling that you're basically watching an animated film. What we're seeing in "Part Two" — which opens in theaters Feb. 29 — can't be real but it always looks like it is.

That's accomplished by reuniting the creative team that won six Oscars two years ago for the first half of "Dune." Take Jacqueline West's costumes, which are appropriately futuristic but which also appear to be handmade (West was nominated for "Part One" but did not win). As in all of these sci-fi epics, there are plenty of scenes in which computer-generated characters drive computer-generated vehicles past computer-generated backdrops but, in "Dune," it feels human, slightly messy and organic. That comes through most strongly in a couple of scenes in which characters demonstrate their strength during sandstorms, in which it almost feels like we, too, can feel the punishing enormity of the desert winds.

As in "Part One," the story is simple: Paul Atreides ( Timothée Chalamet ) is trying to restore his family, the House of Atreides, to power and save his peoples' future. He has help from fierce Chani (Zendaya), warrior Gurney (Josh Brolin) and man of faith Stilgar (Javier Bardem) but it's not always clear where the loyalties of other characters lie, including his own mother (Rebecca Ferguson). "Part Two" introduces new foes including — here's that word again — a spectacular Austin Butler ("Elvis"), as Feyd-Rautha, a sadistic killing machine who makes up in menace what he lacks in eyebrows.

"Part Two" is meant to further explore the perils of something Chani says early on: "You want to control people? You tell them a messiah will come. They will wait for centuries." It's a provocative idea but "Part Two" loses it in the midst of all the hugeness. I'd also like more of the complicated romance of Paul and Chani; both Chalamet and Zendaya are powerful performers who can do a lot with a little. But every time it seems "Part Two" is about to explore the difficulty of maintaining a relationship when you're both destined for greatness, we cut to somebody blowing up something.

A lot of that has to do with the difficulty of finishing a movie that most moviegoers began back in October 2021, when "Part One" hit theaters. An emotional reunion between Brolin and Chalamet, for instance, will only register if you remember how they parted in the last movie. There are also things from the very beginning of "Part One" that don't pay off until the end of "Part Two."

I guess what I'm saying is that you'd be wise to re-watch the first movie, if you haven't done so recently, and then I'd recommend seeing "Part Two" on the loudest, biggest screen you can find.

'Dune: Part Two'

***1/2 out of 4 stars

Rated: PG-13 for violence.

Where: In theaters.

Interim books editor Chris Hewitt previously worked at the Pioneer Press in St. Paul, where he wrote about movies and theater.

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  • Review: 'Dune: Part Two' delivers on the thrilling promise of 'Part One' • Movies
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focus on the family movie review dune

'Dune - Part Two' Review - Timothe Chalamet's Sci-Fi Epic Is Bigger Than Ever

  • Dune: Part Two impresses with masterful special effects and expands the universe's scope.
  • New characters add complexity but overload the storylines, making the movie feel rushed.
  • The third act stands out with incredible action scenes, remaining true to the source material.

After walking out of Dune , I felt assured that Denis Villeneuve 's vision of Arrakis and Paul Atreides couldn't be topped. Villeneuve did what many failed to do: adapt the unadaptable . With Dune: Part Two though, it's about sticking the landing for that adaptation . Part Two achieves the impossible by fully realizing Villeneuve and author Frank Herbert 's vision, but nothing is perfect. Part Two offers a lot more on the visual cinematic front, with impressive visuals and a fantastic score, however, where it struggles is with its widening scope. The larger cast and a dive deeper into the mythos of the story creates some issues, especially if you're stepping into the story as just a casual movie watcher. While Part Two is impressive on multiple fronts, it doesn't make it to the finish line without stumbling first.

Dune: Part Two

Paul Atreides unites with Chani and the Fremen while seeking revenge against the conspirators who destroyed his family.

Release Date March 1, 2024

Director Denis Villeneuve

Cast Zendaya, Stellan Skarsgrd, Timothee Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Florence Pugh, Javier Bardem

Rating PG-13

Runtime 166 minutes

Main Genre Sci-Fi

Genres Drama, Sci-Fi, Action, Adventure

Writers Jon Spaihts, Denis Villeneuve, Frank Herbert

'Dune: Part Two' Is Larger in Scope and Cast

Part Two picks up mere hours after the first movie and follows Paul ( Timothée Chalamet ) and his mother, Jessica ( Rebecca Ferguson ), as they adjust to their new normal now living among the unfamiliar Fremen in the vast deserts of Arrakis. Paul learns from both Stilgar ( Javier Bardem ) and Chani ( Zendaya ) about how to navigate the desert as Jessica continues to fuel the belief that Paul is the messiah. Meanwhile, Baron Harkonnen ( Stellan Skarsgård ) oversees his new control of Arrakis as it mines the precious and valuable spice . When his nephew, Beast Rabban ( Dave Bautista ), fails to fight off the attacking Fremen and obtain command of the planet, the Baron sends in his other nephew, the sadistic Feyd-Rautha (a perfectly menacing Austin Butler ), to the planet in his place. On top of all of that, we also meet Princess Irulan (a fleeting Florence Pugh ), the daughter of the Emperor (an enigmatic and restrained Christopher Walken ), who played a large part in the fall of House Atreides.

Part of the problem with Part Two was always going to arise when tackling Dune . With the expansion of the world comes more characters. Where we mainly circled the Atreides family in Part One , the second part not only throws us into the world of the Fremen, but also introduces more Bene Gesserits , more Harkonnens, and the Emperor and his family. If you're familiar with the Dune book series , you'll know that these characters are quite important and need to have their time on screen. But if you're not familiar with the books, you might be wondering why there's a new character popping up on screen every few minutes.

Similarly, the scope has widened. While before it was merely about arriving and understanding Arrakis, Part Two deals with the beginnings of a holy war, perpetuating a prophecy, and taking over an entire galaxy. This is where the story begins to deal with the larger concepts at the heart of Dune and, for someone coming in for the first time, this can all be very daunting. For those who indulge in complicated worldbuilding and love to explore new fantasy universes, Part Two goes deeper than ever before and warrants a second viewing to get all the details . But for more casual viewers, all those extra details might just end up falling by the wayside as incomprehensible.

'Dune: Part Two's Focus Is Weakened by Its Pacing

As the world expands, Part Two is somehow both too long of a movie and too short. It became clear to me that if television shows had the budgets that movies had, these two movies would have been better served as a multi-episode series rather than two massive films. In one instance, when Paul is first learning how to survive in the desert with the Fremen, we might expect the film to go through a montage of endurance and inner strength. Instead, it cuts immediately from him preparing to face this challenge to his success a vague number of days later. These cuts make sense given the long runtime of the film, but weaken the narrative with an inconsistent timeline and achievements that are unearned.

Newly introduced characters like Princess Irulan or Feyd-Rautha barely have any personality beyond the trope they are meant to embody . Irulan acts as a privileged and emotionally distant figure who serves partially as a narrator. And though we get glimpses into Feyd-Rautha’s psychology in his time on his home planet, there is little depth to the character who simply acts as an agent of cruelty and domination. Despite marketing leaning heavily on Florence Pugh and Austin Butler’s star power , much like Dune: Part One ’s Zendaya, they are in less of the movie than you might think.

Every Denis Villeneuve Movie Ranked From Worst to Best

In his attempt to cover the totality of Dune , Villeneuve must pack in all the universe-building that exists in Frank Herbert's books while also trying to tell a compelling story. There are scenes where one character must explain, in detail, an aspect of the universe to the other for the benefit of the audience. The result is a film that is heavy in exposition . It isn't until the final third of the movie that we rush toward the conclusion of the narrative. Up until then, the pacing of the film is inconsistent, leading to a feeling of aimlessness. It’s clear halfway through that this is not the end of Villeneuve’s storytelling. He is setting the stage for future installments of the franchise, and it’s hard to tell at this point if his gamble will pay off.

Characters Struggle To Shine in 'Dune 2'

While the acting is by no means bad, it pales in comparison to the technical mastery of Dune: Part Two . Ferguson, who had such an impactful performance in Part One , is relegated to the position of a mysterious religious leader , while Chalamet must now pick up the mantle of a would-be messiah. The vague white savior vibes that Dune has always given off are still here in Part Two . No matter the complexity behind it, the optics of a white kid walking into a sea of brown people bowing to him and calling him a messiah is going to turn him into a white savior. The saving grace is Paul's own belief that his identity as a savior is merely manufactured by his mother and the other Bene Gesserit. Chani and the other younger Fremen's doubt of his position as a messiah also adds a counterpoint to the zealous believers in Paul's destiny.

With more time on-screen, Chalamet primarily shares his scenes with Zendaya, who is a bright spark as Chani. Although we only got glimpses of her in Part One , Part Two reveals that Zendaya and Chalamet lack the romantic chemistry to make the couple feel believable, and perhaps the relationship is best seen only in small amounts . Instead, Chalamet has far more exciting and electric chemistry with Austin Butler , especially when the two characters finally face off against each other in a duel in Arrakeen. Similarly, the film only gives us a bit of Irulan and Paul. For those who enjoyed Greta Gerwig 's Little Women where Chalamet charmed as Laurie and Florence Pugh won our hearts as the flawed Amy , this will be a disappointing reunion. But, the promise of more interactions between the characters might be enough for fans anticipating a sequel to Part Two .

Special Effects, Massive Fight Scenes, and Sound Editing Remain the Highlights in 'Dune 2'

However, more time in the desert means more time on the sandworms and that turns this film into a full-on spectacle to witness. While we might have only gotten a glimpse of the sandworm riding in Part One , Part Two triples down on them. The special effects are magnificent and a masterpiece of filmmaking . Watching Paul master riding the shai-hulud (as they are called in Arrakis) is a heart-pounding experience and the masterful sound editing in Part Two is a major contributor to this as well. Villeneuve takes us into the sandstorm, putting us in Paul's shoes as he struggles to ride the massive beast, throwing the viewer into confusion and disarray with the movement of the camera. It is only after pulling away that we see his triumph from the eyes of the fellow Fremen. It's an exhilarating experience made better through the different perspectives Villeneuve employs.

While I had my criticisms of Part One 's sound editing and soundtrack with its loud female vocals that sounded off like an alarm in every other scene, Part Two finds a perfect harmony in the visual and the aural. The action sequences are also a delight to watch . Whether we’re on the Harkonnen planet, bathed in black and white and among the crowd of cheering fans in a gladiatorial stadium or watching from the ground on Arrakeen as three monstrous sandworms come barreling toward us through a haboob accompanied by thousands of Fremen, it’s impossible to capture the immense scale of these scenes on a small screen.

One of the highlights of the first film was the first attack on Arrakeen, where Villeneuve matched sweeping shots of the planet with close encounters between characters within the palace. The same exists here in a parallel as we watch the Fremen launch their attack on the Harkonnen in wide shots that linger over the city to show the scale of the battle. Within the palace, the setting sun behind Paul and Feyd-Rautha as they fight makes it look like they're on fire. As much chaos as there is on the ground, there is tense control held by these two men in their fight to the death. Unlike most big-budget movies today, Villeneuve doesn't employ heavy cutting that confuses the viewer as to where the characters are. Instead, the way the camera lingers during fight sequences ratchets up the tension during the one-on-one face-off. Movies are always best enjoyed on the biggest screen , but never has a movie demanded an IMAX screen more than Dune: Part Two . Get yourself to the biggest theater you can to enjoy this.

You Will Never Be Able to Unsee 'Dune 2's Popcorn Bucket

'dune: part two' overflows into the future.

As the movie draws to a close, it would be hard to say that there's any true tone of finality in Part Two . Instead, the sense is that this is merely the end of the beginning of Paul's story . It feels like a prequel — one where we, as the audience, should already know where Paul ends up. Villeneuve has set up a lot and I left Dune: Part Two excited for more of this story, especially with surprising cameos that hint at a fantastic future . I’ve criticized a lot of this movie, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a joy to watch on screen. Villeneuve has achieved the impossible, and I’m sure he’s converted many people into becoming Dune fans. But, I can't help but think that this is how I felt in 2021 when I first saw Part One . Will Dune: Part Two become a pivotal part of a movie franchise or a harbinger of worse things to come?

'Dune: Part Two' achieves masterful special effects success and widens the scope of the universe.

  • The sound editing and special effects, particularly of the sandworm, are stunning.
  • The adaptation honors and stays true to the source material.
  • The third act is the best part of both movies and contains some of the best action sequences thus far.
  • The introduction of new characters means there are too many storylines to focus on.
  • Despite the long runtime, it still feels like parts are missing from the film, making it feel rushed at times.

Dune: Part Two is now available to stream on Max in the U.S.


'Dune - Part Two' Review - Timothe Chalamet's Sci-Fi Epic Is Bigger Than Ever

Movie Review: Dune: Part Two Plugged In Entertainment Reviews

Director Denis Villeneuve’s second film chronicling the life of Paul Atreides on the desert planet of Arrakis is bold, beautiful … and brutal.    Read the Plugged In Review   If you've listened to any of our podcasts, please give us your feedback.

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focus on the family movie review dune

Book Review

Dune — “dune chronicles”.

  • Frank Herbert
  • Fantasy , Science Fiction

focus on the family movie review dune

Readability Age Range

  • Chilton (1965); the version reviewed was published in 2010 by Ace books
  • Nebula Award, 1965; Hugo Award tie, 1966

Year Published

Dune by Frank Herbert has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine . It is the first book in the “Dune Chronicles.”

Plot Summary

Artificial intelligence has long been outlawed. In its place, people use the drug melange, commonly known as spice, to perfect their mental capabilities. Spice is the most valuable resource in the universe, as it allows an expansion of the mind and even precognition.

The space guild, which has a monopoly on space travel and trade, uses spice to predict the future and safely plot courses through the universe. Spice is also used in Bene Gesserit rituals.

The Bene Gesserit is a matriarchal society that manipulates the galaxy in the shadows. The extensive training of their minds has allowed them to become hyper-observant, allowing them to perform tasks such as becoming teachers and human lie detectors.

Their true purpose, however, is to breed a superhuman individual known as the Kwisatz Haderach. They have selectively bred people for centuries to produce a man whose perception could transcend time and space.

Padishah Emperor Shaddam Corrino IV has begun to view House Atreides, led by Duke Leto, as a threat. The duke is gaining the respect of the other noble houses and training a fighting force that rivals the emperor’s own Sardaukar, his elite guard. The emperor works with Baron Vladimir Harkonnen to eliminate House Atreides and prevent Leto from challenging the throne.

The emperor commands Leto to take charge of Arrakis, a desert planet also known as Dune. Arrakis is the sole source of spice. Leto senses a trap, but accepts the commission to not directly disobey the emperor and take advantage of controlling spice mining.

As House Atreides prepares to leave the home planet of Caladan, the Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohaim, the Emperor’s Bene Gesserit truthsayer, visits Leto’s 15-year-old son, Paul. She performs a test on Paul that causes excruciating pain. She wishes to see if he does not panic or if he is ruled by emotion rather than reason. He passes the test.

The Bene Gesserit human breeding program should be one generation away from producing the Kwisatz Haderach, the ultimate human. The Kwisatz Haderach has the power to see through time and space. He is a man who can survive the Water of Life, a drug taken by Truthsayer Bene Gesserits to be able to see the past through the eyes of their ancestors.

Only women have been able to take the drug and survive. Jessica, Paul’s Bene Gesserit mother and the duke’s concubine, was commanded to birth a girl who would marry a Harkonnen and produce the Kwisatz Haderach. However, she produced Paul instead to please the duke and derailed the breeding program. The Reverend Mother was angered by this, but is impressed by Paul nonetheless. Paul has been trained by his mother in Bene Gesserit ways and has the capacity to see the future.

The Atreides arrive on Arrakis. Water is extremely rare on this desert planet. Fremen, a nomadic people that excel at surviving on the dangerous planet, inhabit it. They wear stillsuits, full-body outfits that recycle waste and expend very little water.

Bene Gesserit missionaries that arrived on the planet years ago implanted ideas in the Fremen’s minds. Because of this influence, the Fremen long for a savior who will convert Arrakis’ desert into a paradise. Leto notices their survival skills and aptness for fighting. He hopes to recruit and utilize them to counter attacks from the Harkonnens. Even when they first arrive, the Fremen suspect that Paul may the messiah of legend.

Spice mining is extremely dangerous. The worms, or makers, of Dune are huge, capable of swallowing an entire mining vessel. The worms have a symbiotic relationship with the spice. Every time spice is mined, the worms attack. The duke and Paul oversee a mining expedition under the supervision of Arrakis’ planetologist, Liet Kynes, a man who lives among the Fremen and attempts to better the planet’s harsh climate. The duke rescues his workers when a worm attacks.

The Harkonnens ensure that the Atreides discover false information that implies that Jessica is a traitor and will have a leading role in killing the duke. The duke’s men, including Gurney Halleck and Thufir Hawat, suspect Jessica, but the duke is not convinced. Thufir Hawat is a mentat, an individual trained to make computer-like calculations. Thufir is also the head of Leto’s assassins, who protect the duke.

The Harkonnens get information from Dr. Yueh on Leto’s staff, torturing his wife and forcing him to betray the duke in order to end her pain. House Harkonnen attacks and penetrates the Atreides’ offenses using Harkonnen soldiers and Sardaukar disguised as Harkonnen.

Yueh hates the Harkonnens deeply, so he helps Jessica and Paul escape. He also implants a tooth in Leto’s mouth that will release a poison gas when he bites down so he can kill the baron. The baron kills Yueh. Leto bites down on his poison tooth and dies, but the poison gas kills the baron’s mentat Piter instead of the baron himself.

Most of Leto’s men are killed, but Gurney Halleck and Thufir Hawat survive. They both believe Jessica is responsible for the duke’s death. Gurney becomes a smuggler on Arrakis to take revenge against the Harkonnens, and Thufir is manipulated to become the baron’s mentat. However, the baron gives Thufir a poison. If Thufir tries to abandon the Harkonnens, he will no longer receive the antidote and die.

After Leto’s death, Paul’s precognitive abilities increase. He realizes Jessica is the baron’s illegitimate daughter. He must find the Fremen and use his power to enlist their service. However, he fears a jihad, or that the Fremen’s religious devotion to Paul will cause them to go on a violent spree throughout the universe. Kynes and Duncan Idaho, Leto’s men, meet up with Paul and Jessica. Kynes promises to utilize the Fremen and help Paul, but the Harkonnens attack and kill Kynes and Duncan. Jessica and Paul fly into a dangerous storm. They are assumed dead.

Paul and Jessica cross the desert of Arrakis and find the Fremen. The Fremen attack Paul and Jessica, intending to kill them and take their water, but they fight back with Bene Gesserit techniques. They prove their worth, and the Fremen allow the two to live with them. However, a Fremen that Paul bested, Jamis, challenges Paul to one-on-one combat.

Paul accepts and hesitates to kill Jamis, but eventually does so reluctantly. At Jamis’ funeral, Paul sheds tears for Jamis, which the Fremen consider to be the greatest honor one can give the dead. Paul takes the Fremen name Muad’Dib.

The Fremen, along with Paul and Jessica, reach their hidden settlement. The tribe’s Reverend Mother is on the verge of death, so they decide to let Jessica, a Bene Gesserit, become the Reverend Mother. Jessica drinks of a drug, before she realizes it’s the Water of Life, a drug that allows a woman to gain the memories of her female ancestors.

Jessica is pregnant with Leto’s daughter, so the unborn child receives this wisdom before she is born. Jessica becomes the Reverend Mother of the tribe. Paul’s precognitive abilities expand further due to the Fremen’s spice diet. Paul and Jessica teach the Fremen Bene Gesserit techniques to improve their fighting abilities.

Two years later, Paul has taken a Fremen woman, Chani, as a lover, and they have had a son, Leto II. Paul has begun to lead the Fremen people using his future sight, becoming a religious figure to them. The Fremen believe Paul is the messiah of legend.

Jessica has given birth to a girl, Alia. Due to receiving the Water of Life in the womb, Alia has knowledge that she should not have at her age. She acts wise beyond her years and makes the Fremen uncomfortable.

Paul rides a worm, which is regarded as his Fremen passage to manhood. Paul is expected to kill Stilgar, the leader of his tribe, and take up the mantle of leadership. Instead, Paul declares himself Duke of Atreides, as his father was, and leaves Stilgar in command.

A smuggling vessel overextends, attempting to mine spice in Fremen territory. Paul leads a group of Fremen to attack the smugglers. He is reunited with Gurney Halleck. Gurney is shocked and elated that Paul is alive, and volunteers his service. Some of his men turn out to be the Sardaukar in disguise, and they kill some of the Fremen. However, Paul allows them to escape and report to the emperor that Paul is alive.

Paul begins to prepare for a great battle, intending to reclaim Arrakis. Gurney tries to kill Jessica, still believing that she is responsible for Leto’s death. Paul tells him that she was not the traitor and explains Yueh’s treachery. Gurney is distraught and tells Paul to kill him, but Jessica and Paul forgive him.

Paul did not predict Gurney’s attack, so Paul is reminded that his powers of prescience are limited. He takes a tiny portion of the Water of Life, a drug that has killed all men who have taken it. He spends three weeks in a coma, but wakes with greater prescient skills.

He fulfills the Bene Gesserits’ prophecy of the Kwisatz Haderach. Paul sees the armies of the emperor and Harkonnens approaching Arrakis to quell the Fremen rebellion. Paul also discovers that he can destroy all the spice on Arrakis if he wants to.

As Paul and his army prepare to attack the capital of Dune, the emperor’s forces capture Alia and kill Paul’s son. Alia meets the emperor, the baron and the Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohaim. Alia disturbs the Reverend Mother, and she calls Alia an abomination. After using his family’s atomic weapons to destroy the shield wall around the capital, Paul and the Fremen attack, riding on sand worms. Alia kills the baron in the confusion.

Paul is victorious and retakes Arrakis, but he is deeply shaken by the death of his son. He meets to discuss terms with the emperor, threatening to destroy the spice to force the emperor to accept his demands. Harkonnen Feyd-Rautha, the heir to the baron, challenges Paul to a fight, and he accepts.

Even though Feyd-Rautha attacks with poison weapons, Paul defeats Feyd-Rautha. The emperor abdicates the throne, retreating to his prison planet Salusa Secundus with most of his family and close supporters. However, Irulan, the emperor’s eldest daughter, stays on Arrakis to marry Paul.

Chani, Paul’s Fremen lover, remains as Paul’s concubine, receiving Paul’s affection and siring his heirs. Irulan will be Paul’s wife in name only, resigning herself to be satisfied by writing about his life. Paul promises the Fremen that Arrakis will be a garden planet, but the deserts will remain so the worms and spice can survive.

Christian Beliefs

Jessica remembers a quote from St. Augustine.

Other Belief Systems

The Bene Gesserit, a group of women with hyper-observational and sometimes prescient skills, are often called witches. The Bene Gesserits’ Missionaria Protectiva implants ideas in primitive culture to be exploited later. Paul and Jessica use these ideas to take control of the Fremen. Many characters have prescient abilities.

The second appendix describes the religion of the Dune universe in detail. When space travel became viable, people rethought Creation. Genesis is reinterpreted, with God saying, “Increase and multiply, and fill the universe.” After the Butlerian jihad occurs and artificial intelligence is outlawed, the most important commandment becomes “Thou shalt not disfigure the soul.”

Religious leaders meet to dispel the idea that one group has the only revelation and create the Orange Catholic Bible. The Orange Catholic Bible combines major religions and becomes the most popular religion in the universe. Throughout Dune, characters quote the Orange Catholic Bible. Characters sometimes exclaim “Great Mother!” The Great Mother is a horned goddess that is a part of their religion.

Authority Roles

Paul’s mother, Jessica, is the concubine of Duke Leto. She is wise and extremely competent. She has a great deal of control over her mind and body, allowing her to be a good fighter and to become a spiritual leader for the Fremen. Paul realizes that his mother will help bring about the jihad and that she is his enemy.

Duke Leto wishes to remain unmarried for political reasons. Jessica is afraid of the duke sometimes. She says he is two men: one a wonderful man she loves and the other a harsh and cruel man. The duke’s late father shaped the cruel side of him. Jessica wishes Leto’s father had died before Leto was born. However, Duke Leo is known as Leto the Just and generally treats his subjects well.

Paul is 15 when the story begins, but he often acts and is treated like an adult. He is fairly reserved and mysterious due to his prescient abilities. He is hesitant to kill in the beginning and cries when he has to kill Jamis. By the end of the story, Paul eagerly accepts fights.

Paul says he will try to prevent the jihad, but his actions bring about the jihad. Much like his father, Paul takes a lover and makes her his concubine. Paul plans to marry a daughter of the emperor in order to take the throne. The emperor’s lavish lifestyle has made him soft. He schemes and commands from a distance, to protect his throne.

The Baron Harkonnen is so overweight that he uses mechanical contraptions to help support himself and to move. He is power-hungry and conniving. His actions bring about the deaths of many people, including Paul’s father.

Profanity & Violence

The word d–n appears several times. The Reverend Mother says, “Devil take the rules.” Jessica calls Arrakis a h—hole .

Paul, a 15 year-old boy, is threatened with a deadly poison so he will undergo excruciating pain in a test. Gurney and Paul spar. Gurney says that there’s no artistry in killing with the tip of a blade. Leto tells Paul to kill with either the tip or the edge if need be. Thufir Hawat, an assassin, arranges the deaths of others. Yueh’s wife is tortured and then killed.

Someone uses a hunter-seeker, a device that can burrow into flesh, to attack Paul, but Paul destroys it. The duke curses under his breath. Guests discuss blood-drinking birds on Arrakis. Jessica describes Fremen as casual killers. Paul tells a story about a fisherman trying to stand on another man’s shoulders in the water to keep from drowning.

Duke Leto discovers two people murdered before Yueh shoots him with a paralyzing dart. Jessica and Paul are drugged. The Harkonnens kill most of the duke’s men. Yueh is stabbed and killed. Piter, the baron’s Mentat, threatens the duke with torture by hot tallow. The duke dies when he bites into a poison capsule and kills Piter.

Paul sees jihad when he looks into the future. Fremen sacrifice themselves when attacking Harkonnens. An enemy hits a Fremen in the throat with a knife. A lasgun shoots a shield and causes an explosion that kills Harkonnens. Duncan Idaho, one of Duke Leto’s men, kills Harkonnens and bloodies his blades. Harkonnens kill him. Gurney wishes for revenge against the Harkonnens and for the blood of Rabban Harkonnen to flow around his feet.

A bird kills a mouse. Fremen want to kill Jessica and Paul for their bodies’ water, and they fight to protect themselves. Harkonnens wound Kynes. He dies in a dust whirlpool. Paul considers a quote from the Orange Catholic Bible, a text that combines modern religions, about hell.

Paul sees a possible future in which he dies, bleeding from a knife wound. He fights Jamis, a Fremen, and reluctantly kills him. Feyd-Rautha kills his 100th gladiator with poisoned weapons on his 17th birthday. The gladiator fights Feyd-Rautha even with barbed shafts in his body. The crowd chants for Feyd-Rautha to remove the gladiator’s head, but he refuses.

Feyd-Rautha embeds a poison needle in a slave boy’s thigh in an attempt to assassinate the baron. Feyd-Rautha is forced to kill slave women. Hawat says destroying the baron would be a service to mankind. Chani kills a Fremen who wants to challenge Paul. A ceremony, which Jessica does, includes talking about raiders killing Fremen.

Stilgar tells Paul about the leader that he had to kill to become leader of the tribe. The tribe expects Paul to kill Stilgar and take his place as head of the tribe. Paul illustrates his need of Stilgar by saying he won’t cut off his right arm and leave it on the floor.

The emperor’s men kill Paul’s son and other Fremen. The Atreides own atomic weapons, which are forbidden to use against humans. If this rule is broken, other houses will respond with planetary annihilation. Paul bends this rule when he uses the atomics on a shield wall. Alia kills the baron. Hawat dies of poison. Paul fights and kills Feyd-Rautha.

In the appendix, Pardot Kynes kills Harkonnens. An assassin almost kills Kynes, but commits suicide for unknown reasons instead.

Sexual Content

Gurney sings a lewd song. Gurney says that moods are for making love, not fighting. A smuggler says that three things ease the heart: water, grass and women. Stilgar says that some are jealous that his hands have “tasted [Jessica’s] loveliness” when they fought. Stilgar asks for Jessica’s respect without a demand for sex.

Paul, a 15-year-old boy, has the option of taking Jamis’ wife, Harah, as his wife. The Fremen have an orgy after a ritual. Paul looks into the future and sees him and Chani having sex. Chani kisses him on the cheek. Paul later kisses Chani’s palm. Stilgar kisses Paul’s blade, pledging his fealty to Paul. Count Fenring gives slave women as a bribe.

The Baron Harkonnen expresses sexual desire for young boys. He also shows interest in his young nephew Feyd-Rautha. The baron compares a young man brought to him to his nephew. He was sexually active in his youth, fathering Jessica as an illegitimate child. Men imply that they will sexually assault Jessica.

The baron watches the line of Lady Fenring’s neck, calling it a lovely flow of muscles and comparing it to a young boy’s. Lady Fenring and her husband plot to seduce Feyd-Rautha and get the Lady pregnant with his child, preserving the Harkonnen bloodline. Paul feels a sexual heat from all humanity.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books .

Additional Comments

Lies: Many characters lie in order to deceive others politically.

Classism: Class on Arrakis is heavily based on water. Before Duke Leto took charge of Arrakis, nobles used to dip their hands into a basin, spill water on the floor, dry their hands on a towel and drop the towel into a puddle on the floor. Beggars would gather outside to get the water from the towel. The duke put a stop to this custom, giving every beggar a cup of water instead. The duke and his family have all the water they could want, even a room with tropical plants, on a planet where people recycle their own wastewater.

Drugs and alcohol: Drugs are prevalent in the world of Dune. Spice is used for prescience and by navigators to travel through space. The Bene Gesserit use it. Fremen use spice so heavily in their diet that it turns their eyes blue. The heavy spice diet enhances Paul’s abilities of future sight. Spice is addictive. Nefud, the duke’s captain of the guard, is addicted to semuta, a combination of drugs and music. Duncan Idaho, one of the duke’s men, gets so drunk that he tells Jessica sensitive information she wasn’t meant to know.

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‘Dune 2’ Ending Explained: Is Another Film Coming to the Sci-Fi Series?

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There have been three film adaptations of Frank Herbert’s Dune since 1984, but only the latest (directed by Denis Villeneuve) has been brave enough to release a sequel . After we were introduced to Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides and Zendaya as Chani in 2021, the star-crossed lovers reconnected earlier this year on the big screen. It was important to the director that the Dune 2 ending not be perceived as a “White savior story,” which was some of the criticism of Herbert’s novel from the mid-60s. Instead, Villeneuve wanted his work to reflect the dangers of power, as shown through Paul’s ascension to Emperor of the known galaxy.

Throughout Dune 2 , Paul explores the Freman culture while struggling to accept the Lisan al Gaib prophecy, which suggests he could be the people’s messiah. The young man deals with moral dilemmas while navigating this discovery, even experiencing visions of bloodshed that could come from his hands. Rather than accepting his fate, Paul hopes to prove himself to the Fremen and help them become liberated. However, unwavering faith from Stilgar (Javier Bardem) and his mother, Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), who’s been spreading the word of the prophecy relentlessly, leaves our main character with no choice but to ascend.

Denis Villeneuve’s Sequel Ends on a Dark Note

When Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen (Austin Butler) destroys the Freman’s north seitch, Paul is forced to make a move on the opposition earlier than expected. He plans to drink the Water of Life, which will leave him with the full intensity of the Bene Gesserit powers. In doing this, the aspiring Emperor believes he’ll gain the total support of the Fremens and take power on Arrakis as the Fedaykin army is strong enough to overtake the Harkonneris – with help from atomic weapons, of course. Thanks to his newfound powers, Paul can challenge the current leader, Shaddam IV (Christopher Walken).

As war ensues in Arrakis, Chalamet’s character plots the best way to overthrow the Emperor. First, he asks to marry Shaddam’s daughter, Princess Irulan (Florence Pugh) to ensure the Corrino bloodline remains in power. After previously trying to destroy the House Atreides, Paul knew that the current ruler wouldn’t willingly give his power away. His second strategic move was to fight Feyd-Rautha, which would lead to a natural end to the Harkonnen bloodline and a path to replace the Emperor, even without the support of the Great Houses.

Not only does the Freman messiah appear to fatally wound Feyd, but he also kills Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgård), who was originally murdered by Paul’s younger sister, Alia Atreides (Anya Taylor-Joy) in the first Dune novel. Before Feyd’s death, Dune 2 confirms that he and Lady Margot are expecting a child, so we may meet his children if the upcoming Dune 3 incorporates plot points from Herbet’s Paul of Dune .

The Arrakis are liberated from Harkonnen rule thanks to the champion’s efforts, and Paul has now avenged the death of his father while amassing more power for House Atreides. As newly appointed leader and Lisan ai Gaib, Paul’s visions of “ruling with the backing of a religious jihad and the knowledge that this will only result in a galactic war responsible for the death of billions,” as per ScreenRant , have come true.

How Chani’s Story in ‘Dune 2’ Differs From the Books

The Dune 2 ending differs from the book it’s based on most obviously through Zendaya’s character’s storyline. She spends the film doubting the Lisan al Gaib prophecy, even as her feelings for Paul develop. The believed messiah professes his love for Chani tirelessly, even before he proposes to Princess Irulan. Because he’s on a quest to become Emperor, Paul follows his head instead of his heart, which lies with his fellow Freman. Unfortunately, a future with her would bring no political gain to the Lisan al Gaib, and that’s not a risk he’s willing to take.

While Herbert wrote Chani as a woman who stands by Paul and continues to love him despite his marriage to Irulan, Villeneuve tells the story differently, In his version, Zendaya leaves as the new Emperor ascends, preparing to ride off on a sandworm without a clear destination. “There’s heartbreak, there’s betrayal, there’s loss and confusion,” the Euphoria actress told Comicbook . “I feel like it’s a quite painful ending.” Speaking with Inverse , the Dune 2 director noted that it was important to tell this part of the story through Chani’s eyes so audiences could see his actions through the eyes of the person he was betraying most.

Paul Atreides Has One Holy War to Fight

As the Dune 2 ending wraps, Lady Jessica declares that a “Holy War” is beginning as her son’s army begins boarding ships to face off against the Great Houses. We see Paul instruct Stiglar, Gurney (Josh Brolin) and other loyal supporters to head off to battle in his name after hearing the remaining Great Houses won’t honor his ascension. Visions in the 2021 Dune film foreshadowed this moment as the Freman leader dreamt of “holy war spreading across the universe like unquenchable fire.”

With renewed faith in their Lisan al Gaib, the Freman army becomes a religious jihad that will stop at nothing to see Paul be recognized. This is part of the setup for Dune 3 , though it’s worth noting that Paul’s conquering of the universe likely won’t be the story unfolding in the upcoming film. Instead, Dune: Messiah fast forwards 12 years in the future to focus on the protagonist as a well-established Emperor.

What You Need to Know about ‘Dune 3′

Even before his March 2024 release hit theaters, Villeneuve was hinting at making Dune a trilogy. As of December 2023, a script adaptation of Messiah is in the works, which will likely see Paul and Princess Irulan still married. There’s plenty of curiosity around what will happen with Chani after the changes we saw during the Dune 2 ending, but it could be a while before answers arrive. For now, the director is working on projects in genres outside of sci-fi so that when he returns to work on the threequel, it can hopefully be the franchise’s best yet. Development announcements began rolling out in April 2024, with Chalamet, Pugh and Zendaya all expected to return.

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Adam holz, paul asay and johnathan mckee, movie review: unsung hero.

What does it take to persevere in faith and family when the bottom drops out? It takes leaning on each other—especially those closest to us.

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Plugged In is a Focus on the Family publication designed to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving families the essential tools they need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which they live. Through our reviews, articles and discussions, we hope to spark intellectual thought, spiritual growth and a desire to follow the command of Colossians 2:8: "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ."

About Adam Holz, Paul Asay and Johnathan McKee

Adam Holz  After serving as an associate editor at NavPress' Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In's reviews along with hosting The Plugged In Show and the Plugged In Entertainment Review radio feature.   Paul Asay has been part of the  Plugged In  staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including  Time,   The Washington Post  and  Christianity Today . The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter  @AsayPaul . Jonathan McKee  is the author of over twenty books. He has over 20 years youth ministry experience and  speaks  to parents and leaders worldwide, He can be heard each week on the Plugged In Entertainment Review radio feature and The Plugged In Show. You can follow Jonathan on  his blog , getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.

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‘Dune: Prophecy’ trailer: The ‘Dune’ universe is ready to expand

Set 10,000 years before the birth of paul atreides, the series will explore the origins of the bene gesserit.

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By Caroline McDonald

The first trailer for “Dune: Prophecy” was released last week. The upcoming show will take place in the “Dune” universe, set 10,000 years before the birth of Paul Atreides. The series will be released on Max this fall.

“Dune: Part One” and “Dune: Part Two” were directed by Denis Villeneuve and featured stars like Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Josh Brolin and Oscar Isaac. The films enjoyed exceptional box office success, and “Dune” (2021) earned six Oscars, according to The Hollywood Reporter .

Here’s what to know about the next stage in the “Dune” saga.

What is ‘Dune: Prophecy’?

According to Screenrant , The series will feature a female-led cast in a story that takes place long before the events of “Dune.” Two sisters — Valya and Tula — will come together to form the Bene Gesserit sisterhood, a group of women who seek to establish stability in the universe.

The trailer features familiar aspects of the “Dune” universe, including characters fighting with blue, holographic shields. The architecture and futuristic spacecrafts take after the creative aesthetic of “Dune.” Featured characters include members of House Harkonnen and House Atreides.

At the end of the trailer, Valya Harkonnen (Emily Watson) is featured saying, “Sisterhood above all.”

According to Variety , “The six-episode series will debut this fall, but no official premiere date has been set at this time.” The cast has many notable stars, including:

  • Emily Watson.
  • Olivia Williams.
  • Mark Strong.
  • Travis Fimmel.
  • Sara-Sofie Boussnina.
  • Josh Heuston.
  • Faoileann Cunningham.
  • Jade Anouka.
  • Edward Davis.
  • Aoife Hinds.
  • Shalom Brune-Franklin.
  • Chris Mason.

Tabu, an accomplished Indian actress, and Jihae, a South Korean actress and musician, will also join the cast in recurring roles.

When will Dune: Prophecy come out?

The series hasn’t been given an official release date, but the episodes are expected to release fall 2024. It will be streamed on Max — formerly HBO Max.

According to Screenrant , the television series will not be directly based on one of Frank Herbert’s “Dune” books. However, the story will still take place within the universe Herbert created, contributing to the context behind “the group’s early traditions and practices and how their network evolved as they instituted relationships with great houses.”

While a third “Dune” movie — “Dune: Messiah” — has been confirmed, it will not be released for some time. According to Screenrant, the prequel show will make up for the gap between the second and third “Dune” movies while providing “a way to further explore the universe’s worldbuilding and mythology.”

The series pilot was originally set to be directed by Denis Villeneuve, according to The Guardian . The show endured several changes before Villeneuve backed out due to scheduling conflicts. “The series now counts Anna Foerster as one of the key directors. Her credits include episodes of ‘Outlander’ and the action sequel ‘Underworld: Blood Wars.’”

Per the Guardian, Villeneuve has expressed high hopes for the show. “The Bene Gesserit have always been fascinating to me,” he said of the series. “Focusing a series around that powerful order of women seemed not only relevant and inspiring but a dynamic setting for the television series.”

While the show was originally developed in 2019, it went through several revisions and changes and went by the name of “Dune: Sisterhood” before becoming “Dune: Prophecy.”

The show will focus notably on the women of the “Dune” universe. While the “Dune” movies featured characters such as Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) and Chani (Zendaya), the story still focused largely on the rise of Paul Atreides. According to Screenrant , the new series will focus entirely on female characters and their influence in the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood and in the universe.

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Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Dune: Part Two’ on HBO Max, Denis Villeneuve’s Grand Action Epic That Easily Bests its Predecessor

Where to stream:.

  • Dune: Part 2

‘Dune: Part Two’ Ending Explained: Look to Chani

Could ‘dune: prophecy’ tie into anya taylor-joy’s future with the ‘dune’ franchise, use this hack to stream ‘dune: part two’ for less.

Anyone with hankering for BIG WORM ACTION will get tons of it in Dune: Part Two ( now streaming on Max , in addition to VOD services like Amazon Prime Video ), which delivers plenty of thrills where 2021’s Dune mostly gave us a bit too much of Timothee Chalamet looking sleepy. My beef with the first film is that it’s all setup and not much else, a chilly space opera set on a very hot desert planet. But director Denis Villeneuve’s eye for impressively sweeping, artful visuals is very much in motion the second time around, as the battle for all the spice on Arrakis heats up, and the temperature matches the tone for a rousing epic.


The Gist: KETCHUP TIME: As you may recall at the end of the first Dune , the evil Harkonnen obliterated the Atreides’ spice-mining stronghold on Arrakis. They didn’t declare war or anything – just a craven sneak attack that sent our protag Paul Atreides (Chalamet) and his pregnant mother Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) fleeing to the Fremen after everyone else was killed. If all these names and places seem like an impenetrable wall o’ sci-fi narrative, well, you should’ve paid closer attention to the onslaught of goofy proper nouns in the first movie. I’ll help a little: Everyone wants spice, because it’s the key to power and riches in the galaxy; you need big machines to sift it from the sand on Arrakis, but you have to be quick lest the gigantic sandworms rumble along and swallow you whole. 

The Fremen are desert folk who live in underground strongholds on Arrakis. The Harkonnen are Hairless Nazis led by Baron Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgard), a putrid blubberlump that looks half-human, half-Jabba the Hutt. Lady Jessica is a member of the religious order Bene Gesserit, who believe that Paul, who has visions of the future – or maybe they’re just dreams – is thee Chosen One. The Fremen take in Paul and Lady Jessica, and they’re divided between believing he’s their savior and being suspicious of his motives. Stilgar (Javier Bardem), one of the Fremen leaders, really glugs down the fundamentalist Kool-Aid, and interprets Paul’s every twitch and scratch to be a sign that he’s the religious It Boy around here. Fremen warrior Chani (Zendaya) is skeptical, but she ignores the red flags because, one look into Paul’s sad doe eyes, and she can’t help but melt down to a hormone puddle. 

OK, I think we’re mostly caught up now. Lady Jessica is compelled via death threat to become the new Reverend Mother of the Fremen Bene Gesserit sect, which leaves the lovely Becky Fergs sullied with face tattoos. Paul convinces the Fremen that he’s not here to take over – he just wants to fight the Harkonnen alongside them. He learns their customs and, alongside Chani – with whom he’s now sharing a tent, hubba hubba – leads ambushes that cripple the Harkonnens’ spice mining operation, much to the frustration of the Baron’s idiot nephew, Beast Rabban (Dave Bautista). Note to fascist dictators: if you chilled on the nepotism for once, you might actually accomplish your vile plans. 

I haven’t even gotten to the new characters yet. Because Rabban is licking the shit out of the moron Blarney Stone, the Baron replaces him with his other nephew, Feyd-Rautha (Austin Butler), an ultrapsycho who’s killed more people than you’ve eaten slices of pizza. We also meet Emperor Shaddam IV (Christopher Walken exclamation point!), who we learn ordered the Harkonnen to slaughter the Atreides; his daughter, Princess Irulan (Florence Pugh), isn’t much more than a third-act plot cog at this point, but she dons some pretty wild headwear. We also see the return of Paul’s old mentor, the warrior Gurney Halleck (Josh Brolin), notable because he Knows Where The Nukes Are. And Bene Gesserit leader Reverend Mother Mohiam (Charlotte Rampling) remains an amoral influencer and power broker, hissing from behind her ridiculous towering veil. So, is your money on Paul being the savior, or just a fraud? NO SPICY SPOILERS.

What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: Modern mega-blockbusters don’t get ambitious like Villeneuve’s Dune very often – the easy comparison is Mad Max: Fury Road , and now you’ll be compelled to ponder whether you’re a car person or a worm person. (That’s not a tough choice in this instance; car person it is!)

Performance Worth Watching: Between Dune , Mission: Impossible and her highly memorable villain role in Doctor Sleep , Becky Fergs may be the new Queen of the Elevated Genre Flick. You have to appreciate her intensity. Same for Butler, who bears down and brings some evil-ass charisma to the deliciously despicable Feyd-Rautha.

Memorable Dialogue: “ Abomination! ” – Mother Mohiam’s exhortation when her religious-magic shtick gets shut the f— down

Sex and Skin: Nothing beyond a brief postcoital snuggle for Paul and Chani – unless you interpret all the worm-riding and put-your-hand-in-the-box scenes as visual innuendo. 

Our Take: Villeneuve gives us much more to appreciate in his second Dune missive: Rousing action sequences ranging from worm-riding (which is part water-skiing, part rodeo) to tense knife fights and large-scale battles, and a thorough seat-soaker of a finale which combines all of the above. The screenplay is a sturdy distillation of Frank Herbert’s writing down to something comprehensible – no small task – that doesn’t make us feel like we’re lugging around a load of momentum-crushing exposition. The political power struggles are complex without being stultifying, and the story of Paul, a man who just might believe his own bullshit, is compelling in its ethical ambiguity.

And yet, Dune: Part Two doesn’t push itself to the greatness we might expect from Villeneuve. The film lands somewhere between the razor-sharp Blade Runner 2049 – thus far the director’s masterpiece – and the resonant emotion he cultivated in Arrival . He draws stronger, more memorable performances from Chalamet and Zendaya this time around, but their love story falls well behind the machinations of the plot and its relatively potent assertions about the evils of colonialism and religious fundamentalism. Villeneuve compels us to invest our intellect in the subtext and rouses us to pump our fists in response to violent conflict, but the emotional heart of the story beats only in the distance, drowned out by spectacle. Of course, we’re absolutely here and ready for that spectacle, and the film delivers, its sonorous thematic depth heightening the stakes of the conflict. And considering the fraught history of Dune ’s path from book to screen, very goodness is an altogether realistic expectation that Villeneuve meets. 

Our Call: Villeneuve can take a somewhat improbable W for a difficult adaptation. Dune: Part Two makes the first film better in retrospect, and the eventual third one, Dune: Messiah , absolutely welcome. STREAM IT.

John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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Dune: Prophecy – sci-fi series returns with prequel about Bene Gesserit

Two Harkonnen sisters will be played by Emily Watson and Olivia Williams

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A scene from the new trailer for Dune: Prophecy

"Dune: Part Two" is the highest-grossing movie of 2024 so far, but fans of the sci-fi epic will have to wait years for the "much-prophecied Part Three".

Fear not, said Empire , a six-part television series is coming this autumn, set 10,000 years before the birth of Paul Muad'Dib Atreides, played by Timothée Chalamet in the films. "There might not be any sandworms or Spice shenanigans here, but 'Dune: Prophecy' looks set to satiate those hooked on the recent big-screen adaptations."

What will Dune: Prophecy be about?

The prequel will explore the origins of the Bene Gesserit, a sisterhood of women who use their mystical powers and rituals to influence the noble houses of Dune's feudal interstellar universe .

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While the films are based on Frank Herbert's books, the TV show is "based in part" on the 2012 novel "Sisterhood of Dune", written by his son, Brian Herbert, and co-author Kevin J. Anderson, said Den of Geek .

The first trailer, out last week, shows sisters Valya and Tula Harkonnen, members of the Sisterhood of Rossak. A "century-long war between humans and AI" has been won. Victory re-established "the primacy of humanity, outlawed computers, and made technology an object of suspicion", said the site. In the absence of computers, humans evolved, with some becoming mental computers or "Mentats", people who could do complex calculations in their heads.

It is an "origin story for why everything is", from the Bene Gesserit to Spice and the shape of the future universe. "'Dune: Prophecy' will not only further enrich the hit movies, but also depict humanity embracing religion in the absence of technology."

Who will star?

Emily Watson and Olivia Williams play the two Harkonnen sisters. The trailer shows the pair "sneaking around corners amongst glimpses of sword master Keiran Atreides (Chris Mason) and the Fremen Mikaela (Shalom Brune-Franklin)", said Den of Geek.

And Mark Strong plays Emperor Salvador Corrino, whose house is key to the birth of the Bene Gesserit.

Who is directing?

Dune's "road to television has not been an easy one, with the streaming series going through major changes since its announcement, both in terms of creative talent and the actors involved", said Screen Rant . 

Unlike the films, it will not be directed by Denis Villeneuve, after he pulled out of working on the pilot. "Several others were tapped before 'Dune: Prophecy' settled on Ann Foerster who would direct several episodes."

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Movie Review: Lift

Movie Review: Lift

Kevin Hart stars in this PG-13 action-comedy heist flick that’s full of familiar genre tropes, as well as violence, profanity and suggestive content. 

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