With news that 'Dune: Part Two' is officially underway, it'll be at least another two years before it reaches cinemas and we get the second half of the story, and beyond that, what happens next.
'Dune' was written in 1965 and its influence is well-documented. 'Star Wars', Grimes' first album, the lyrics to Fatboy Slim's 'Weapon of Choice', even the concept of giant sand-worms - that's all from 'Dune'. Yet, as Zendaya's character Chani quite rightly pointed out at the end of 'Dune', this really is only the beginning. In total, author Frank Herbert wrote a total of five sequels, while a dozen more were written by his son, Brian, and sci-fi author Kevin J. Anderson after his passing. When we interviewed Denis Villeneuve just before the release of 'Dune' last week, we asked about the direct sequel to 'Dune' and what he might make of it.
"It will be a beautiful movie," Villeneuve said, and added that his focus right now is on the second part of 'Dune'. So, let's talk about that.
You'll recall that when Paul was hiding in the tent with his mother Jessica, the spice in the tent gave him visions of the future, and that he saw a huge battle, piles of bodies burning, and an army with the Atreides flag flying over it as it conquered other worlds. That's jumping a little far ahead, to basically what happens between 'Dune' and 'Dune Messiah'. Yet, that war, or jihad as it's called, begins the very moment Paul is forced to kill Jamis before they make their way to Sietch Tabr. When Paul killed Jamis and his body was wrapped up to be brought back, that was the first death that will lead to those visions. Throughout the movie, the Fremen kept asking if Paul is Lisan al Gaib, or 'The Voice from the Outer World'. The Fremen believe that someone from another planet will come and lead them to paradise, and will turn Arrakis / Dune into a verdant wonderland of green fields. Basically, the exact opposite of what it is in the movie. Of course, what the Fremen don't actually realise is that the Bene Gesserit - the group that Jessica is a member of, and is led by Charlotte Rampling's character, Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam - planted these superstitions and these prophecies years beforehand.
Paul knows that he has to go into the desert to learn the ways of the Fremen, and that in doing so, he'll earn their trust and become their leader. When he sees one of the Fremen riding a desert, he knows that they have a power that is far beyond anything he's ever seen.
Anyway, the next movie will pick up exactly where the first one left off, with Paul leading the Fremen out of the deep desert and into the city of Arrakeen, where the Harkonnens have reclaimed the planet and have resumed harvesting the spice. Dave Bautista's character, the Beast Rabban, has been put in charge of the planet and is brutalising them on the orders of Stellan Skarsgard's character, Baron Harkonnen. The real reason for this is that Baron Harkonnen has another person in mind to rule Arrakis / Dune, and replace him as the head of House Harkonnen - Feyd-Rautha. In the 1984 movie, Sting - yes, that Sting from The Police - played this character. He hasn't been cast yet, and already, there's all sorts of speculation as to who'll play him. Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen is, in a nutshell, the polar opposite of Paul Atreides in every way except physically. He's as cruel and conniving as his uncle, Baron Harkonnen, but he's nowhere near as huge as him and he isn't as hulking as the Beast Rabban either. Names like Harry Styles and Robert Pattinson are already doing the rounds as potential castings.
Anyway, Paul and his mother Jessica are leading a rebellion against the Harkonnens on Dune / Arrakis and it's working so well that the Harkonnens and the Emperor are getting desperate. The spice production has fallen below acceptable standards, which means the Emperor - who also hasn't been cast yet - and Baron Harkonnen are planning on bringing a huge fleet to the planet to put an end to the uprising.
Before all this, however, Jessica realises that in order to help both the Fremen and Paul, she has to undergo a ritual called spice agony, which will turn her into a Reverend Mother and give her the ability to access the memories and the knowledge of all her female ancestors. The process is really drawn out in the book, and what's more, the impact of the ritual also impacts her daughter, who is then born with - get this - all of the knowledge and memories of all her female ancestors as well. The baby, called Alia, essentially has the memories and knowledge of an adult but with the body of a toddler. If you think that's too weird to comprehend, there's WAY more coming if they go into the other books. Like, a giant sand-worm / human-hybrid who becomes a god and rules the universe for a thousand years weird.
Anyway, with the help of Josh Brolin's character, Gurney Halleck (he survives!), Paul and the Fremen lead a massive assault on the combined forces of the Emperor and Baron Harkonnen, with a final showdown between Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen and Paul Atreides that will see them fight to the death for the right to control the entire Imperium.
In a nutshell, 'Dune: Part Two' is going to have a much wider scope. What's been so fascinating to see in the first one is how Denis Villeneuve and screenwriters Eric Roth, Jon Spaiths, and Villeneuve have managed to condense all this world-building and all this rich source material into a way that makes sense for a mainstream audience. After all, there's a lot of crazy stuff going on in 'Dune' - it's set eight thousand years in the future? Why is it called spice? What's that Sardaukar guy chanting? Is there a weird sexual tension between Paul and Jessica?! - but it's managed to streamline it in such a way that it maintains its density.
Again, like Chani said at the end of 'Dune: Part One', this is only the beginning.