Dune 2’s Most Important Relationship Will Fix One Book Flaw
Why are Paul and Chani an item? Dune: Part Two promises it's more than just destiny.
Although she narrated the opening of Dune: Part One, Fremen warrior Chani (Zendaya) is barely in the movie. But when Dune: Part Two hits, you’ll get to know her much better. As teased in all the trailers, as well as the new IMAX preview footage, Chani will play a massive role in Dune: Part Two, which will help correct not only a shortcoming of all previous movie adaptations of Dune, but also of the book itself.
Here’s how Zendaya is set to transform her character without messing up Dune canon. Spoilers ahead.
Dune 2’s tricky time jump
At the end of Dune: Part One, we see Paul marveling at the idea that his father’s dream of “desert power” will actually come to fruition. At the end, Chani promises Paul, “This is only the beginning.” Relative to where Part One stops in the book, she should really have said, “This is only a little bit past the middle.”
In terms of word count, Dune: Part One stops almost exactly in the middle of the original 1965 novel. But Dune: Part Two has more time to adapt. After Paul and Jessica join Stilgar’s Fremen at the end of Part One, roughly two years pass before Paul first rides a sandworm. The start of Part One to the end of Part Two, where Paul will take control of the galaxy as Emperor, covers about three years.
There are several big moments between these points, including the birth of Paul’s sister Alia, the revelation that Baron Harkonnen is Jessica’s father, the return of Gurney, the attack on the Shield Wall with an army of Fremen and sandworms, Paul’s duel with Feyd-Rautha, and Alia’s slaying of the Baron. Crucially, amid all this, Paul and Chani fall in love, and it’s here where Dune: Part Two will fill in some gaps left by Frank Herbert.
Dune 2 will make sense of Paul and Chani
From what we’ve seen of Dune: Part Two so far, Chani is in the movie a lot. There also seems to be a moment when Chani questions Paul’s role in taking over the leadership of the Fremen. As Zendaya pointed out in the IMAX behind-the-scenes featurette, Chani is “stuck between what her heart says and what her mind says.”
This can be interpreted in a few ways. First, Chani might distrust Paul, but because she loves him, she looks the other way when he manipulates the Fremen into thinking he’s a religious prophet. This could also mean that later, once Chani is essentially Paul’s partner in power, she’ll be forced to give him up for political reasons. At the end of Dune, Paul marries Princess Irulan (Florence Pugh), not Chani, a cynical move to secure the throne and keep the peace.
The book speeds through Paul and Chani’s courtship, and other filmed versions have struggled with it. In the book, Chani helps Paul muddle through some Fremen customs just after they meet. Three chapters later, Paul and Chani are inseparable.
Yes, a little bit of time passes in these pages — and the future-tense prescience aided by the Spice accelerates their affection for each other. But still: From the reader’s point of view, it still feels very quick. Dune: Part Two can improve this. By centering Chani in the narrative, Denis Villeneuve can make her presence and influence feel real. Rather than immediately being devoted to Paul, it seems like Chani will take a realistic amount of time to come around. This doesn’t change her destiny, but it does mean that, when we arrive at her fate, everything will feel earned, and that Chani will be more than an accessory for Paul. Like the other women of the novel, she’ll be her own person.