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How Dune 2's Radically Condensed Timeline Changes Dune 3

Dune: Part Two makes one sandworm-sized change to the novel, leading to several other smaller changes.

Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) in 'Dune: Part Two.'
Warner Bros/Legendary
Dune: Part Two
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For hardcore fans of Frank Herbert’s novel Dune, it may seem like there are myriad changes from the novel and the events of Dune: Part Two. But, in reality, there’s only one massive change, and that specific change informs all the other ways in which book and film part ways. While Denis Villeneuve specifically put more focus on the Bene Gesserit in both films — which leaves little screentime for the Mentats or the Spacing Guild — the biggest change in Dune: Part Two is really all about how much time passes during both films.

Above all, the condensed timeline of Dune: Part Two is the most radical departure from the novel, and because of this change, the entire story is divergent from the novel more than it might seem. Here’s why.

Spoilers for Duen: Part Two ahead.

Dune 2 timeline versus Dune the novel

Paul and Chani in 'Dune: Part Two.'

Warner Bros/Legendary

In terms of the entire history of the Dune universe, there is some debate about the validity of different timelines. Published in 1984 and edited by Willis E. McNelly, The Dune Encyclopedia presents a comprehensive timeline of the entire universe, which even includes events that happened before the formation of the Spacing Guild and the onset of the Butlerian Jihad. And, although the canonicity of The Dune Encyclopedia has been challenged by the Herbert estate when it comes to the events of the first novel, those dates generally agree with all other fan-made timelines. House Atreides is called to Arrakis in 10,191 AG, and in that same year, are attacked by the Harkonnens. Relative to both new movies, so far, so good. Text on the screen in Dune: Part One tells us it’s 10,191, so even though it leaves out the idea that this is 10,191 on a calendar that starts over thousands of years in our future, it’s still close enough.

But then, in Dune: Part Two, Princess Irulan’s diaries tell us it’s still 10,191. This is a change from the novel because within the book at least two years pass following Paul and Jessica’s banishment to the desert. So, that would put the end of the novel in 10,193. Not so in the movie! It’s still 10,191, which means that everything that takes two years to build up in the novel happens in a matter of months in the movie. While Dune: Part Two retains the philosophical core of the book — perhaps better than any adaptation, in fact — this condensed timeline causes a few plot dominos to fall. And those repercussions shape the entire film.

How the new timeline changes Dune

Paul and Gurney in Dune: Part Two. In the book, these guys were separated for at least a year.

Warner Bros/Legendary

Because only a few months pass during this part of the story, instead of two years, several things are accelerated in the movie, including:

  • Paul learning the ways of the Fremen.
  • The nature of Paul and Chani’s relationship.
  • The legend of Mau'dib from the point of view of the Emperor and the Harkonnens.
  • Gurney’s time with the smugglers.
  • Feyd’s ascendency within the Harkonnen ranks.
  • And, most crucially, Paul’s transition from an ally of the Fremen to a religious leader.

To be clear, all of these events happen in both the book and in Dune: Part Two, but the pace is shockingly fast. The movie also puts emphasis on the idea that Paul can tap the help of the “Southern Fundamentalists,” in order to hyper-charge religious fervor. The southern reaches of Arrakis are part of the novel, but the word “fundamentalists” appears nowhere in the book. This idea is unique to the movie and allows Paul’s faster takeover to be more explicable. Essentially, instead of radicalizing the Fremen over the course of two years (thanks to historic Bene Gesserit meddling) this radicalization essentially already exists. Now, Frank Herbert isn’t rolling over in his grave or anything, because the point of these events remains the same, even if, logistically, things play out differently.

And, in terms of plot logistics, this timeline creates two even bigger changes, which almost certainly will impact a hypothetical third Dune film.

No babies are born (or die!) in Dune 2

Jessica and Alia in one of Paul’s visions from Dune: Part One.

Warner Bros/Legendary

In the final third of the novel Dune, two children are born: Alia, sister of Paul and daughter of Jessica, and Leto II (the elder), son of Paul and Chani. In the book, Alia is born with all the memories of her ancestors, and thus, emerges from the womb, talking. Chronologically she’s roughly two at the end of the book, when she kills the Baron. (Paul kills the Baron in the new film.)

But, because Dune: Part Two doesn’t even get to 10,192, Alia remains a talking fetus, not yet born and still being carried by Jessica by the film’s end. Yes, we get a brief flash-forward of Alia in the future, played by Anya Taylor-Joy, which would seem to reference the events of Dune Messiah and Children of Dune, the second and third books, respectively. In the book version of Dune Messiah, 12 years have passed since the first book, so Alia is about 15 years old by that point. Generally speaking, Dune adaptations tend to increase the age of Paul, Alia, and the children, Leto II and Ghanima, simply for the sake of convenience. If we get a Dune 3, this seems to be happening again. Alia won’t be a teenager, but perhaps a bit older, putting the events of Messiah further into the future than in the book. Still, this makes it seem that we specifically won’t get creepy-toddler Alia, in any version of Villeneuve’s Dune films. If we get Dune 3, it seems likely it will skip over the baby and toddler stages of Alia, meaning the only glimpse we have of her from this time is from Paul’s vision in Dune: Part Two.

However, the timeline crunch creates, perhaps, the most interesting omission of all. While casual fans are probably aware that Chani gives birth to twins at the end of Dune Messiah, she and Paul have another child during the events of Dune; a boy named Leto II, the elder. Why “the elder”? Well, because this is the first baby named Leto II, and the child is slain in a Harkonnen attack.

Paul and Chani having a son, and losing a son, is a fairly impactful part of the last section of the first Dune book. In fact, some of Paul’s unhinged desire to take over the universe, and let loose an entire holy war on everybody, can, at least partially, be attributed to the loss of his baby son. This doesn’t make Paul’s slide into dictatorship excusable or anything, but this event does significantly change the nature of his character. And of course, in Dune: Part Two, it doesn’t happen at all.

Because Dune: Part Two ends with Chani striking out on her own, seemingly rejecting Paul’s actions, it feels possible her story in a hypothetical third Dune film could be different from the books. Which, at this point, would make sense. Chani and Paul’s relationship in the movie has a different tone than in the book. Which, perhaps, if we’re being honest, is more realistic than what Herbert wrote. But, because of this change, and the very different year that everyone has Arrakis, it seems not only possible, but likely, that a future Dune sequel will continue to change more about the saga, and that these changes will be much bigger than tiny grains of sand.

Dune: Part Two is out in theaters now.

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