Let the spoilers flow! According to various leaks and reports, at least two versions of Dune have already screened for test audiences. On top of that, since last January, at least one version of the script for Denis Villeneuve’s upcoming sci-fi blockbuster has been circulating online, and it appears to corroborate reports from both test screenings.
Be warned, Dune-heads: at this point, spoilers are out there but, like the sandworms of Arrakis, they’re still lurking under the surface. If you don’t want to know how the new Dune movie potentially ends, and just how far this film will go toward adapting Frank Herbert’s novel (and differ from David Lynch’s famously divisive 1984 adaptation), look away.
WARNING: POTENTIALLY MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD FOR DUNE (2021).
The source of the Dune leaks
According to Twitter account @SecretsofDune — thus far a reliable source of Dune news and rumors — two distinct test screenings of the film have taken place, each showing a different ending. Recently, @SecretsOfDune’s account manager spoke to an anonymous source who described in great detail exactly what they saw in their screening.
Though the individual maintained anonymity to avoid violating NDAs, the account believes them to be a legitimate source. Here’s where your second spoiler warning comes. If this source is right, then a ton of what we’ll see in October has been revealed. Inverse also spoke with the fan behind @SecretsOfDune to clear up the question of Dune’s ending and what these new leaks reveal.
Everything important in the new Dune leak
Without drowning in Arrakis sand, here’s a quick rundown of the biggest revelations from this anonymous source.
- A huge majority of the film will happen before Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) and his family even get to the planet Arrakis. According to the source, the movie “spends a great deal of time before we get to Arrakis, and we see very little of the Fremen.”
- The possible family connection between Dr. Liet-Kynes (Sharon Duncan Brewster) and Chani (Zendaya) is not made explicit. “It should be noted that Chani is not in much of the film,” the source explained. “It’s quite clear her role will be developed more in the sequel. You wouldn’t cast someone like Zendaya to do so little in the film.”
- The sandworms look great, and make the Lynch versions look like “playthings.” However, nobody rides a sandworm in this movie.
- This person was “blown away” by Timothée Chalamet’s “screen presence.” (We’re not shocked. Chalamet is great.)
- The leaker also noted that Jason Momoa’s Duncan Idaho steals the show and added: “Same goes for [Stellan Skarsgård] as the Baron.” This also lines up with what Inverse has been predicting. Because Duncan Idaho is pretty much the only character who can show up in a hypothetical third, fourth, or fifth sequel to the original Dune story, it makes sense his star power is central to the new film.
- Princess Irulan and Feyd are not in the movie. In the Lynch version, Irulan was played by Virginia Madsen, who also narrated the film. Feyd was famously played by Sting. If these characters eventually appear in Villeneuve’s new franchise, this leak says that won’t happen until the sequel.
- Paul’s baby sister Alia is also not in the movie. That’s probably because of where the movie ends.
Nobody rides a sandworm in this movie
Is this how Dune ends?
The leaker made it clear that, because of how the movie ends, “there MUST be a sequel.” So, what happens in the ending? Here’s where things get dicey. According to the person who saw this test screening, the movie ends “abruptly” after Paul fights Jamis (Babs Olusanmokun).
In the book, Jamis is a Fremen whom Paul is tasked with defeating in order to get himself and his exiled mother (Lady Jessica) into the good graces of the Fremen people. In the 2010 ACE paperback edition of Dune, this Paul vs. Jamis fight starts at the bottom of page 487, a little over halfway through the book. If the movie does end with this fight, it will basically conclude in the middle of a chapter. (There are no exact chapter numbers in Dune, making these things tricky.)
However, @SecretsOfDune’s account manager tells Inverse he believes there are two test screenings and that the actual film won’t end with Paul and Jamis fighting. Instead, they claim it will end with the Water of Life ceremony, in which Paul is basically proven to be the fabled “Kwisatz Haderach.” Paul experiences visions of the future toward the end of this section in the book, which also makes it feel like a good place to end the first Dune film.
“I just feel that the Water of Life scene is a natural ending,” the Twitter account tells Inverse. “It feels right. It’s also at the end of Book II, just before the time jump in the Dune story.” This stance is based on the theory that there have been two versions of Dune screened by Warner Bros., which the account manager theorizes is “perhaps an effort by WB to determine which ending suits a general audience best.”
That said, the leaker this acccount spoke to clearly indicated that the test-cut of the movie they saw ended with “the Jamis fight,” which takes place somewhere in the middle of Book II.
Will the real Dune ending please stand up?
So, which is the real ending? As @SecretsOfDune points out, the first novel is divided into three sections, referred to as books. Those are: “Dune,” “Maud’Dib,” and “The Prophet.” The last section, in which Paul leads the Fremen during a revolution (and some ride sandworms), appears to be one part of Dune that will not make it into this first film. (That also explains why we might not see Feyd and Paul’s sister.)
But if Dune only makes it through the end of “Maud’Dib,” when and how will the rest of the story be told? Has Villeneuve already shot enough material for a second film to adapt the last part of the first book? That's not entirely clear. With the sequel to Dune not yet greenlit, there’s good reason to be concerned that the ending of this October’s first film might leave viewers — both newcomers and franchise veterans — potentially confused and unsatisfied.
Dune hits HBO Max and theaters on October 1, 2021.