How Dune: Part 2 will radically change the sci-fi saga’s universe

It's not all about the desert planet. At least, not anymore.

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Warner Bros.

The world of Dune is about to look a whole lot different. In July 2022, Dune: Part 2 began filming in Italy, which could give a clue as to the entire look of Denis Villeneuve’s second installment in the saga. In addition to Italy, the epic will also return to Budapest, Abu Dhabi, and Jordan for filming. But the Italian jaunt does suggest a significant visual change in the new franchise — a shift that likely comes straight from the book. Speculation ahead.

The casting of Florence Pugh as Princess Irulan and Christopher Walken as Irulan’s father, Emperor Shaddam IV means that a huge portion of Dune: Part 2 will address the political contexts visually missing from Part 1. We heard a lot about how the Emperor had plotted with House Harkonnen to destroy the Atreides in Part 1, but we didn’t see him or his royal court at all.

Florence Pugh in the Royal Court of Princess Irulan... actually, in Rome for fashion week in 2022 on planet Earth.

Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

In defense of Villeneuve's decision not to reveal the Emperor, Irulan, or Feyd-Rautha in Part 1, the reality is: none of those characters, nor the setting of the planet Kaitain are ever really addressed in the book until well beyond the point at which Villeneuve’s adaptation stops. Previous adaptations — like David Lynch’s 1984 film and John Harrison’s 2000 miniseries — include these characters in the action much sooner, mostly to expedite the drama.

Many of Irulan’s epigraphs begin the chapters of Dune, which makes it seem like her physical presence — and, by extension, her father’s power — is more present in the action of the story before it actually is. In other words, you can see why Lynch decided to begin his Dune with an Irulan (Virginia Madsen) narration and why, in that version, the Emperor (José Ferrer) opens the film. It’s not entirely faithful to the book, but it's a choice that expedites the plot.

Villeneuve chose not to do that with Dune: Part 1. Instead, he swapped an opening monologue from Irulan for a new opening monologue from Chani (Zendaya). But now that Florence Pugh and Christopher Walken will appear as Irulan and the Emperor, respectively, in Part 2, it’s very possible we’ll see them on their home planet of Kaitain.

This is where the filming in Italy gets interesting. The other planned filming locations — Budapest, Abu Dhabi, and Jordan — were all used by Villeneuve in Part 1, so we can assume those spots will continue to stand in for Arrakis. Italy, on the other, could become Kaitain. Or, if we’re taking other casting information into account: Giedi Prime, the home of the Harkonnens. (Léa Seydoux has been cast as Lady Margot Fenring, and Austin Butler will take on the role of the evil Feyd-Rautha.)

Lea Seydoux will play Lady Margot Fenring in Dune: Part 2.

Edward Berthelot/GC Images/Getty Images

A majority of scenes in Dune: Part 2 that involve these new characters will probably take place in either the royal courts of Kaitain or the royal courts and gladiatorial arenas of Giedi Prime. In Part 1, other than the castle on Caladan (Norway, in real life), we didn’t see anything like these settings.

In Frank Herbert’s books, the setting is almost as important as the people who are on those planets. If Dune: Part 2 is going where we think it’s going, the movie universe will not only look diverse but should feel much, much bigger.

Dune: Part 2 hits theaters on November 17, 2023.

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