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Dune 2 Could Fill In The Biggest Missing Piece From The Book

Footage from Dune: Part Two, and comment from Denis Villeneuve in Vanity Fair, could expand the novel.

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Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides in 'Dune Part 2.'
Vanity Fair/Warner Bros/Legendary
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You are a sandrider this day! Footage from Dune: Part Two has dropped at CinemaCon 2023, and although it has not been screened for the public, we do know one thing happens for sure — Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) is riding that worm. According to detailed reports from /Film, Gizmodo, and elsewhere, the first footage for Dune: Part Two features Muad'Dib fully embracing his Fremen family, by not only riding Shai-Hulud but also leading his fighters into an epic battle.

According to new comments from director Denis Villeneuve — both at CinemaCon and in Vanity FairDune: Part Two differs from Part One insofar as it is more of an “action-packed, epic war movie.” This insight, combined with the footage showing Gladiator-level action, leads to one possible conclusion for fans of the first novel: Villeneuve may actually expand one of the most prominent gaps in the novel.

The first film ends about halfway through Book II: Muad’Dib, the second of three sections of the novel. Everything wraps up shortly after Paul defeats Jamis (Babs Olusanmokun), which means that Paul and his mother, Jessica (Rebeca Ferguson) get accepted into the Fremen group led by Stilgar (Javier Bardem). From that point on, the novel depicts Paul and Chani falling in love, and Paul eventually asserting himself as the leader of the Fremen, and as their religious prophet. The new CinemaCon footage depicts many of these events in broad strokes, including the moment Paul becomes a sandrider, which is several chapters into the third and final section of the book, Book III: The Prophet. (Dune novels have no formal chapter numbers, though Kindle versions do assign numbers )

The point is, there is a two-year time jump within these sections, much of which is not depicted on the page. However, at the start of the film version of Dune: Part Two, Denis Villeneuve recently told Vanity Fair: “There’s no time jump. I wanted dramatic continuity with part one.”

Now, this doesn’t mean that there won’t be a time jump at all in the new film. Part One didn’t end exactly at the point in the novel right before Herbert’s time jump. But that ending is close to that point in the novel. We know that Paul’s powers of prescience grow during this time, and we also know that the Fremen become more and more effective at destroying Harkonnen forces in this interval, too. In fact, in these largely unseen years, Emperor Shaddam IV and Baron Harkonnen aren’t actually aware that the Fremen leader Muad’Dib and Paul Atreides are the same person. In fact, in the CinemaCon footage, Princess Irulan (Florence Pugh) wonders “What if Paul Atreides was still alive?” We know he is, but the royal court doesn’t.

So, while Frank Herbert does pen some big battle scenes in Dune, the vast majority of these two years — when the Fremen are becoming really successful at guerilla warfare — are mostly not depicted in the book.

The Inverse Analysis — So, if Villeneuve is saying this movie is more “action-packed” than the previous one, then it’s very possible that some of those missing two years will make it onto the screen, simply because those years were probably full of a lot of action. From a story point-of-view, Herbert didn’t need to get into the ins and outs of how the Fremen fighting force grew, or how it got even better once Paul was reunited with Gurney Halleck. (Though Herbert does give us much more detail in how Gurney is brought back into the fold, which hopefully the new movie could do too!) The point is, the novel has interiority for the characters that the film versions could never have, which, could, in a way, explain why Herbert’s action scenes aren’t ever all that long. In the book, Paul’s final fight with Feyd only lasts a few pages. For the most part, Herbert’s writing favors thoughts about actions rather than action for action’s sake.

Dune: Part Two will certainly make the battles and fight scenes more intricate, and more appropriate for the medium of film. In the novel, the reader imagines a kind of training montage for the Fremen during these missing years. Spending more time in these missing years is also good for more development of the character of Chani (Zendaya) who had a previously much smaller role in Dune: Part One. Speaking a CinemaCon, Zendaya noted her Chani is actually in the action much more, saying, “She’s not just in dreams this time.” Again, if Part Two fills in the time jump from the book, that means even more Chani. Speaking to Vanity Fair, Timothée Chalamet also makes a point of describing Paul’s relationship with Chani as his “moral compass,” meaning that the movie will certainly give us more of that development in a way that perhaps, the novel doesn’t do — at least not as linearly.

In Dune, the novel, this two-year time jump isn’t a mistake, but for many readers, it can be jarring and confusing. It also leaves some fans wanting more of Chani and the Fremen. So, if Villeneuve’s “epic war movie” expands the Dune narrative to include those missing two years, it sounds like a huge chunk of unseen book history could finally be pulled out of the sand.

Dune: Part Two hits theaters on November 3, 2023.

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