‘Dune: Part Two’: Here’s Everything You Need to Know

Since the weird, wild universe of “Dune” emerged from the pages of Frank Herbert’s novel in 1965, filmmakers have yearned to bring it to the screen. In the 1970s, Alejandro Jodorowsky was thwarted in his attempt to turn his elaborate vision into cinematic reality. In 1984, David Lynch was forced to cram volumes of lore into two hours, and the result was an ugly-beautiful disaster. In the latest foray, Denis Villeneuve has created an engrossing, believable world, smartly dividing the first book in the series into two parts. “Dune: Part One” was a critical and box office hit when it was released in 2021, and now “Part Two,” which opens in theaters nationwide on Friday, is poised to pick up where the last film left off. Here’s a primer to bring you up to speed.

Where are we?

In the film, Paul Atreides becomes a member of the Fremen, a native people of the planet Arrakis living mostly in its hidden corners. Credit…Niko Tavernise/Warner Bros.

“Dune” is set about 20,000 years in the future, and much of the series takes place on the desert planet of Arrakis. Part of the galactic empire of the Imperium, which is ruled by the Padishah Emperor Shaddam, Arrakis is vital because it offers a necessary resource — spice — that exists nowhere else. In “Part One,” the emperor transferred control of Arrakis from the brutes of House Harkonnen to their longtime foes, House Atreides. But the gift was a trap, something Duke Leto Atreides suspected but hoped to turn to his advantage by establishing an alliance with the Fremen, a native people of Arrakis who live mostly in its hidden corners. Before Leto’s plans could bear fruit, the emperor secretly sent his elite force to aid Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgard) in regaining control of the planet and in destroying Leto’s troops and family. (In the process, Leto died.)

Why is spice so important?

“Part Two” opens with the words “Power over spice is power over all.” After a religious revolt against robots millenniums before the start of the series, the use of intelligent machines was banned. People have since relied on preternatural abilities that are developed through training and the use of psychotropic drugs such as spice, which can expand consciousness and extend life. The resource is particularly crucial to the navigators, who enable interstellar travel.

What’s the deal with Paul Atreides?

Paul Atreides battling Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen (Austin Butler) to determine who will control the spice — and the universe.Credit…Niko Tavernise/Warner Bros.

Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) is the son of Leto and his concubine, Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), who is a member of the Bene Gesserit, a mystical sisterhood that surreptitiously manipulates the levers of power. It has been seeding self-serving myths and conducting a breeding program for generations. The relationship between Leto and Jessica had been arranged in hopes that she would give birth to a daughter who could then conceive the Kwisatz Haderach — a male Bene Gesserit with “a mind powerful enough to bridge all space and time.” Instead, Jessica bore Leto the son he desired. (A Bene Gesserit can control everything that goes on in her body.)

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