The main thing you need to know about the ending of the new Dune movie is this: There isn’t one. The 2021 adaptation of the classic Frank Herbert sci-fi novels is actually Dune Part 1, so it gets halfway through Herbert’s book and then it just… stops. Fortunately, Warner Bros has now confirmed a Dune Part 2 sequel to pick up from the film’s abrupt ending.
So how does Part 1 leave us hanging? CNET reviewer Richard Knightwell said Dune is a “tour de force of cinematic sci-fi, a star-studded yet deeply weird fantasy epic,” so here’s a closer look at what happens in the climax of Denis Villeneuve‘s star-studded adaptation of Dune, and how it sets up a planned sequel. Spoilers heading your way like an angry sandworm exploding from the sand…
Dune Part 1 film premiered at the Venice Film festival, and it’s out now in US theaters as well as streaming on HBO Max . In this epic, magisterial sci-fi saga, Duke Leto Atreides and his aristocratic family touch down on the sand-choked world of Arrakis only for previous occupants the Harkonnens to violently reclaim their all-important spice-mining operation. It’s very nearly the end of the Atreides clan, but also a big step toward a larger destiny for Leto’s sharp-cheekboned scion, Paul.
Soulfully played by Timothée Chalamet, Paul has been seeing visions of himself in the desert of Arrakis, meeting a mysterious stranger who looks a lot like Spider-Man and Euphoria star Zendaya. So as the film ends, Paul escapes into the desert with his witchily weird mother, Lady Jessica, and the film ends on a cliff-hanger ready for Dune Part 2. Frank Herbert’s original 1965 novel splits fairly neatly(ish) into two sections, and the filmmakers chose to only do the first section even though a sequel wasn’t confirmed until the film had been released. If Part 1 flopped, there may never have been a sequel to complete the story. But it’s a hit — the biggest Warner Bros hit during the pandemic era — so Part 2 will pick up the second half of the book when it’s released in Oct. 2023.
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Villeneuve’s version isn’t completely identical to the book: For example, he’s cut the villainous Harkonnen character Feyd, memorably played by Sting in David Lynch’s 1984 film version. Lynch’s odd and much-derided film told the whole story of the book, but with less depth than this new 2021 version.
At the end of the 2021 film, Leto is left behind, and if you’ve ever wanted to see Oscar Isaac naked and stiff as a board then you’re in luck. Leto is paralyzed thanks to the treachery of Paul’s teacher Dr. Yueh, played by Chang Chen. Yueh’s reward is to be murdered by the venal Baron Harkonnen, which means he doesn’t live to see Leto take advantage of the poison gas capsule the traitor slipped into his teeth. Leto’s dying breath finishes Harkonnen’s advisor Piter De Vries, played by The Suicide Squad‘s David Dastmalchian, but the fiendish Baron uses his shield and zooms to the ceiling. Bathing in viscous black oil, the Baron, played by Stellan Skarsgard, lives to plot his next move.
Meanwhile, among the Atreides casualties is Paul’s friend and mentor, burly action man Duncan Idaho. Played by Aquaman star Jason Momoa, Duncan goes down fighting a squad of ferocious Sardaukar troops supplied by a duplicitous emperor — though it isn’t entirely clear why Jessica couldn’t use the voice against the attackers, or they couldn’t just have closed the heavy doors and fled. Either way, Duncan clearly isn’t showing up for the sequel, though Paul’s other teacher Gurney Halleck isn’t killed on-screen. If you’ve read the book you’ll know that leaves the way clear for Josh Brolin to return in the proposed sequel.
As for Paul and Jessica, their narrow escape delivers them into the sandy hands of the Fremen, the desert people of Arrakis. Their leader, Stilgar, played by Javier Bardem, offers safety to the beleaguered pair, much to the dismay of his follower Jamis, played by Roots and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds star Babs Olusanmokun. Jamis doesn’t believe the newcomers can survive the harsh conditions of the desert and burns with resentment against the outsiders, picking a fight to the death known in the book as the Tahaddi Challenge.