How Dune: Part Two sets up the events of Dune: Messiah (spoilers)

With the release of Dune: Part Two, director Denis Villeneuve cements his status as a master of science fiction. The conclusive chapter in the two-part Dune adaptation has been hailed as the modern-day equivalent of The Empire Strikes Back since it takes everything great about the previous installment, amplifies it, intensifies it and sends us out of the auditorium with our minds reeling.

One viewing of Dune: Part Two isn't enough to absorb all of its multifaceted complexities. Much like spice inhalation, we find our senses stimulated and our brain resounding with many questions, not least as to where the story is going. Now that Villeneuve has completed his adaptation of Frank Herbert's first Dune book, we're anticipating a big-screen adaptation of the second book, Dune: Messiah, where things become even weirder and more surrealistic.

Here's how the end of Dune: Part Two sets up Dune: Messiah.




What does the end of Dune: Part Two mean for Dune: Messiah?

In the words of original Dune author Frank Herbert, the saga acts as a "fugue" with the first Dune book an ironic symphony, and the second book, Dune: Messiah, its inversion. In other words, this is an anti-heroic narrative that acts as a cautionary, rather than celebratory, tale of messianic potential.

We get hints of this at the end of Dune: Part Two. With the Harkonnen heir presumptive Feyd-Rautha (Austin Butler) dead, Emperor Shaddam IV (Christopher Walken) subjugated to the will of the wrathful Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) and Princess Irulan (Florence Pugh) compelled to take Paul's hand in marriage, several important puzzle pieces are in play, and few of them optimistic. Irulan has been forced into a loveless union of entirely political standing while Paul's real love, Fremen warrior Chani (Zendaya), is set to be relegated to the role of concubine. Meanwhile, Paul is about to realise the true implications of the Fremen march to the so-called 'paradise'.

In this instance, it's a euphemism for sending Paul's enemies to their deaths. In the act of liberating Arrakis from Harkonnen rule, Paul has unleashed untold death and destruction. We see this at the end of the film when Paul leads Stilgar (Javier Bardem), Gurney Halleck (Josh Brolin) and the Fremen to attack the Great Houses of the Landsraad, all of whom have refused to accept Paul's ascendancy. This is the spark that ignites an intergalactic tinderbox of chaos and death.

All Chani can do is watch helplessly from the sidelines as the liberation of her beloved planet Arrakis becomes nothing more than a pyrrhic victory portending far more horrible events. Meanwhile, Paul's mother Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) communicates with her unborn child Alia (more on whom below) as they both bear witness to the chaotic river of destruction they've helped unleash.

Let's not forget that Lady Jessica helped propagate Paul's status as the Fremen messiah completely against his will, to the extent that her son emerged as someone both prophet and demon. Or, in the words of the Bene Gesserit Reverend Mother (Charlotte Rampling), an "abomination". 

Paul has long been tormented by visions of this terrifying future, hence why he was initially averse to embracing his destiny as the Fremen prophet. The conclusion of Dune: Part Two proves this was unavoidable, and any future adaptation of the next book, Dune: Messiah will capitalise on this darkness. Dune: Messiah adds spice to the wound by affirming that Paul's decision was the best one that could have been made.


Is Dune: Messiah going to be directed by Denis Villeneuve?

Denis Villeneuve has stated that he will direct Dune: Messiah, which will act as the third instalment in a cinematic trilogy after the first Dune book was split in two.

“If I succeed in making a trilogy, that would be the dream,” Villeneuve told Empire Magazine in August 2023. “Dune Messiah was written in reaction to the fact that people perceived Paul Atreides as a hero, which is not what [Herbert] wanted to do. My adaptation [of Dune] is closer to his idea that it’s actually a warning.”

And beyond that? Villeneuve told Time that "Dune Messiah should be the last Dune movie for me". That means three big-screen Villeneuve adaptations even though there are six Frank Herbert books in total.

And there's a caveat: Villeneuve is next set to take a break after dedicating so many years of his life to bringing Frank Herbert's work to the screen. “I don’t know exactly when I will go back to Arrakis,” Villeneuve said during a press conference in South Korea last year. “I might make a detour before just to go away from the sun. For my mental sanity, I might do something in between.”

In an interview with Variety he added: "There is absolutely a desire to have a third one, but I don’t want to rush it. The danger in Hollywood is that people get excited and only think about release dates, not quality.”

Frankly, that is only set to increase our delirious sense of anticipation.


Is Anya Taylor-Joy portraying Alia Atreides?

Yes, as confirmed by the events of Dune: Part Two, Anya Taylor-Joy is portraying the older iteration of Paul's sister, known variously as Alia Atreides and Alia of the Knife. She appears briefly in Paul's vision after he consumes the Water of Life, the bile from the Arrakis sandworm that is said to kill all men who drink it. Paul, however, can divine his path into the future, subsequently coming back to life and securing his status as both the Fremen prophet and the mystical 'kwisatz haderach', the super-being that promises to unite the universe. In reality, of course, the 'kwisatz haderach' does anything but.

In Dune: Part Two, the unborn Alia can communicate with her mother, Bene Gesserit seer Lady Jessica, within the latter's womb, although we never see the birth in the movie. This is different from Frank Herbert's original Dune novel in which Alia is born as a preternaturally gifted four-year-old with the memories and sensibilities of all the Bene Gesserit Reverend Mothers who have passed before. In the book, it's Alia who kills the treacherous Baron Harkonnen (played in the movies by Stellan Skarsgard), her grandfather, although in Dune: Part Two this pivotal moment is passed to Paul.

Alia plays an even more significant role in the next book Dune: Messiah, which takes place 12 years after the events of Dune. Now a grown-up, Alia finds herself caught in the aftermath of Paul's ascendency to the status of 'kwisatz haderarch', which has posed drastic and horrific consequences for billions of people in the known universe. Alia's destiny then overlaps with a familiar face, someone we may have considered dead during the events of the first Dune movie.

In the words of Monty Python: "Say no more."


Is Tim Blake Nelson going to be in Dune: Messiah?

This is a tantalising mystery. At the beginning of 2023 news circulated that actor Tim Blake Nelson, a favourite of the Coen brothers (O Brother, Where Art Thou? et al) had secured a mystery role in Dune: Part Two. However, he doesn't appear in Dune: Part Two at all, although he gets an end credits acknowledgment.

Nelson likely shot a brief cameo that hit the cutting room floor for pacing reasons. In a podcast interview with Marc Maron, Nelson himself confirmed that his role was tantamount to a cameo. We imagine he was down to appear at the very end of Dune: Part Two, which would have then acted as a teaser for Dune: Messiah.

Still, that doesn't altogether rule out his involvement in Dune: Messiah should it get made. He may well be playing Edric, the animalistic, fish-like guild navigator who is encased within a tank of floating spice gas. Edric and his psychotropic spice abilities are pivotal to the events that unfold in the next chapter of the Dune saga, so might Nelson be taking on a performance capture role? Or maybe it will be a voice-only deal?


When will Dune: Messiah be released?

Completely unknown at this stage. It hasn't even entered pre-production yet, let alone started filming although Villeneuve has started work on the script, telling Time: "The screenplay is almost finished but it is not finished. It will take a little time."

Chani actor Zendaya has expressed enthusiasm about returning, telling Fandango. “Would we be down? I mean of course. Any time Denis calls it’s a yes from me. I’m excited to see what happens."

So, in the meantime we'll have to absorb the shuddering, awe-inspiring impact of Dune: Part Two and stay tuned to the news. Keep your eye on the Cineworld blog for all the relevant details when we have them.


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