There are few sci-fi novels to have had the impact that Frank Herbert's Dune had.


Dune: Part Two continues directly from director Denis Villeneuve's 2021 film Dune: Part One, with Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) and his pregnant mother Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) now among the native population of Arrakis, the Fremen.

Among the Fremen is the warrior Chani (Zendaya), whom Paul has long dreamt about before even meeting her.

However, a thorn in the side of both House Atreides and the Fremen remains in the form of House Harkonnen and the Imperium.

New characters are introduced this time around, including Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV Corrino (Christopher Walken) and his daughter Princess Irulan (Florence Pugh), Bene Gesserit agent Lady Margot Fenring (Léa Seydoux), Fremen warrior Shishalki (Souheila Yacoub), and Paul's new nemesis, Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen (Austin Butler).

More like this

So, after the changes in adapting the first film, what changes were made from the book to the adaptation of Dune: Part Two?

*Spoiler warning for Dune: Part Two*

10 Dune Part Two changes from Frank Herbert's original novel

1. The Fremen

Javier Bardem crouches on a sand dune as Stilgar in front of a large contingent of Fremen in Dune: Part Two.
Javier Bardem as Stilgar in Dune: Part Two. Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

While the novel Dune does distinguish that southern Arrakis is seen by imperial forces as "inhospitable", there is less of a sense that the Fremen are distinguishable by Northern and Southern subcultures, as seen in the film.

In the film, the Fremen in the South of Arrakis are seen as more "fundamentalist" and further indoctrinated in the prophecies and dogma planted by the "Missionaria Protectiva" of the Bene Gesserit. Here, Stilgar (Javier Bardem) is described as hailing from the South and is keen to believe that Paul Atreides could be the Freman's prophesied messiah or 'Voice from the Outer World', the Lisan al-Ghaib.

Meanwhile, the Fremen of the North, including Chani and her friend Shishakli, are not overtly indoctrinated in the ways of prophecies and are much more cynical about the notion of those from other worlds coming to save them. They believe the people of Arrakis should save themselves.

2. Chani

Zendaya as a concerned-looking Chani wearing a stillsuit in Dune: Part Two.
Zendaya as Chani in Dune: Part Two. Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

One of the major figures to change most notably from the source material when adapted for film is the character Chani.

In the novel, Chani is the daughter of Dr Liet-Kynes and the niece of Stilgar who, while a warrior adept in the fighting skills of the Fremen, remains a more passive figure who is continuously devoted to Paul Atreides.

In the films, Chani does not have these familial connections and is much more cynical about the prophecies of the Lisan al-Ghaib, wisely seeing such messianic messages from the Bene Gesserit as another means to enslave the Fremen and manipulate them for political gain.

Despite an evident love for Paul in the film, Chani is not a blind follower and starkly disagrees with his means of coming to power. The film's end sees her emotionally reject the results of the war and depart.

Chani in the film also does not get along at all with Paul's mother Lady Jessica and their interactions are even hostile, unlike her book counterpart, who is loving and devoted to Jessica.

Ultimately, film-Chani serves as an audience surrogate and one with complicated feelings and loyalties, with Zendaya delivering a moving performance as the heroine.

3. Shishakli

Souheila Yacoub as Shishakli in Fremen garb in Dune: Part Two.
Souheila Yacoub as Shishakli in Dune: Part Two. Warner Bros

In the novel, Shishakli is one of the Fedaykin commandos who serves under Paul in the fight against the Harkonnens and the Imperium.

Shishakli serves a similar function here but is more notable for being the closest friend of Chani, and is not a believer in the prophecies surrounding Paul.

However, Shishakli does come to serve and believe in Paul and later loses her life by being personally set on fire by na-Baron Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen (Austin Butler).

Similarly to Dr Liet-Kynes in the first film, Shishakli is gender-swapped when adapting the novel.

Ultimately, Shishakli is a much more memorable character in the film and much of this is also down to Souheila Yacoub's performance.

4. Alia Atreides

Anya Taylor-Joy at the Dune: Part Two premiere
Anya Taylor-Joy at the Dune: Part Two premiere. Samir Hussein/WireImage

In the novel by Frank Herbert, Alia Atreides is woken to consciousness in the womb when her mother consumes the Water of Life while pregnant and gains prescient abilities.

Once Alia is born, she is conscious with the mind of an adult, and accesses the ancestral memories of all reverend mothers who came before her, carrying the skills and abilities of an adult Bene Gesserit reverend mother, even as a toddler.

In the novel, Alia has fighting abilities and even dispatches her maternal grandfather, Baron Vladimir Harkkonen with a Gom Jabbar needle.

However, in the film, Alia remains unborn, speaking through a psychic connection with her mother Lady Jessica and later with Paul himself.

Paul's drinking of the Water of Life in the film sees him speak with Alia in visions and we see Alia as an adult, portrayed by Anya Taylor-Joy, who also provides the voice of the sentient foetus.

The importance of Alia in what is to come is made clear, but she has a much less overtly physical presence in the film.

We can likely expect her as an adult in a third Dune film, based on the second novel in the book series, Dune Messiah.

5. Lady Jessica

Zendaya as Chani in a stillsuit stares at Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica in robes and with Fremen lettering tattooed on her face in Dune: Part Two.
Chani and Lady Jessica in Dune: Part Two. Courtesy of Warner Bros

Much of Lady Jessica's actions in the novel Dune are morally ambiguous, but the film adaptation of these in Part Two makes her much more overtly villainous and less morally conflicted.

Despite an initial fear of the weight of her son's destiny in the film, once Jessica has consumed the Water of Life in Part Two, it is her political ambition to weaponise the religious zeal of the Fremen to aid Paul in his ascent to power.

Due to the lack of Alia's unsettling physical presence in the film, remaining in psychic communication with Jessica as a foetus, Ferguson is empowered to embody the darker side of the Bene Gesserit and their prescient abilities on-screen as their key religious figure.

In the film's final scenes, Lady Jessica communes with Alia and appears to take comfort in knowing Paul has unleashed his full might on the universe.

However, the cynicism of this result is underlined by Jessica's discovery of her Harkonnen heritage and also her final communication with her old teacher, Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam.

After Jessica gloats that Mohiam chose the wrong side, Mohiam reminds her "You of all people should know by now, there are no sides, Reverend Mother."

6. Timeline

Timothee Chalamet as Paul Atreides has his face held by Zendaya as Chani on the sand dunes of Dune: Part Two.
Timothee Chalamet as Paul Atreides and Zendaya as Chani in Dune: Part Two. Warner Bros/Niko Tavernise

The time frame of Dune: Part Two is much more condensed than the events of the novel, which take place over years rather than months.

In the novel, after Paul is welcomed into the Fremen community at Sietch Tabr and his mother Jessica drinks the Water of Life, there is a two-year time jump that shows Paul fully entrenched as a leader among the Fremen. He is also shown settled in a life with Chani, and they have a son named Leto – after Paul's late father.

Meanwhile, Jessica is firmly entrenched in her role as a Reverend Mother and her unsettlingly sentient infant child Alia Atreides is seen as a religious icon among the Fremen, too.

It is also during this time that the Harkonnens have increased their vice-like grip on Arrakis, but have heard dangerous omens of the new Fremen religious leader known as Muad'Dib.

7. Character omissions

Stephen McKinley Henderson as Thufir Hawat in Dune: Part One.
Stephen McKinley Henderson as Thufir Hawat in Dune: Part One. YouTube/Warner Bros

Several characters in the novel Dune are absent in Dune: Part Two, but these three are the most notable.

  • Harah - One of the Fremen and the widow of Jamis, Harah is a close friend of Chani and then also Lady Jessica in the novel and goes on to care for Alia as part of her allegiance to Paul, following his killing of her husband. Harah comes to believe in Paul as the Lisan al-Ghaib and later becomes a wife to Stilgar.
  • Leto II Atreides - In the novel, Leto II is the son of Paul Atreides and Chani during their time at Sietch Tabr who goes into hiding with Chani and Alia in the South before Alia is taken hostage and Leto is killed during an attack by the enemy. Both Paul and Chani are devastated and are forever changed by this death in the novel. In the film, Paul and Chani do not have a child.
  • Count Hasimir Fenring - A unique character in the novel Dune, Count Hasimir Fenring is the closest friend and cousin of Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV Corrino and is his master assassin and chief advisor. Fenring is a genetic eunuch but was married to his Bene Gesserit wife Lady Margot Fenring, who tutored him in the ways of the Bene Gessrit. At one point, Fenring was seen as a potential Kwisatz Hadderach due to his abilities but he was not the one. Fenring's abilities meant that Paul had never experienced a vision of him and also notes that Fenring could kill Paul. During the conclusion of the novel, Fenring rejects the opportunity to kill Paul and he is spared to go into exile with the Emperor and his wife Lady Margot, who is revealed to have given birth to a bastard daughter through her sexual liaison with Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen.
  • Thufir Hawat - The Master of Assassins and Mentat for House Atreides is absent from the final cut of Dune: Part Two, despite being portrayed by actor Stephen McKinley Henderson in Part One. In the novel, Hawat survives the defeat of House Atreides in Arrakeen and is taken prisoner by House Harkonnen and forced to serve the Baron as a Mentat, under threat of being refused an antidote after being poisoned by the Baron. Towards the conclusion of the novel, Hawat elects to die at the hands of the poison rather than kill his former protegé, Paul. McKinley Henderson receives a thanks in the end credits of Part Two.

Read More: Which characters are missing in Dune: Part Two?

8. The deaths of Baron Vladimir Harkonnen and Count Glossu Rabban

Stellan Skarsgård as Baron Vladimir Harkonnen in Dune: Part Two.
Stellan Skarsgård as Baron Vladimir Harkonnen in Dune: Part Two. Niko Tavernise

In the novel, Count Glossu Rabban is confirmed to have died in battle with the Fremen. Still, the film adaptation gives Gurney Halleck (Josh Brolin) to take revenge for his family and personally dispatch Rabban – unlike the book, where he does not get the joy of killing a Harkonnen himself.

Elsewhere, the novel sees the young Alia Atreides murder the evil Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, but in the film, she remains in her mother's womb and it is instead Paul himself who violently stabs the Baron in the neck and makes clear their blood connection.

Paul then gives the order for the Baron's body to be "given to the desert" and he is dumped on a dune and consumed by the insects there.

9. The final scenes

Timothee Chalamet as Paul Atreides duels with Austin Butler as Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen in armour in front of an audience including Josh Brolin as Gurney Halleck, Javier Bardem as Stilgar, and Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica in Dune: Part Two.
Timothee Chalamet as Paul Atreides duels with Austin Butler as Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen in Dune: Part Two. Warner Bros

The final scenes occur in a similar vein to the novel's final sequence, but with some changes.

The absences of characters Thufir Hawat, Count Hasimir Fenring, and Alia Atreides mean they are not present for the final duel between Paul Atreides and Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen, but the result is still the same.

Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV Corrino (Christopher Walken) is forced to resign power to Paul and to provide his eldest daughter Princess Irulan Corrino (Florence Pugh) as a consort for the new Emperor.

"Think on it, Chani: that princess will have the name, yet she'll live as less than a concubine—never to know a moment of tenderness from the man to whom she's bound," Jessica tells her in the novel. "While we, Chani, we who carry the name of concubine—history will call us wives."

However, unlike the novel, where a heartbroken Chani is comforted by Lady Jessica that she will possess Paul's heart despite Irulan being his wife in a loveless marriage, in the film, a disillusioned Chani departs the scene entirely.

After a scene of Lady Jessica watching with her unborn daughter Alia as the ships containing the Fremen armies head into space to battle with any opposing great noble houses, we see a devastated Chani head onto the dunes and summon a sandworm to prepare to ride alone.

Despite Chani's rejection of what has happened, Paul told his mother earlier that his prescient visions had shown Chani would eventually come around to his mission, suggesting they will be reunited at some stage.

This would need to happen if the films are to reflect the plot for Paul and Chani in the novel Dune Messiah, if it is adapted, where Chani remains Paul's concubine and closest advisor.

10. The Holy War cliffhanger

Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica in the garb of a Reverend Mother in Dune: Part Two.
Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica in Dune: Part Two. Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

In the final scenes of Dune: Part Two, Lady Jessica watches from the Imperial Residence on Arrakeen as the Fremen depart in ships of the Sardaukar to do battle with the Great Houses who are rebelling against Paul's ascension to the status of Emperor.

Communing with her unborn child Alia who asks what is happening, Jessica confirms that when Paul ordered his Fremen followers to "send them to paradise" about the Great Houses he was unleashing the bloody war by the Fremen he had initially been afraid of.

"Your brother attacks the great houses... a holy war begins," notes Jessica in the final line of the film, laced with menace from actress Rebecca Ferguson.

As such the film ends on a much more overt cliffhanger, enlightening viewers further on what to expect from Dune Messiah - a universe ravaged by war oin the name of Muad'Dib.

Read more:

Dune: Part Two is out in cinemas from Friday 1st March 2024. Check out more of our Sci-Fi coverage or visit our TV Guide to see what's on tonight.


Try Radio Times magazine today and get 10 issues for only £10 – subscribe now. For more from the biggest stars in TV, listen to The Radio Times Podcast.