Dune: Part Two Book vs Movie Review

Dune by Frank Herbert (1965)

Dune: Part Two directed by Denis Villeneuve (2024)

Check out my Dune part one book vs movie if you have not already! There is a lot of information in that video that I will not be reiterating here, because I am just going to dive right into the plot details of Part Two.

We left off with the Harkonnen’s taking over Arrakis once again, killing the Atreides. Paul and Jessica have been welcomed, to some degree, by the Fremen after Paul killed Jamis in a duel.

There are some Fremen who think Paul is their Messiah-the Lisan al Gaib, but Paul does not want to take on this role because he sees that if he does, it will lead to a holy war.

Jessica and Alia

In both book and movie, Stilgar, the leader of this Fremen group, asks Jessica to be their new Reverend Mother, because their current one is dying. In the movie he tells her she can either be the Reverend Mother, or she can die. In the book I think she had more choice, but she feels compelled to agree so that the Fremen will fully accept her and Paul.

In both, to become the Reverand Mother, she drinks of the Water of Life, which is a liquid that comes from a dead sandworm. Men cannot survive this, and there are women who die in the process. However, in both, Jessica survives. Jessica was pregnant at the time of this ritual (unbeknownst to the former Reverend Mother, otherwise they would not have done it) and it awakens her unborn baby into full conscious in the womb and she now has the memories of Jessica and the other Reverend Mothers. Throughout the movie, we see Jessica talking to Alia, the name of the daughter, while she is still pregnant with her.

In the book, soon after Jessica drinks the Water of Life, we have a two-year time jump, so we don’t see the time when Jessica is pregnant. This is one of the changes from book to movie, the book takes place over the course of a few years. Whereas by the end of the movie, Jessica still has not given birth which means a whole lot has happened within just a 9-month period.

Not having Alia was my biggest disappointment with the movie I would say. Her storyline was so unique, and she was such a great character! I am assuming Villeneuve never had us see her because it would be hard to find a child actor who is young enough, who has the acting chops to speak and act like a full-grown adult the way Alia does. If only we could turn back time and get a 5-year-old Dakota Fanning in the role! But I know Dakota Fanning’s and Haley Joel Osment’s don’t grow on trees though and they certainly couldn’t have had her be CGI because that would have looked bad. Maybe they also wanted to cut costs to some extent, and so they cut her character.

But I assume the biggest reason they didn’t have her is they were worried it would look silly and this is a movie that takes itself very seriously so they didn’t want to risk that. That’s just my opinion though-why do you think they got rid of her character??

And I know they didn’t totally get rid of her because as said, Jessica will talk to her and we see her in Jessica’s belly. We also see a more grown-up Alia played by Anya-Taylor Joy in one of Paul’s vision.

But back to Jessica. In the movie and book, we know that the Bene Gesserit have spread stories of the Lisan al Gaib amongst the Fremen. After Jessica is the Reverend Mother in the movie, she really leans into this and encourages the Fremen to believe that Paul is the Messiah. We see her cunning Bene Gesserit ways come out as she begins her work of building up Paul even though he is still resisting it.

This was not the case in the book. Jessica never encourages the Fremen to see Paul in this way. In fact, there are times when she chides Paul for encouraging the belief. A conversation between the two of them reads,

“The Fremen have a simple, practical religion,” he said.

“Nothing about religion is simple,” she warned. But Paul, seeing the clouded future that still hung over them, found himself swayed by anger. He could only say: “Religion unifies our forces. It’s our mystique.”

“You deliberately cultivate this air, this bravura,” she charged. “You never cease indoctrinating.”

“Thus you yourself taught me,” he said.

In the book Jessica feels she has created a monster in a sense. She taught him the Bene Gesserit ways, she hoped he would be the Kwisatz Haderach, her group is who began the indoctrinating amoungst the Fremen. And yet, as things progress, she wishes Paul would stop.

Later near the end of the book, we read,

Jessica glared at her son, shocked by the profound change in him…And she said: “The men tell strange stories of you, Paul. They say you’ve all the powers of the legend —nothing can be hidden from you, that you see where others cannot see.”

“A Bene Gesserit should ask about legends?” he asked.

“I’ve had a hand in whatever you are,” she admitted, “but you mustn’t expect me to—”

“How would you like to live billions upon billions of lives?” Paul asked. “There’s a fabric of legends for you! Think of all those experiences, the wisdom they’d bring. But wisdom tempers love, doesn’t it? And it puts a new shape on hate. How can you tell what’s ruthless unless you’ve plumbed the depths of both cruelty and kindness? You should fear me, Mother. I am the Kwisatz Haderach.”

The south

In the movie she also wants him to go to the south and drink of the Water of Life, cementing him as the Lisan al Gaib. Throughout the movie though he resists going there at all costs. It is said the Fremen in the south are fundamentalists who believe in this prophecy totally and he therefore doesn’t want to go there. He also feels that going there is where the path to the holy war begins and he will lose Chanie.

This is also not the case in the book. Paul doesn’t go south for a while simply because that is not where he is needed. It sounds like the south is where a lot of the woman and children are and they work to make various materials and items. When we do the time jump in the book, we learn that Jessica, Alia, Chanie and Chanie and Paul’s son (in the book they have a baby named Leto) are in the south but Chanie comes up at one point to see him as he prepares to ride a sandworm. So yeah, him going to the south wasn’t this huge thing it is made out to be in the movie.

In both, Paul does eventually drink the Water of Life, but in the movie as said, Jessica made sure this happened. Whereas in the book, she finds him unconscious and believes someone poisoned him. She feels prompted to call for Chanie after several weeks have passed and there has been no change in him. Chanie is the one who speculates that he must have drunk from the Water of Life, and to revive him, she puts a small drop on her finger and then on his lips and this revives him.

In the movie, everyone knows what Paul has done and Chanie is called because her awakening him with one of her tears is part of the prophecy which Jessica forces her to fulfill by using the voice on Chanie.

In the movie it is after he awakens from this that the audience learns that Jessica is the daughter of Baron Harkonnen. This is revealed earlier in the book and going into this movie I forget this wasn’t yet revealed so when it is said it took me a second to realize that for nonbook readers, this is a huge reveal!

Feyd Rautha

Feyd is the nephew of Baron Harkonnen and will be the next Baron once Valdimir dies.

In both he is sadistic and takes pleasure in torturing people. We see in both that he enjoys gladiator fights where he battles drugged prisoners. In the fight we see in book and movie, there is an Atreides prisoner who is not drugged, and the audience is shocked as they see this fight go down. In both Feyd wins, but in the movie the Baron is the one who called for the prisoner to not be drugged as a way to test Feyd. In the book though, it was Feyd and Hawat who had the prisoner not be drugged as a way to get the Baron to punish the slave master who is in charge of drugging them.

In both, we see that after his gladiator fight, he is seduced by Lady Fenring who is a Benne Gesserit, in order to secure that bloodline. In the movie she also put him through the Gom Jabbar test, but this was not in the book.

Feyd in the movie seems more savage as we see he kills his own people over nothing, he has like this group of cannibal women, and we see him take charge over Arrakis and is ruthless and makes Rabban kiss his boot. In the book there are parts where the Baron tells him to kill certain people and Feyd is a bit taken aback at times at being told to kill people who didn’t really do anything wrong. We also do not see Feyd take over Arrakis like we do in the movie. Feyd in the movie was fantastic though! Austin Butler was great in the role.

Throughout the book, Rabban is in charge. However, part way through, the Baron cuts off supplies and people from Rabban, leaving him to fail and be hated, so Feyd can then swoop in and save the day. But yeah, other things happen which cause us to never actually see his leadership in the book. In the movie we see Gurney kill Rabban, whereas in the book he was killed by Stilgar it seems but we don’t even see it happen. Throughout the book, Gurney is talking about how he hates Rabban because he killed Gurney’s sister and Gurney had been in the Harkonnen slave pits, on top of the fact that they killed the Atreides people. So we keep hearing how much he hates Rabban and wants to kill him. Then, Rabban is killed off screen and Gurney isn’t even the one that gets to do it!

In the movie Feyd ruins Seitch Tabr which is the home of Stilgar’s group of Fremen. In the book there is a raid of Seitch Tabr, but it wasn’t Feyd’s doing, rather it was done once the emperor shows up.

In both, Feyd is with the Baron and the emperor and everyone on Arrakis and ends up fighting Paul. In the book, Paul calls to the emperor that he has a Harkonnen in his midst and even though Gurney wants to kill a Harkonnen, Paul fights him instead. In the movie, Paul calls out the emperor to fight, but he can have someone fight in his place since he is old, and Feyd steps up to do it. In both it is a close fight, but Paul kills Feyd.

Again with Feyd though, Gurney is asking to fight him because he keeps being robbed of his chance to kill a Harkonnen leader! But Paul basically shuts him down and is like, no, I get to do this. This was interesting in the book and seems to be another way that Herbert subverts expecations by robbing Gurney, and the reader, of Gurney’s revenge.

Paul and Chanie

I know I am jumping all over, but time to go the start of this movie and talk about Paul and Chanie. In both they quickly fall in love, in the book we see that they both see the future due to the spice-in the book we learn that spice gives the Fremen a kind of group conscious and they can see the future to some extent when high on spice. After Jessica becomes the Reverend Mother, she makes the Water of Life drinkable for everyone and they basically get drunk/high on it and have orgies.

But while this is happening, Paul is with Chanie and we read, “He forced himself to speak distinctly: “What do you see?” She looked down at her hands. “I see a child…in my arms. It’s our child, yours and mine.” She put a hand to her mouth. “How can I know every feature of you?” They’ve a little of the talent, his mind told him. But they suppress it because it terrifies.”

This is something the movie doesn’t show-that the Fremen could have strong powers from their spice intake, but they suppress it because they fear that power. Though it also seems that when you have a high tolerance, as all Fremen do, their visions lessen, “His body had slowly acquired a certain spice tolerance that made prescient visions fewer and fewer… dimmer and dimmer.” That is said of Paul, but it seems to imply this is for others too…?

But this weird dynamic of seeing that in the future they fall in love, is what makes them fall in love. In the movie, they just fall in love naturally. I did think their moments together were cute and I liked seeing them together in the movie. I wish the movie would have played up the power spice gives to Paul and the others though. The first movie showed it more than this one does, I would say.

As said, in the book they have a son but he dies when their Seitch is attacked. He was under two though, and we don’t even see Paul interact with him so I had no issues with the movie getting rid of him. Also has said, the movie doesn’t even span enough time for them to even have a baby be born.

A scene from the movie I want to talk about, and here seems like a good time, is when Paul rides a sandworm for the first time. This is a big deal in both book and movie as the Fremen, including Chanie, watch. This is a rite of passage and you aren’t considered a real Fremen unless you are able to do this. In both, Paul ends up calling the biggest worm they have seen, and he is able to conquer it. In the book, Stilgar jumps on with him at one point and we hear more about how this works and how they get off and things like that.

The movie doesn’t show the logistics of it exactly, but this whole scene was just fantastic. Definitely one of my favorite scenes in the movie. It was so tense and thrilling and suspenseful and magical and just-wow. I loved it so much.

Maud’Dib

Paul gets two Fremen names, his private name is Usul, and his fighter name is Maud’Dib which is what they call the desert mouse. As the fighter Maud’Dib, he leads the Fremen in making life tough for Rabban. Rabban and the Harkonnen’s misjudge the number of Fremen and underestimate their skills and knowledge. Add on the leadership of Maud’Dib, and Rabban is really struggling. Others hear of this “Maud’Dib”, but they think Paul and Jessica are dead and assume it is just some random Fremen.

Throughout book and movie, even as Paul leads them as Maud’Dib, he still resists taking the path that leads to him “becoming” the Lisan al Gaib. But once he drinks of the Water of Life, that is it. He now can see all potential futures and can see all pasts and this is what makes him become their Messiah.

There is a scene in both when Stilgar and others feel that due to Fremen tradition, Paul needs to fight and kill Stilgar since he is now stronger than Stilgar and that is how it goes with leadership. In both, Paul is like that may have been the way of the past, but I am here to change your ways. He says basically that it makes no sense to kill someone as strong and valuable as Stilgar. He also says that there isn’t a Fremen he can’t beat, and therefore it is a pointless tradition to carry on.

In the movie he also picks out a random Fremen in the crowd and tells the man what that man is thinking right then and about his past, and this makes them all bow in awe.

Paul does a lot of yelling in this movie, including in this scene, and I thought Timothee Chalamet was great in the role. I didn’t have any complaints with any of the acting and thought everyone was superb. By the way, in the movie this scene is after he drinks of the Water of Life, but in the book it is before.

In both book and movie we get the line where Paul makes the sad observation that he loses friends and gains worshippers, “In that instant, Paul saw how Stilgar had been transformed from the Fremen naib to a creature of the Lisan al Gaib, a receptacle for awe and obedience. It was a lessening of the man, and Paul felt the ghost-wind of the jihad in it. I have seen a friend become a worshiper, he thought.” He says something similar to Gurney, as one of the reasons he doens’t want to accept being their prophet.

Gurney and the atomics

In both book and movie, Gurney had been with smugglers for a couple of years before happening upon Paul. He teams up with Paul and the Fremen, and in the movie he tells Paul of the Atreides atomic weapons that are still accessible. They have been hidden on Arrakis and he says Paul should use them to put an end to this battle with the Harkonenn’s. They do end up using them, including threatening to ruin all spice production with them which would be bad news for everyone, so no one wants that so it provides leverage to get what he and the Fremen want. As Paul says, “He who can destroy a thing has the real control of it.”

In the book, Gurney doesn’t suggest the use of atomics and there are no Atreides atomic weapons. Rather, Paul has the idea to mix the Water of Life with a pre-spice mass (the same thing that killed Kynes in the book) and this will cause a chain reaction which will destroy Dune, “Spreading death among the little makers, killing a vector of the life cycle that includes the spice and the makers. Arrakis will become a true desolation—without spice or maker.” He wants to do this aa a threat to the imperium, but also to make an explosion to take down the shield wall protecting the emperor and all of them.

In the book Gurney is against this, when he questions Paul on creating atomic explosions we read, “Paul barked. “It’s fear, not the injunction that keeps the Houses from hurling atomics against each other. The language of the Great Convention is clear enough: ‘Use of atomics against humans shall be cause for planetary obliteration.’ We’re going to blast the Shield Wall, not humans.” “It’s too fine a point,” Gurney said. “The hairsplitters up there will welcome any point,” Paul said. “Let’s talk no more about it.”

The ending

In the last bit, the emperor and his group, the Harkonnen’s, and guild members are there at Arrakis. Rabban is killed as I already talked about, Feyd is killed by Paul. In the movie, the Baron is struck by the Emperor, then Paul later shows up and finishes him off. In the book, Alia allows herself to be captured when they attack the Seitch, and then she is the one who kills the Baron.

With Paul’s group with him, he then tells the emperor that he will marry his daughter, Princess Irulan, as a political move to make him the new emperor. In the book he banishes the emporer to the prison planet Salusa Secundus. In the book, Chanie tells Paul earlier that he has no obligation to her, but he says he loves her and never wants to be without her. He assures her that this marriage is a political move, but that Irulan will not get any attention from him-physical or otherwise, she will only be his wife in name. Chanie still seems upset about this, and Jessica, who was also had not been Leto’s wife but rather his concubine, says to her, “yet [Irulan] will live as less than a concubine—never to know a moment of tenderness from the man to whom she’s bound. While we, Chani, we who carry the name of concubine—history will call us wives.”

I would love to know what you make of this final line. Is it acknowledging how history changes fact? Is it showing the coldness of politics and leadership in general?

Throughout this exchange in the end of the book, we get multiple characters-Hawat and Jessica, say that Paul resembles his grandfather (Baron Harkonnen) more than his own father, Duke Leto. He also become colder, at one point after a battle there has been a lot of damage done and lives lost and we read, “Nothing money won’t repair, I presume,” Paul said. “Except for the lives, m’Lord,” Gurney said, and there was a tone of reproach in his voice as though to say: “When did an Atreides worry first about things when people were at stake?” In the movie we hear the emperor say that Duke Leto had led with his heart and that caused him to be weak, that strong leaders have to be cold and logistical. As the book goes on, Paul takes this leadership approach over his fathers ways.

In the movie however, Chanie is against Paul’s decisions has he steps into the role of the Lisan al Gaib. She doesn’t want to fulfill the prophecy by awakening from his Water of Life death, she doesn’t want him using atomics, she doesn’t like that people worship him, and in the end, he has truly broken her heart when he says he will marry Irulan. In the end, Fremen fighters leave to begin the Holy War, but Chanie leaves in her own direction. This is of course a big change to the book Chanie who ws struggling with Paul’s choice to marry Irulan, but was still compliant.

Movie Chanie/Herbert’s intent

Herbert is quoted as saying, “The bottom line of the Dune trilogy is: beware of heroes. Much better [to] rely on your own judgment, and your own mistakes.” This cautionary tale showing the Messiah trope gone wrong. This is what he intended with the first book. And yet, readers didn’t get the message and they believed Paul was just as much the hero the Fremen believed him to be. He then wrote Dune Messiah in 1969 as a way to more obviously show this message.

Villeneuve has said that Chanie is the compass/the heart of the movie. He made the change to have her see what was happening with Paul and to not go along with it, as a way to ensure that audiences wouldn’t make the same mistake initial book readers made.

Villeneuve said he made this change as a way to ensure that movie watchers would not misinterpret the movie ending, the way early book reads misintprtetting the ending of the first book.

The Messiah Trope

Speaking of the Messiah trope, I just love how Herbert writes about this and I think Villeneuve did an excellent job bringing it to screen. There are so many parallels here to the story of Jesus Christ, a story that has many retellings to various extent. The book One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is one version of a Christ retelling that I have covered.

But we have Leit Kynes who paved the way before Paul arrived, just like John the Baptist did for Jesus. We then have Paul being born of a “holy mother” with Jessica being a Bene Gesserit who eventually becomes the Reverend Mother, just as Mary has become a holy symbol. Christ rose from the dead, and Paul is seemingly dead after drinking the Water of Life, only to be revived. Paul changes the customs of the Fremen and introduces a new way, just as Christ changed various customs including ending animal sacrifices. Christ also had disciples and said that when they speak, it will be as he speaks. We get this too when Paul tells the people of Stilgar, “Stilgar leads this tribe. Let no man mistake that. He commands with my voice. What he tells you, it is as though I told you.” There have also been wars in the name of Christianity, though not led by Christ himself, just as we see the start of a Holy War being led in Paul’s name. There may be other parallels, but those are the ones I noticed. In general, I love books that are a retelling of another story. Of course, Dune is far more than a Biblical retelling and I don’t want to boil it down to that, because that would be selling it short.

As said, this is a story of an anti-hero. Paul is reluctant to become the leader and be the cause for the death of billions. He is worried what will happen when he gains power and what he will lose in the process. But eventually that is where he ends up and loses so much of himself in the process. In the movie he also loses Chanie, which again, was done as a way to make sure the audience knows that we shouldn’t be cheering for Paul on the path he is on.

Making Jessica more sinister also makes it clear that this is manipulative and messed up and they are encouraging this religion just as a way to control people.

Having said that, even though Paul was thrust into this role, it does seem like he really was destined to the Lisan al Gaib as well as the Kwisatz Haderach. He does fulfill the prophecy’s, but then again, some of the prophecy’s were made up. So in that case, is it really jsut a case of coincidence and a self fulfilling prophecy that Paul becomes what the Fremen want him to be?

But really, at the end of the day it doens’t matter whether or not Paul truly was fulfilling a real prophecy becuase that isn’t the point of the story. As said, Herbert wrote this to show that no one should have this much power and control and people shouldn’t put so much on a single person to the point that the people become fanatical followers. Only bad can come from that.

The Bene Gessurit by the way, intended to create the Kwisatz Haderach and then control him and have him work with them. Of course, Paul puts the imperial Reverend Mother in her place and says how he will never be controlled.

Other changes from book to movie

In the book, Thufir Hawat is taken in by the Harkonnen’s and forced to be the Baron’s mentant. In the end, when he sees Paul, he ends up committing suicide. This isn’t in the movie.

Hawat and Gureny also had thought Jessica was behind the betrayal of the Atreides, and in the book Gurney even tries to kill Jessica once he is reunited with Paul, however they have proof to show him that Yeuh was the traitor.

There is a scene in the book when Feyd tries to kill the Baron, but the Baron survives and calls Feyd out. He kind of admires Feyd for his attempt and strikes a bargain with him to help Feyd one day be Emperor. But he then still makes sure to punish Feyd for the attempt.

The book also has a character named Count Fenring who is the product of the Benne Gesserit. He had been a previous kwisatz haderach hopeful but turns out he wasn’t “the one”. In the end of the book the emperor tells him to kill Paul, and Paul and Fenring both know that he could, but Fenring refuses. I heard the movie shot scenes with Fenring and Hawat, but they ended up being cut from the final product.

In the movie there is a part when Paul puts his hand to the ground to speak to Jamis, the man he killed, in order to receive guidance. I am pretty sure this is when he decides to go to the south after all. This was not in the book.

There are of course other changes (like in the book Jamis had two sons and a wife that are not Paul’s responsibility since he killed Jamis), but I think I have gone over all of the bigger aspects.

Book vs Movie

With part one I said the book wins, and I still stand by that in regards to the first half. For the second movie though, I think I will say the movie wins. Partly to balance it out, because the movies are so good, they are amazing adaptations and so I want to show them love by letting it be an even win. I also like that the movie simplifies some things like some of the politics going on with the guild and the CHOAM and all of that and in general makes the story easier to follow. I think the movie did a good job in general of condensing the story while still staying true to the themes and messages of the book. Though the movies does Jessica dirty by making her evil!  

The visuals of the movie are also so spectacular, and that sandworm scene in the book just cannot compare at all to what we got in the movie. I also like what we saw with Feyd in the movie. I realize this also maybe recency bias. I just saw the movie in theaters and it was such an incredible experience. I do think the movie could have leaned into the bizarre a bit more, because as said, the movie has a very serious tone. Yet, even with that in mind, along with my complaints on no Alia, I still feel confident that when it comes to the second half of Dune, the movie wins!