Dune Ending: How The Sci-Fi Blockbuster Splits The Book In Half, And What’s Coming In The Future

Javier Bardem, Rebecca Ferguson, Timothee Chalamet and Zendaya in Dune
(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

SPOILER WARNING: The following contains massive spoilers for the ending of Dune. If you have not yet seen the film, read on at your own risk!

With Dune fans having immense confidence in the vision of writer/director Denis Villeneuve to create a proper big screen treatment of the beloved book, the new blockbuster has generated two big questions in the run up to its release. While it was announced that the film would only be adapting approximately half of author Frank Herbert’s sci-fi epic, it was left unclear A) if the movie was officially getting a sequel, and B) exactly what point in the book would be treated as a stopping point. Sadly, at the time of writing this article we still don’t have an answer to the former query, but the release of the feature has obviously answered the latter… and has our brains spinning about what’s potentially to come.

The loyalty to the source material demonstrated by Denis Villeneuve in the making of Dune gives those who have read the book pretty good insight into the direction things will go following the events at the end of the film (the same path as the novel) should a Dune: Chapter 2 get made. That being said, this feature has been built with the intent of coalescing the material we’ve seen and examining the journey of the characters thus far – in addition to teasing what’s ahead. To start, let’s reflect on where the movie chooses to hit pause on the story, a.k.a. the place where it splits Frank Herbert’s book.

Javier Bardem as Stilgar in Dune

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

What Happens At The End Of Denis Villeneuve’s Dune

To say that things don’t end in an overly optimistic place in Dune would be a radical understatement. Paul Atreides (Timothee Chalamet) and his mother, Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) are alive, but they are stranded in the wide-ranging desert of Arrakis with limited supplies, and everyone that they care about is either dead or being held captive by the evil House Harkonnen. They have Stillsuits, and a packed Fremkit, which will protect them against the elements… but not all of the elements. Scary as the heat and arid atmosphere are, even scarier is the prospect of being devoured by a sandworm.

The protagonists attempt to walk without rhythm so they won’t attract the worm, but nonetheless the nightmare scenario becomes real. Paul and Rebecca hear the rumblings of one coming and have to make a quick dash for higher ground. For a moment it seems like yet more prominent characters are going to be killed – but halting the human feast is the sound of an activated thumper. The creature is distracted and tunnels away, but not all is safe as there is a clear understanding that the two stranded members of House Atreides are not alone.

This is an instinct proved to be accurate, as from around Paul and Rebecca emerges a tribe of Fremen – including Stilgar (Javier Bardem), who recognizes the Atreides from his meeting with Duke Leto (Oscar Isaac), and also Cheney (Zendaya), whom Paul sees for the first time in real life outside of his dreams. There is conflict between the group of natives, debating whether or not the two outsiders should be killed and saved the horrors of the desert, and it’s decided that Paul must battle in a fight to the death against Jamis (Babs Olusanmokun), each fighter using a crysknife.

Jamis is an immensely gifted fighter, but Paul’s skills are underestimated. Though he regrets that he needs to kill an innocent man, Paul does it to protect his opponent’s honor and not shame him. With his victory, he and his mother are accepted among the Fremen, but a dark future is on the horizon, as while the young hero seems to be on a messianic path, House Harkonnen is ready to bring terror to Arrakis with the brutal “Beast” Rabban (Dave Bautista) having been chosen to take command on the planet.

Arrakis in Dune

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

How Dune Sets Up What Would Come In Dune: Chapter 2

When House Atreides arrives on Arrakis, their goal is to rule the planet much differently than House Harkonnen did. While the Harkonnens view the Fremens as impediments to spice mining who must be destroyed, it is the goal of Duke Leto to form an unheard of peace with the natives and wholly change the profile of operations on the planet. Sadly, Leto dies before his dream can be realized – proven to be far too confident in his ability to circumvent the trap he purposefully walks into – but that doesn’t mean the goal is dead, as Paul plans to pick up where his father left off.

Paul acts against his mother’s wishes in making the decision to stay among Stilgar and his people, but this bullish perspective is understandable when considering his perspective. Not only has he just met the literal girl of his dreams, proving the visions prescient, but he has learned of his “destiny” caught up in being a male born of a Bene Geserit and the prophecy of the ascendant Kwisatz Haderach.

Clearly House Harkonnen represents a dangerous threat, as they rule without mercy and commit genocide if permitted – but does Arrakis need a savoir? The film opens with voice over narration from Chani recounting the experience of Harkonnen rule and watching them leave, but notably the departure is not celebrated by the young Fremen; it merely introduces two questions: Why did the emperor make the decision to take Arrakis away from the Harkonnens; and who will the next oppressors be? Because of spice production, the planet is unquestionably a vital part of the way the universe functions, but rather than creating power and freedom it has merely led to a history full of colonialism and oppression.

Simmering to a boil is a crisis between history, religion and philosophy – all preceding bloody warfare.  The Harkonnens will attempt to violently reassert control over Dune, and as Paul’s relationship deepens with Chani, he and Lady Jessica will work with the Fremen to fight back. That showdown should make Dune: Chapter 2 a spectacular epic… provided it finally gets the green light.

Dune is now playing on the big screen everywhere, including in IMAX and 4DX cinemas. Being part of the Warner Bros. 2021 slate, Dune is streaming on HBO Max. 

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.