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Dune: Part Two Is A Love Story, According To Denis Villeneuve

Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) may be destined to be a genocidal Emperor of the whole galaxy, but what is destiny without someone to share it with? That is the question that "Dune" director Denis Villeneuve aims to answer in his follow-up to the acclaimed 2021 film. When we left him in the first film, Paul only has the best intentions. But good intentions pave the road to hell — or the road to conquest. 

Paul's prophetic dreams indicate that he will lead a bloody holy war, but he won't be alone. In every one of these visions, he is supported by his concubine, Chani (Zendaya). Though she had minimal screen time in the first film, Villeneuve promises that "Dune Part Two" will be another matter entirely. Not only will she be a protagonist in her own right, but the entire film hinges on the burgeoning relationship between the two lovers.

"I wanted to make a very human movie, very close to the characters, despite the scope of the film," Villeneuve told Vanity Fair in an exclusive interview. "I kept saying to my crew, 'The most important thing is that spark, that relationship between both of these characters.' If we don't capture that, if we don't have that onscreen, there's no movie. The epicenter of the story is this relationship."

Chani is integral to Paul's character

In many sci-fi and action films, female characters can sometimes fall into the trap of being just "the girlfriend." But even in the limited scenes with Chani we have seen already, she refuses to be put in a box. Her first interaction with Paul Atreides is contentious, to say the least. She does not believe he is the Muad'Dib and readily tells him she expects he will die in his imminent duel. Chani is a character in her own right, and "Dune" cannot function without her. Timothée Chalamet was more than willing to accept this romance plot for that reason.

"The universe of 'Dune' is a complex world of geopolitics and with tons of ecological and technological metaphors that hold up today," Chalamet explained to Vanity Fair. "But at the center, there's this relationship where Chani sort of becomes a moral compass." 

Paul's great purpose is such a vast undertaking that he needs someone to tether him to the earth. His connection with Chani keeps him close to his humanity. But she is not there just as a support system. The women of "Dune" are always viewed as equals. Duke Leto (Oscar Isaac) put all his trust in Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), and Paul will do the same with Chani. There is a reason she is always featured as his right hand in his dreams about the future. And without her, he probably never would have had a chance to ride that sandworm.