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Dune 2: Why Director Denis Villeneuve Doesn't Consider The Film A Sequel

"Dune" is the space opera of all space operas. Frank Herbert published the original novel back in 1965. The author took the humble sci-fi beginnings of earlier pioneers like Asimov and Bradbury and merged them into an action-packed, exposition-laced dramatic experience that became a key blueprint for decades of sci-fi fun to follow.

In 2021, director Denis Villeneuve fulfilled a life-long dream in the form of his own adaptation of Herbert's famous novel. The green light for the production had come years earlier, but pandemic delays and restrictions led to the movie launching simultaneously in theatrical and streaming formats late that year. Villeneuve's movie traces the first part of the story of Paul and the Atreides family as they navigate the inhospitable politics and geography of Arrakis, a desert planet that is poor in water but rich in the psychedelic drug Melange or, as it's commonly referred to, "the spice."

The first movie is a cinematically gorgeous romp through Arrakis. It is well-written and well-acted, blending many of the most iconic moments from the source material into a seamless on-screen experience. And yet, despite the movie's lengthy two-and-a-half-hour run time, "Dune" feels incomplete, particularly considering its abrupt ending. It's a fact that even the director was quick to point out.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter days after the first film's release, Villeneuve emphasized that the first and second films are both part of the same story. "It's not a sequel where it's another episode or another story with the same characters. It actually has direct continuity to the first movie. It's the second part of the big, huge movie that I'm trying to do. So, the sooner [audiences see part two] the better."

The need for urgency

The immediate success of "Dune" led to a quick approval for "Dune: Part Two," and Villeneuve wasn't about to waste time taking a victory lap. Just before his above comments (which took place the week "Dune" was released), the French Canadian director clarified the burdensome task of getting the second part of the story out as soon as possible. "It's fantastic news," he said, "but it's also kind of a burden. The good news is that a lot of the work has been done already regarding design, casting, locations and writing. So we're not starting from scratch. It's not a long period of time, but I will try to face that challenge because it's important for me that the audience sees Part Two as soon as possible."

Villeneuve's point is well taken. This isn't a typical sequel requiring a fresh start, new faces, and a compelling new script. The original story is still sitting with its cliffhanger ending, waiting for its epic conclusion.

It's also worth pointing out that while the "Dune" book series has five sequels and many other spin-offs, Villeneuve's first "Dune" film only covered the first half of the first book. Even in the words of the original author, the first "Dune" film only covers half of the original story. While the filmmaker has expressed interest in filming "Dune: Messiah" (the official sequel to the first book), first, he needs to stick the landing with the second half of the original narrative. And based on the first trailer, it looks like he'll be doing just that when the movie comes out this fall.