Will We Get a Dune: Part Three? What to Know About Dune Messiah

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Spoilers for Dune: Part Two below.

If you’ve already seen Dune: Part Two, the biggest question on your mind (besides, Where can I find a sand worm popcorn bucket?) might be: So, what comes next?

It’s a fair thought after watching this epic chapter of Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi saga. Based on Frank Herbert’s ’60s sci-fi novel Dune, he continues the story of Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) with a thrilling sequel that follows him becoming one with the Fremen, falling in love with Chani (Zendaya), avenging his father, and stepping into his role as the chosen one.

There’s still so much to explore on the planet of Arrakis, and beyond; all signs point to the next book in Herbert’s series, Dune Messiah, which Villeneuve has already started to adapt. Herbert wrote six books in the original book series, and there are still dozens more set in the Dune-iverse. But in our very IP-heavy Hollywood landscape, it might come as a surprise that Villeneuve doesn’t want to create a franchise (even though Max is already gearing up with a spin-off series for 2024). However, he still hopes to create a trilogy to properly chronicle Paul Atreides’ rise (and fall).

Here’s what we know about a third Dune film so far.

Are plans for Dune Messiah confirmed?

At this point, Dune Messiah has not yet been green-lit, but Denis Villeneuve has expressed hopes to create a third film. While promoting Dune in 2021, he said, “I always envisioned three movies. It’s not that I want to do a franchise, but this is Dune, and Dune is a huge story. In order to honor it, I think you would need at least three movies. That would be the dream. To follow Paul Atreides and his full arc would be nice.”

In fact, it’s already written. During a press conference in South Korea in December 2023, the director said the script is “being written right now. The screenplay is almost finished but it is not finished. It will take a little time….There’s a dream of making a third movie…it would make absolute sense to me.”

But it might take some time before the film gets made, let alone released. After filming Dune parts one and two in succession, Villeneuve will likely take some time before picking up with the third movie, understandably for his mental well-being.

“I don’t know exactly when I will go back to Arrakis,” he said, per Variety. “I might make a detour before just to go away from the sun. For my mental sanity I might do something in between, but my dream would be to go a last time on this planet that I love.”

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Who will be in the cast?

Warner Bros. has yet to confirm the cast, but we can probably expect to see Timothée Chalamet to return as Paul Atreides, the titular messiah; Zendaya as Chani; and Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica.

Florence Pugh would be featured more heavily as Princess Irulan. Similar to how Zendaya was introduced as Chani in the first Dune and featured more prominently in the second, Pugh is expected to have far more screen time in the potential third film. “Her character is introduced in Part Two, but then if there is an adaptation of Dune Messiah, of course Princess Irulan is one of the main characters in that story,” Villeneuve told Entertainment Weekly.

It’s still too early for additional casting announcements.

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Florence Pugh as Princess Irulan.

What will Dune Messiah be about?

According to the book’s synopsis:

“As Emperor of the known universe, [Paul] possesses more power than a single man was ever meant to wield. Worshipped as a religious icon by the fanatical Fremen, Paul faces the enmity of the political houses he displaced when he assumed the throne–and a conspiracy conducted within his own sphere of influence. And even as House Atreides begins to crumble around him from the machinations of his enemies, the true threat to Paul comes to his lover, Chani, and the unborn heir to his family’s dynasty…”

Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert

<i>Dune Messiah</i> by Frank Herbert

Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert

Credit: Ace

The next potential film seems to be headed in that direction. (Warning: more spoilers!) The end of Dune: Part Two sets up Paul’s reign as emperor. After an epic battle alongside the Fremen, he kills Vladimir Harkonnen, avenging his father, and his nephew Feyd Rautha in combat for the throne. He offers his hand in marriage to Princess Irulan, the emperor’s daughter, much to the chagrin of Chani, who just fought in battle with him. She’s not the only one upset by his decision; the Great Houses are approaching to attack and reject Paul’s claim for emperor. The holy war he had seen in his dreams is taking shape.

Also keep in mind that Paul’s mother Lady Jessica, now reverend mother, is about to give birth to a daughter. It was also revealed in the film that she is of Harkonnen descent, and therefore so is Paul.

Before the credits role, Chani appears alone in the desert, ready to hitch a ride on a sand worm, fighting back tears. It’s possible that she might also have a strong role in the resistance to Paul’s authority in the next film, as she already starts to show her disapproval of his rise to power in Dune: Part Two. She tries to warn her people that revering messianic figures are how those in power “enslave us.”

As Villeneuve told Entertainment Weekly, “In [Frank Herbert’s] mind, Dune was a cautionary tale—a warning against charismatic figures. He felt that Paul was perceived as a hero, when he wanted to do the opposite. So in order to correct that, he wrote Dune Messiah, a kind of epilogue that makes it very clear this story is not a victory, it’s a tragedy.” He added that he “used Chani’s character” to help express Herbert’s intentions with the book. “I gave her a different agenda, and used her to bring a different perspective to the story.”

Will there be any additional Dune movies after that?

Although there are six books in Frank Herbert’s series, and plenty of additional spin-offs, Villeneuve only has a desire to create three films. “Dune Messiah should be the last Dune movie for me,” he confirmed to Time in an interview published in January 2024.

He’d also told Empire last August, “If I succeed in making a trilogy, that would be the dream.”

In the meantime, a spin-off series titled Dune: Prophecy, which follows the Bene Gesserit, is set to premiere on Max sometime this year.

Watch Dune on Max

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