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Denis Villeneuve teases more House Harkonnen and arrival of the Emperor in 'Dune: Part II'

Scheduled for release in October 2023, the sequel will adapt the second half of Frank Herbert's seminal sci-fi novel.

By Josh Weiss
Dune Still

Warner Bros. has only just begun to scratch the surface of the Dune universe with its burgeoning film franchise from director and Frank Herbert super-fan Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Blade Runner 2049). The acclaimed filmmaker's risk stab at the sandworm-sized source material paid off nicely with $400 million at the global box office and a slew of Oscar nominations, including one for Best Picture.

However, the Dune feature released into theaters in late October only adapts the first half of Herbert's seminal sci-fi novel. The latter half of Paul and Jessica's adventure on Arrakis will hit the big screen sometime in October 2023 in Dune: Part II, which hopes to kick off production at the end of the summer, so as to keep fan anticipation from dipping too much.

"I will say it is mostly designed. The thing that helps us right now is that it's the first time I've revisited a universe," Villeneuve told Empire for the magazine's April 2022 issue. "So I'm working with the same crew, everybody knows what to do, we know what it will look like. The movie will be more challenging but we know where we are stepping. And the screenplay is written. So I feel confident. Frankly, the only big unknown right now is the pandemic."

The director also teased the plot of Part II, promising a deeper exploration of House Harkonnen, which betrayed Duke Leto Atreides in the first movie with tacit approval from the Padishah Emperor. "It's like a chess game," he explained. "Some characters will be introduced in the second part and a decision I made very early on was that this first part would be more about Paul Atreides and the Bene Gesserit and his experience of being in contact for the first time with a different culture. Second part, there will be more Harkonnen stuff."

It sounds as though we'll get to meet characters like Feyd-Rautha (the Baron's nephew and protégé who is totally absent from Part I, despite appearing in the novel's first half) as well as the Emperor, whose power over the great houses would be comprised if it was revealed that he aided the Harkonnen betrayal by lending out his own Sardaukar fighters

Villeneuve purposefully kept the latter in the shadows to enhance the mystique around the shady ruler. It's also completely in line with the book, which only makes references to the man (particularly through the writings of his daughter, Princess Irulan). "I feel that things you don't see are very often more powerful than the things that you actually don't see," he continued. "It's much more interesting to hear about this omniscient character, and the Emperor becomes so much more powerful because you don't see him. You hear his influence and feel his power, his shadow, over the whole movie. It's much more interesting than if I had him in this first part."

Dune: Part II arrives in theaters everywhere Oct. 20, 2023.

While still playing on certain screens, Dune: Part I is also available on Digital, Blu-Ray, and 4K Ultra HD.