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‘Dune: Part 3’: What will happen, according to the books

We asked two “Dune” experts to explain what could happen in the third movie based on Frank Herbert's sci-fi book series.
Image of Timothee Chalamet layered over image of sand work
Kelsea Petersen / TODAY Illustration
/ Source: TODAY

🚨 Warning: This post contains spoilers for “Dune” and “Dune: Part Two.”

After a wait of nearly three years, “Dune: Part Two” has finally arrived in theaters, taking audiences back to the desert planet of Arrakis.

Timothée Chalamet returns as Paul Atreides, and after joining forces with the Fremen, he looks to avenge his father’s death and seeks revenge against those who destroyed his family and their home. As Paul falls in love with Chani (Zendaya), he must choose between the love of his life and the future of the universe as he battles his enemies and tries to prevent a harrowing future he sees in visions.

The end of “Dune: Part Two” sets up Paul in a position of power across the universe — and leaves much more of a story to tell for future films.

So is a third “Dune” movie happening? And what will it be about?

Abu Zafar and Leo Wiggins, co-hosts of the “Gom Jabbar” podcast about all things “Dune,” tell TODAY.com what could come next for the film franchise.

What could ‘Dune 3’ be about?

The first “Dune” movie from 2021 and the new sequel film are based on the first novel in the “Dune” book series by Frank Herbert. The sci-fi author wrote six “Dune” novels before he died in the 1986; the second in the series is called “Dune Messiah” — and is presumably the basis of a future third “Dune” film.

Herbert wrote “Dune Messiah” to follow up on the themes in the first book in the series, and begins more than a decade after where the second film ends, Wiggins says.

“You can get to the end of (“Dune: Part Two”) and think, ‘Wow, this Timothée Chalamet sure is dreamy, sure do love this hero who saved the day,’” Wiggins says. “But ‘Dune Messiah’ is a very different tone of a story.”

“Herbert throughout his career was very explicit in warning against the idea of saviors and heroes and the idea of a single person coming in and being Superman and saving the day,” he adds. “I think ‘Dune Messiah’ as a work of fiction does a lot to drive that.”

According to the book’s synopsis, “Dune Messiah” starts 12 years after Paul, now better known as Maud’Dib, begins his rule as emperor. While the Fremen worship him as their savior, he’s now facing the consequences of upending the order of the imperium from several powerful groups, like the Bene Gesserit.

He also has to face his lover Chani after he asked for Princess Irulan’s hand in marriage — she’s the daughter of former Emperor Shaddam IV and played by Florence Pugh in “Dune: Part Two” — as well as meeting his unborn sister Alia Atreides (played by Anya Taylor-Joy).

Zafar was more blunt in his predictions of how the events of “Dune Messiah” could influence a third “Dune” movie: “It gets much darker.”

“If that’s your jam, then this third movie is going to be awesome,” he says. “There’s way more political intrigue, there’s way more scheming. There’s way more people stabbing each other in the back. And it goes to some very dark and interesting places.”

Is there going to be a ‘Dune 3’?

Director Denis Villenueve has said a third “Dune” has been a part of his plan for the film series, though Warner Bros. has not formally announced another film.

“When I embarked on the ‘Dune’ journey, I proposed that it could be three movies. I absolutely love ‘Dune Messiah’ and that is in the works,” Villeneuve told the Los Angeles Times last month, referring to the second book in the series.

But Villeneuve cautioned the third film might mark the end of his time directing the series — though it’s too early to say right now.

“When people ask me, ‘After “Dune Messiah” will you be done with “Dune”?’ I say yes because at that point it will have been almost 10 years of my life. It’s healthy to think that there’s an end to this. But one thing at a time. After ‘Dune Messiah,’ ask me again and we’ll see,” he told the Times.

When does the third ‘Dune’ movie come out?

Though the excitement for another “Dune” film has now heightened with the release of “Dune: Part Two,” Zafar and Wiggins warn the next movie could be years away, as it took nearly three years between the release of “Dune” in 2021 and the release of “Dune: Part Two” in 2024.

“After seeing ‘Part Two,’ I’m now anxiously tapping my feet, because it’s going to be a very long, like, three plus year wait,” Zafar says.

In the meantime, Herbert’s books can certainly fill the void. For those intimidated to read the first book in the series due to its high page count (896 pages in the mass market paperback edition), Zafar notes “Dune Messiah” is much shorter, clocking in at 304 pages.

“The last four years I’ve probably read more ‘Dune’ than one person should in a lifetime,” Zafar says. “If this convinces you at all, ‘Messiah’ is my all-time favorite of all ‘Dune’ books.”

Wiggins also says fans don’t have to take an “all-or-nothing” approach with the books.

“People can read ‘Dune’ and enjoy it and that’s it,” he says. “The other thing you can do is you can read ‘Dune’ and then ‘Dune Messiah,’ and that is also a very strong thesis experience — like, that is a good Point A, Point B, done.”

Even the first three books — “Dune,” “Dune Messiah” and “Children of Dune” — are a “really solid trilogy,” Wiggins says.

“I think broadly like, that is where if someone’s like, ‘I’m interested in ‘Dune’ but I don’t want to go that hardcore,’ it’s like cool, first three books, you’re good.”