A Deep Dive Into Dune 2: Themes, Plot, and Visuals

Frank Herbert’s Dune novel is arguably the greatest sci-fi epic of all time — it’s certainly up there with the very best. Millions of people have read it, its fans are absolutely devoted, and it even inspired perhaps the biggest franchise ever in the form of Star Wars. The book is complicated, though, and previous attempts to adapt it for the screen have largely been considered failures. But Denis Villeneuve was determined to try again. Starting with 2021’s Dune: Part One and continuing with this year’s Part Two, the filmmaker has received plaudits for his faithful adaptation. But are they justified? Be warned: If you’re planning on watching the movies but haven’t seen them both yet, what follows contains multiple spoilers!

The Dune universe

The universe of Dune takes place in the distant future, when humans have managed to travel through the universe to colonize different planets. The known universe is under the control of a single empire. The Emperor allocates control of the various planets to different families, or “houses,” which can be thought of as the public faces of power throughout the universe.

Behind them, though, stands a shadowy group that exerts enormous power out of view. They are the Bene Gesserit, an entirely female faction of superhuman puppet-masters. Much of the universe’s goings-on can be traced to their meddling. The Bene Gesserit’s main aim is to bring into being the Kwisatz Haderach, a male superhuman of immense ability.

The human computers

The Bene Gesserit aren’t the only superhumans in Dune. The Mentats can be thought of as something like computers in human form, people capable of making the most complex calculations almost instantly. Their role in Villeneuve’s movies isn’t really elaborated on too much, but they’re essential to Herbert’s vision of his universe.

That’s because, about 10,000 years before the events of Dune, all A.I. and computer technology was destroyed. The Mentats, then, are the next best thing. They do much of the work of computers, but there’s one vital task with which even they need help: space travel.

The planet Arrakis

This is where the significance of the planet Arrakis arises. Nicknamed Dune, the whole planet is a barren desert. Its indigenous population is the Fremen, who live by a complicated code designed to preserve water. The Fremen are a religious people who believe in the coming of a messiah who will change their fortunes. This idea, in actual fact, originates from the Bene Gesserit, who purposely spread it.

Arrakis is a brutal place, barely able to sustain human life. And on top of that, it’s home to the terrifying monsters known as the sandworms. The planet may be dangerous, but there’s a reason it’s so important to the empire. It’s home to something of immense value: the spice melange.


The spice is important for a variety of reasons. In addition to extending human life, it makes space travel possible, as those who are exposed to it gain heightened abilities. That’s vital for journeying through space, and without space travel the empire would collapse, so the spice is deemed invaluable.

The real kicker is that the spice is only found on Arrakis, which is why the planet is the site of great power struggles. It’s not a huge leap to view the situation on Arrakis as an allegory for the real-world history of oil wars in the Middle East.