Denis Villeneuve’s Dune will adapt Frank Herbert's original novel into two separate movies, but where will the story split? With the first trailer for Dune dropping last week, many die-hard fans are speculating about how much of the story will be in the first film. Others may wonder why one book needs to be split into two movies at all.
Herbert’s 1965 novel is extremely long, with meticulous worldbuilding and a complicated plot. It was originally published in two parts (serialized in the magazine Analog) called "Dune World" and "The Prophet of Dune. These were later combined into a single novel called simply Dune. It would be nearly impossible to do this dense and complex story justice while condensing it into just a couple of hours. David Lynch’s 1984 adaptation of Dune attempted to fit the entire story into one movie, and the film was a notorious failure. Villeneuve's adaptation has learned from Lynch’s mistakes. By splitting the story into two films, he is giving Dune room to breathe and the audience time to figure out this complicated sci-fi world. On the financial side of things, Warner Bros. releasing Dune in two parts turns one big-budget box office risk into two more moderately-budgeted sci-fi movies that will (theoretically) gross more collectively at the box office than a single movie would.
As soon as it became public information that the book would be split into two parts, many Dune fans started predicting that the first movie would end about halfway through the Dune novel. The trailer seems to confirm this theory, as it seems to focus on the events of the first half of the book. Near the beginning of the film, audiences will see Paul (Timothée Chalamet) enduring a painful test, called Gom Jabbar, to see if he is the legendary Kwisatz Haderach. The Atreides family will then relocate to Arrakis, the desert planet where most of Dune takes place. Soon after arriving in Arrakis, the Atreides enemies’ stage a coup against them, and the first Dune movie will likely end with this great betrayal.
Paul and Jessica’s meeting with the Fremen is the furthest event in the book that is featured in the trailer. Based on this chronology, it seems that the climax of the movie is most likely when Paul and Jessica escape the attack and head into the desert, with the film ending shortly after they unite with the Fremen. Paul telling Chani (Zendaya) "I know you" is most likely one of the final moments in the movie. The only other scenes of Paul and Chani together in the trailer are visions that Paul has before actually meeting her. The two characters finally meet around the midpoint of the novel, which is when Paul says, "I know you, Chani."
Villeneuve's two-part adaptation of Dune will probably leave Paul’s training with the Fremen for the second film, which will presumably run all the way through the end of the novel. Of course, it is possible that the trailer is purposely misleading, and that the film may surprise even the most devoted Dune fans. Only when Dune hits theaters this December will audiences know for certain exactly how much the first film covers.