Timothee Chalamet as Paul Atreides in 'Dune: Part Two'
(Warner Bros)

Everything We Know About ‘Dune Messiah’

It’s been almost three years since Dune was released, but Dune: Part Two has finally arrived. The gods of cinema have smiled upon us, the spice is flowing freely once again, and the hills are alive (with sandworms). And if we’re really lucky, we won’t have to wait too long for the next sequel, Dune Messiah.

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Although Dune: Part Two finishes the story laid out in Frank Herbert’s epic sci-fi novel, Paul Atreides’ journey continues in a series of Dune novels. Director Denis Villeneuve has repeatedly expressed interest in turning his Dune adaptation into a trilogy, and is working on a script based on Dune Messiah, the second book in Herbert’s series. Here’s everything we know about the third Dune movie so far.

Is Dune Messiah officially in development?

Warner Bros. hasn’t given the official green light to Dune Messiah just yet. In a recent interview with Inverse, Villeneuve confirmed that the sequel “is still in the writing process.” Depending on how well Dune: Part Two performs at the box office, the studio could make a formal announcement as soon as next week.

When could Dune Messiah be released?

It took a few years for Denis Villeneuve and his crew to complete Dune: Part Two, but it might be even longer before we see Dune Messiah. “There is absolutely a desire to have a third one, but I don’t want to rush it,” Villeneuve told Variety, noting that “the danger in Hollywood is that people get excited and only think about release dates, not quality.”

Villeneuve might take a well-deserved break from the world of Dune before making Messiah. The director confirmed in an interview with Empire that he’s developing another sci-fi adaptation: Rendezvous With Rama, based on the novel by Arthur C. Clarke, which Villeneuve described as “Arrival on steroids.”

Besides, audiences should sit with Dune: Part Two for a while before jumping into the next chapter. And a longer break between sequels would likely benefit Messiah, which features an older Paul Atreides.

What is Dune Messiah about?

Published five years after Dune, in 1969, Dune Messiah begins 12 years into Paul’s reign as Emperor. A religious war is being waged in Paul’s name across the universe and billions of people have died. Still, in Paul’s visions, he can see an alternative future in which that number becomes much higher. (It could always be worse, I guess?) Paul spends much of Messiah struggling with his visions and whether, by relying on them for guidance, he’s created a self-fulfilling prophecy. Meanwhile, the Bene Gesserit have allied with other organizations in a conspiracy to assassinate Paul. Always plotting, those witches (and we love them for it).

Thematically speaking, Dune Messiah approaches meta-fiction. “When [Frank Herbert] wrote the first Dune, I think he was destabilized by how people reacted to it,” Villeneuve explained to Empire. “Dune Messiah was written in reaction to the fact that people perceived Paul Atreides as a hero, which is not what he wanted to do. My adaptation [of Dune] is closer to his idea that it’s actually a warning.” Villeneuve has already begun threading this needle in his first two Dune installments, which treat Paul’s visions with some skepticism.

Dune: Part Two also lays some groundwork for Messiah: at the end of the film, Paul’s mother, Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) is pregnant with his sister, Alia. In a final scene, she says to her unborn child, “Your brother attacked the great houses. The holy war begins.”

Who might return in Dune Messiah?

Most actors from the first two Dune movies would most likely return for Messiah, and several of them have publicly committed to reprising their roles for Villeneuve. So the main cast of Messiah would be: Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides, Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica, Zendaya as Chani, Florence Pugh as Princess Irulan, Javier Bardem as Stilgar, Josh Brolin as Gurney Halleck, and Anya Taylor-Joy as Alia.

If you aren’t familiar with Herbert’s novels, you might be pleasantly surprised to learn that Duncan Idaho also returns in Messiah—and Jason Momoa has already confirmed that he’s down to reprise his role in the sequel.

Will there be any more Dune sequels after Messiah?

If Villeneuve wanted to, he could make several more movies set in the Dune universe, but that’s not likely to happen. (A TV series about the Bene Gesserit, called Dune: Prophecy, is in the works at Max.) The director has long said that he envisioned Dune as a multi-film adaptation, but as he told Empire, he’s not interested in expanding the series beyond Messiah: “If I succeed in making a trilogy, that would be the dream.”

(featured image: Warner Bros.)


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Author
Britt Hayes
Britt Hayes (she/her) is an editor, writer, and recovering film critic with over a decade of experience. She has written for The A.V. Club, Birth.Movies.Death, and The Austin Chronicle, and is the former associate editor for ScreenCrush. Britt's work has also been published in Fangoria, TV Guide, and SXSWorld Magazine. She loves film, horror, exhaustively analyzing a theme, and casually dissociating. Her brain is a cursed tomb of pop culture knowledge.