Spice up your life: 12 things to know about Dune: Part Two

“You are not prepared for what is to come”, Rebecca Ferguson’s fallen queen Jessica whispers to us in the latest trailer for Dune: Part Two. Okay, she’s actually talking to her prodigious son Paul (Timothée Chalamet)—but we like to imagine she’s hyping us up for the biggest and best sci-fi release of the year, too.

Denis Villeneuve’s Dune stormed the box office and nabbed itself six Oscars, so our expectations for the upcoming sequel are out-of-this-world. Here’s everything you need to know about your return to the sands, sects, and epic action sequences of Arrakis. We won’t ruin any big twists for you here, though: spoilers are the mind killer.

1. It was meant to come out in December. Thanks, SAG strike!

We joke, we joke: it was important for Hollywood actors to support their industry’s 2023 fight for greater rights and recognition, but it did lead to some unfortunate postponements of the big-budget blockbusters we’ve been waiting for. Dune: Part Two was originally intended to be released in October of 2023, then in November to accomodate for box office competition from other releases…before SAG and WGA labour disputes pushed the whole project to March of 2024.

After the strikes were thankfully resolved, Dune: Part Two was again swept a little closer within reach, now hitting cinemas at the end of Feb. And we once more get to enjoy plenty of interviews, red carpet lewks, and talk show appearances from the cast in the meantime! The only big downside is that, due to its new release window, the film is out of the running for the 2024 Oscars. You snooze, you lose.

2. Denis Villeneuve describes the sequel as being “like a chess game”

We liked the first Dune movie plenty, as you can tell from Matt Glasby’s review—but it did feel, in some spots, like a scene-setting, franchise-establishing opening chapter. Denis Villeneuve agrees. “Part One is more of a contemplative movie”, the director told Digital Spy: “Part Two is an action-packed, epic war movie.” He also described the sequel’s escalation from Part One as now being “full IMAX. We went to all new locations…I didn’t want a feeling of repetition. It’s all new sets. Everything is new.”

The pieces were all set on the board in that first film, and now our rising king Paul Atreides faces a daunting life-or-death game: checkmate, Harkonnens.

3. Zendaya (thankfully) gets more screentime as Chani

Despite her buzzy casting as Fremen warrior Chani, poor Zendaya didn’t actually get all that much to do in Dune: Part One. She merely showed up as an entrancing vision in Paul Atreides’ (Timotheé Chalemet) mind—so we can’t wait to see more of the character, now “the epicenter” of the film’s central “love story” according to Villeneuve.

Zendaya has revealed the awkwardness of figuring out how folks rizz one another up in Frank Herbert’s sci-fi world. “It was funny trying to figure out in this futuristic space talk, like, how do they flirt?”, the Euphoria star told Vanity Fair. The trailer above shows Paul and Chani finding a way, despite it all: “I’d very much like to be equal to you”, he smirks at her.

4. Christopher Walken is Emperor Shaddam IV

Getting screen legend Christopher Walken to play the Emperor of the Known Universe is a big get—definitely a step up from the giant floating head we got in Lynch’s Dune. In our first glimpses of Walken’s role as the head of house Corrino and father to Pugh’s Princess Irulan, he doesn’t take too kindly to Paul Atreides’ rebellious, self-seeking ways: “Deal with this prophet”, Walken utters; “Send assassins.” That assassin would be, of course, the pretty boy that recently rocked off our blue suede shoes as Elvis

5. Austin Butler goes from Elvis to alien albino as Feyd-Rautha

Memorably played by a lean-as-hell Sting in David Lynch’s 1984 flop, madman Feyd-Rautha is brought back to life by Oscar nominee Austin Butler for the latest entry to the Dune saga. And your jokes about Butler’s enduring Elvis accent have no power here: sorry. Dave Bautista, who returns as the new character’s older brother Glossu Rabban, has straight-up said “it’s not Elvis. His voice is different, his look is different. Everything about his demeanor is terrifying.

Director Villeneuve describes the violent Harkonnen character as “a cross between a psychopathic killer, an Olympic sword master, a snake and Mick Jagger.” That combination’s difficult to picture, but the browless, dark-eyed shots we’ve seen so far prove that Butler is somehow making it all work.

6. It’s the second time Timmy and Florence Pugh have played each others’ love interests

The Emperor’s daughter Princess Irulan enters into the Dune story—and into a tumultuous love triangle with Paul and Chani—with the coming Part Two, and we already know that the actress playing her is going to have great chemistry with star Chalamet. Florence Pugh and Chalamet have already played spouses before, in 2019’s Little Women, and Timmy has been open about his praise for Pugh’s work. “Florence is really special”, he gushed to Variety: “She was incredible in Dune—seriously incredible. She brought a gravitas to the role.”

One more stellar (or interstellar) talent joining the cast is Bond girl Léa Seydoux as Lady Margot Fenring, who plots against the cruel Harkonnens in favour of Paul’s Fremen revolution. Check out her incredible costume below…

7. The costumes are grander than ever, exploring “the different worlds of Dune”

Jacqueline West and Robert Morgan’s work on Dune got them nominated for Best Costume Design at the 2022 Oscars, and the pair are seriously trying to outdo those efforts here. West told Deadline that the sequel’s costumes will explore “three separate, different-looking worlds” whilst also revisiting the mystical, feminine aesthetic of the Bene Gesserit. “The age-old ones”, West reminds us, “with these costumes that almost look like Egyptian mummies.” We’re particularly tickled by Florence Pugh’s headdresses and the newly cool, slate-grey colour palette used in the sequel’s fresh locations.

8. Filming took place in Abu Dhabi, Budapest, Jordan, and Italy

An out-of-this-world story has to take advantage of Earth’s most exotic, alien-looking locations. One clever trick used in the romantic scenes between Paul and Chani required production to shoot only during the one-hour window of a Jordanian sunset, bathing the young lovers in glowing orange light.

The sequel’s filming began on July 18, 2022, taking place all over Africa, the Middle East and Europe until wrapping that December. The sandworm pic above gives an idea of the fantastical sci-fi images that are possible when great locations already look pretty dang interstellar on their own, even before CGI comes into the question.

9. Villeneuve’s next movie may be another epic sci-fi project…or a Cleopatra biopic

A sprawling interview with Time revealed that Canadian director Villeneuve has more than enough on his plate: he’s currently juggling pre-production duties on Arthur C. Clarke adaptation Rendezvous with Rama, and a supposed Cleopatra biopic, with 1917 scribe Kristy Wilson-Cairns on board as writer.

Considering the popularity, consistently solid reviews, and Oscar noms and wins Villeneuve has received for his slate of sci-fi films, it’s easy to imagine him tackling another, nerdy intergalactic story. Then again, Dune’s tactile, weathered textures and sweeping sandy landscapes suggest he could do justice to an Ancient Egyptian epic, too. We’re not sure which project we’re gunning for more—but either sounds more promising than that long-gestating Gal Gadot Cleo movie.

10. It has an epic runtime, 10 minutes longer than the first Dune film

It’s been confirmed that Dune: Part Two will come in at two hours and 45 minutes, making it 10 minutes more of a sit than its epic sci-fi predecessor. This is fair! There’s even more characters to meet and catch up with, an epic, chess-like war to enjoy (if Villeneuve’s comments above are anything to go by), and a good chance that we’ll be waiting another couple of years to see any third film in the franchise. Speaking of which…

11. The dark Dune Messiah may be coming next

What happens after Dune: Part Two? That mysterious Warner Bros. series about the origins of the Bene Gesserit is still scheduled to arrive on our small screens later in 2024, at first titled “Dune: The Sisterhood” before landing on “Dune: Prophecy”. After that, a third film in Villeneuve’s epic film series has not yet been officially greenlit—and even if we got a part three, an adaptation of the dark and wacky Dune Messiah, the director says that’d be the end of the spice road for him. “Dune Messiah should be the last Dune movie for me”, Villeneuve confirmed to Time, meaning that any other IP-milking attempts will probably lack his visual flair. In short: count on a third film if Part Two‘s box office lives up, but don’t hold your breath for Part Four.

12. Folks are losing it over the film’s toothy promotional popcorn buckets

You might need more than one serving of popcorn to make it through your Dune: Part Two screening. But are you brave enough to enter the maw of the Shai-Hulud in order to grab a salty handful of the stuff?

That’s the torturous dilemma we’re facing with the film’s official popcorn bucket merch, which looks…very painful to use. Gnarly, yes, but damn impractical.

Let’s move swiftly past the fact that it kinda looks like a sex toy you might find at a raunchy ComicCon booth and just say this: they could’ve gone with a bucket that looks like that Bene Gesserit pain box Paul had to use in the first film. Or, I dunno, a big plastic Dave Bautista head. Yum.