‘Dune: Part Two’s Biggest Changes to Book’s Story

To celebrate the theatrical release of Dune: Part Two, we’re happy to present another special video collaboration between Dune News Net and Secrets of Dune. Today it’s time to break down the top three story differences between Denis Villeneuve’s movie adaptation (2024) and Frank Herbert’s original Dune novel (1965).

Enjoy this video analysis here (12 minutes) or read the transcript below. Let us know what you think of these key changes. Are they for better or for worse?


A Dune: Part Two movie is no longer a theory. It’s tangible and real. Along with Dune: Part One, it completes a full adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune novel, something his son, Brian Herbert, has recognized, praised, and acknowledged. That adaptation, though, is not without its changes.

In this special collaboration with Dune News Net, they asked me to explore three key differences between the Dune: Part Two film and the Dune novel—for better or for worse—to discuss why those changes might have been made and to explore how those changes could potentially affect the future of the Dune franchise.

This is going to contain spoilers for the Dune: Part Two movie, so be aware of that going into this.

Chani is a Different Person

One of the key changes in Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of the second half for the Dune novel is the character of Chani, played by Zendaya. In the book she almost immediately believes in Paul Atreides as the Lisan al Gaib or “the voice from the outer world.” This was already changed in Dune: Part One, where she tells Paul Atreides she doesn’t believe he’s the one.

So Dune: Part Two is that continuation of that belief. Zendaya’s Chani is very cautious, but interested in this new person among the Fremen. You can see that she thinks deeply about things before she believes in them and that’s something that Zendaya captured very well in Dune: Part Two. And this reflects her beliefs also.

In Dune: Part Two, she’s not someone who blindly follows the belief systems that the Reverend Mother has been propagating, part of a system that ensures the safety of the Bene Gesserit should they fall upon the people of Arrakis. But in the book, Chani believed in the Fremen way of life and she was a religious Fremen.

She was technically a Sayyadina in waiting, should the next woman who attempted to become a reverend mother fail. So Chani could have become the next reverend mother, the highest religious position that a person could have among the Fremen. Dune: Part Two does away with all that. She is no longer a Sayyidina in waiting.

So Dune: Part Two removes Chani’s religious beliefs completely. Instead, she only believes in her people. And she clearly says this in Dune Part Two: “We believe in Fremen.” And Chani calls herself a Fedaykin, which she wasn’t in the book. The Fedaykin being the death commandos, the strongest and most skilled warriors among the Fremen.

And this change is probably due to show her deep ties to the Fremen, rather than to the religious aspects of their people. So her convictions in the Dune: Part Two film also reflects the way she approaches her relationships. And I think all of these changes were made to create a more grounded, believable development of love between Paul and Chani.

Their relationship is complicated, and she’s kind of torn between her love for Paul that has grown, and her belief in her people, and her concern for their well being. In the book, because she believes in Paul, along with Stilgar, it’s much easier for him to assimilate himself among the Fremen. In the film, it’s not as simple and she proves to be one of those who challenges what she sees her people going through and how they are affected by Paul and his mother.

And this is what director Denis Villeneuve meant when he said that we are seeing Paul through Chani’s point of view.

Alia Speaks From the Womb

One of the more radical changes in Dune: Part Two is the character of Alia. In the Dune novel, Alia is a pre-born child, conscious in the womb, because her mother took the Water of Life, which unlocked all of the Bene Gesserit memories within her, giving her unborn child the same abilities.

And then there is a time jump in the book. Alia is then born, and she’s a fully conscious child walking around with the sensibilities of an adult. It proves to be a very creepy, strange, but fascinating character. In the Dune: Part Two movie, they choose to keep Alia in the womb and remove the time jump, with only a few months passing by.

And the creepy element is kept inside the womb, where she’s able to communicate with her mother. And so it creates this strange dynamic between mother and daughter, where Jessica is almost speaking to herself. Of course, what that means is that her remaining in the womb removes quite a few other elements from her character in the book.

In the book, Alia is a character that most of the Fremen are afraid of. They find her creepy and strange. Anyone would. And she has knowledge of things that happens to other Fremen that she couldn’t possibly know, but because she was pre-born with memories of her female ancestors, she has this prior knowledge, which creeps the Fremen out even more.

And at times I think it creeps out her own mother. So, on the screen, this would probably play out like a horror movie element, and it seems that that is something that Denis Villeneuve wanted to avoid. In the Dune novel, Alia is also a very big part of what happens in the final battle, while her brother Paul and the Fremen take back Arrakeen and fight the Emperor’s Sardaukar.

With the sandworm attack, Alia is supposed to be a knife wielding Fremen warrior, solidifying herself as a legend among the Fremen. And they would call her Saint Alia of the Knife. But if she’s not born, in the movie, she can’t do that. And that’s the case with Dune: Part Two.

But she’s also supposed to do one very big important thing. Kill the Baron for her brother. In the Dune: Part Two, movie, this cannot be achieved, so it has to be left for someone else, Paul himself. And so he takes on the task of killing the Baron. So the fact that Alia doesn’t kill the Baron could lead to some very significant changes to the future of her character in the Dune franchise.

In the Children of Dune novel, which comes after Dune Messiah, an interesting dynamic is formed between her and the Baron after his death. through the fact that she was pre-born. Being pre-born has a significant psychological effect on a child and when she grows up this still has a lasting effect on her.

She almost gets possessed by the spirit of the Baron and it’s kind of like the last laugh for the Baron to exist within her consciousness as a way to survive beyond his death at the hands of Alia. But with this removed from the Dune: Part Two movie, that storyline may no longer be played out in any future adaptations of the Dune books, or it will be played out differently.

Focus on Paul’s Revenge

So there are a lot of repercussions for Alia not killing the Baron. But what this does do is shift the focus onto Paul Atreides even more and his role as a leader. And it goes into Dune Messiah territory. So this makes Paul the third biggest change in Dune: Part Two. Paul killing the Baron and saying that he dies like an animal is showing a different side to Paul now.

He’s more of a killer in a way, but before, in Dune: Part One, he hesitated to kill Jameis, who would have killed him given the chance. So this is very much keeping in mind Dune Messiah and the type of leader he will become in the future and for Paul this will probably be the most satisfying kill because he finally gets his much sought after revenge.

It shows a darker side to Paul and this strengthens the original message about Paul Atreides being a charismatic leader and the dangers that come with that. And while this is definitely hinted at in the Dune book, Dune Messiah is where that point is truly proven. And by the end of Dune: Part Two,, Paul Atreides is no longer the same boy he used to be.

Most, if not all of the Fremen see him as a leader, or more than that the Lisan al Gaib, the voice from the outer world, who will lead them to paradise. When Paul beats Feyd, he forces the Emperor to kiss his ducal signet ring of House Atreides. And this is a change from the book, but what this shows in the movie is Paul’s natural inclinations towards the power he has now and that darker side to him.

This is a public humiliation for the Emperor, and yet Paul feels the need to do it, as a show of strength. And at the end of the Dune book, this doesn’t happen at all, he simply wins the fight against Feyd and it kind of ends there. But the movie still keeps that element of a cliffhanger—just like the book does, in a sense—where the movie ends with the Fremen boarding ships and leaving to begin a holy war.

And again, this is essentially what happens in Dune Messiah in the book, but the movie gives us those hints that this is what we are going to see in the coming future. And hints of that holy war came in the form of the visions in Dune: Part One, similar visions that were also repeated again in Dune: Part Two, where Paul saw that if he went to the southern tribes, terrible things would happen to the Fremen people, starvation and death.

Three Key Changes and the Future

So these three key changes could have a significant effect on the future of the Dune franchise. And in a way they all directly affect each other. Paul’s complicated relationship with Chani, and the way the movie ends with Chani not speaking to Paul and leaving him—rather than standing by his side like she did in the Dune books—creates a divide that has to be rectified.

In the future adaptation of Dune Messiah to the screen, the change of Paul killing the Baron instead of Alia could mean that she will be at first portrayed more normal in a future adaptation of Dune Messiah. And this, in turn, would affect the relationship between Paul and his sister Alia.

Removing the creepy element that could get between them on screen and providing a space for a more brotherly, sisterly relationship between the two. Something that we have clearly seen being developed in Dune: Part Two with the care and concern of both Paul and Alia for each other. With Paul asking about the well-being of Alia and Alia asking about the status of Paul while she’s still in the womb.

But in the womb, she gives a lot of ideas to her mother that directly affect Paul Atreides, his mother, the Fremen, and ultimately that will affect the universe overall. So perhaps this change—for better or for worse—has created an interesting dynamic between all of the characters, that remains to be solved in the future.

For further discussion on Dune: Part Two, check out our spoiler-free movie review on DUNE TALK, the official video podcast of Dune News Net. A full-spoiler review is coming up next and you can also look forward to a series in-depth breakdowns, going scene-by-scene through the entire movie.