Dune, Part One Ending Explained
Dune is now playing in several international markets. The film opens in the US on October 22, October 21 in the UK, and in Australia on December 2. Full spoilers ahead!
Director Denis Villeneuve’s long-awaited screen adaptation of Dune is finally upon us … but it only tells part of the saga laid out in Frank Herbert’s seminal 1965 sci-if novel.
While a sequel is far from a sure thing, Part One tells a contained story of Paul Atreides wrestling with his responsibilities as the heir to House Atreides, the awakenings of his powers as the son of a Bene Gesserit “witch” and the devastation wrought upon his family when they assume control of the planet Arrakis.
Furthermore, Paul is plagued by visions of his possible future throughout the film, a future that could see him become the messianic leader of a jihad by Arrakis’ indigenous people, the Fremen, against the Galactic Padishah Empire.
But that’s a story for Dune, Part Two to tell.
Here’s where this first installment in Denis Villeneuve’s hoped-for two-part adaptation of Dune leaves off …
Full spoilers ahead for Dune, Part One!
With House Atreides nearly wiped out by the Harkonnens’ sneak attack on Arrakeen, the villains presume both Paul Atreides (Timothee Chalamet) and his mother, Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), perished in a violent sandstorm while escaping in a ‘Thopter. But the duo actually survives and eventually makes contact with Sietch Tabr, the same community of Fremen that Duncan Idaho (Jason Momoa) and Dr. Liet Kynes (Sharon Duncan-Brewster) previously befriended. (Duncan and Dr. Kynes both die at the hands of the Sardaukar later in the film.)
The Atreides’ encounter with Sietch Tabr definitely gets off on the wrong foot. The sietch’s Naib (leader), Stilgar (Javier Bardem), and his fellow warriors, particularly Jamis (Babs Olusanmokun), are not especially welcoming despite Stilgar being reminded he previously met Paul and his father, Duke Leto (Oscar Isaac). Tensions between the Atreides and Fremen quickly escalate. Jamis wants Stilgar to eliminate these outsiders as part of his tribal duty but Stilgar perceives value in sparing Paul’s life. Jessica’s life? Not so much. And that’s when things turn violent.
Paul disarms Jamis while Stilgar is overwhelmed by Lady Jessica. Paul takes the high ground and gets the drop on the Fremen, resulting in a standoff. The fierce warrior Jamis claims this foreign boy could only have disarmed him because of Jessica’s Bene Gesserit witchcraft. Jamis invokes the Amtal Rule — challenging Stilgar’s leadership of their sietch since he was bested by Jessica — and issues the Tahaddi Challenge. And what’s that exactly? Mortal combat!! Paul will fight Jamis as Jessica’s champion while she is forbidden from using her powers to meddle with the outcome. If Jamis wins then he will become the new boss of the sietch — and Paul will be dead.
To make things even more unnerving for Paul, he has been plagued by bewildering visions of Arrakis since the beginning of the movie, visions that have only grown more troubling and expansive after he’s exposed to the spice Melange on Arrakis. In his visions, Paul has often seen an enigmatic young Fremen woman as well as a crysknife, the Fremen’s sacred weapon. But he has also seen Jamis in his visions where he’s not a foe but a sort of mentor. Paul has even foreseen his death in a duel on Arrakis. And now here he is about to duel a man, Jamis, who also appears in his visions.
But there is another vision, one perhaps more troubling to Paul, where he becomes a messianic figure poised to lead the Fremen in a merciless jihad against the Empire — even attacking his former homeworld, Caladan.
From the high ground, Paul realizes someone has had the drop on him this whole time. He turns around to finally meet the literal girl of his dreams, Chani (Zendaya), who says she would never have allowed him to hurt her friends. Moments later, as Paul preps for his duel with Jamis, Chani offers him her great aunt’s crysknife, which he recognizes as the same weapon from his visions. Chani tells Paul that unlike other Fremen, she doesn’t believe he is the Lisan al’Gaib, their prophesied messianic figure from off-world. She also has no illusions Paul will survive a fight against a skilled fighter like Jamis but she wants him to at least die with honor by carrying the crysknife of a great warrior. Chani adds the small comfort that Jamis won’t let Paul suffer.
Jamis is a master of the crysknife, whereas Paul has only been trained in the dueling style befitting the use of defensive energy shields. The Fremen and their stillsuits have no such shields. While Jamis is indeed a fearsome fighter, Paul soon gains the upper hand and immobilizes Jamis, urging him to yield. But with the Fremen, that is not an option. This is a fight to the death and Paul’s reluctance to slay his opponent is initially perceived as cruelly toying with Jamis. So Paul does what he must: he kills Jamis.
With that, the boy has become a man in the eyes of the Fremen, who each give him a pat on the shoulder as a sign that Paul — and his mother — have been accepted among them. Jessica also reveals to Stilgar that Paul has never killed before. Paul takes the name of Paul Muad’Dib — in the books, he is also given a nickname, Usul, that the Fremen will only use among themselves — while Lady Jessica go by the Fremen term Sayyadina, meaning a lower-ranking priestess.
So what of Paul’s previously envisioned death? What was the meaning of that? Simply put, Paul Atreides had to die in order for Paul Muad’Dib to live.
Paul’s victory also means his vision of him becoming a warmongering messiah for the Fremen could come true. His fear that this may be his inescapable fate weighs heavily on him throughout the latter part of the novel, although it’s largely left up to Chalamet’s nuanced performance in the film to suggest the dread he feels about his possible future.
As the Fremen journey back across the dunes to their home with Jamis’ remains in tow, Chani turns to Paul and smiles — a sunny image he has seen in his dreams — and assures him: “This is only the beginning.”
And that’s how Dune, Part One ends.
Do you think we’ll actually get Dune, Part Two? Let us know in the comments!
And for more on the sci-fi epic, check out our Dune review and this exclusive look at creating the makeup and costumes of the Harkonnens.