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Don't hold your breath for Dune: Part three

Dune: Part Two was a triumph. Was I underwhelmed? Definitely. Critic and audience reviews promised me a cinematic masterpiece. Some called it the best film of the decade. They lied.

Was I entertained? Yes. It was okay, at best. The Dune series consists of 28 novels, although Frank Herbert only wrote the first six. His son (Brian Herbert) and Kevin J. Anderson wrote more sequels and prequels following the author’s death.

Don’t expect Denis Villeneuve to quench your thirst for all things Dune. He envisioned the Dune films as a trilogy, which makes Dune: Part Three his final contribution to the franchise. I should clarify that Dune: Part One and Dune: Part Two are adaptations of the first Dune novel.

The book is so dense that Villeneuve chose to split it. Dune: Part Three will adapt the second Dune book (Dune Messiah), not the third. We expect Part Three to hit cinemas within the next three to four years. Surprisingly, while movie fans are excited about the final installment, some book nerds want Villeneuve to end the film series on Dune: Part Two.

They think Dune: Part Three is a bad idea because Dune: Part Two was such a roaring success. For the first time in what feels like forever, critics and general audiences love an epic blockbuster release in equal measure. Don’t be surprised if Dune cosplay becomes commonplace on your social media feed.

People have compared these two films to Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, calling them a genre-defining duology that aspiring screenwriters and filmmakers will study in film school for decades.

However, you can’t ignore the elephant in the room. Lord of the Rings is a classic because Peter Jackson turned three brilliant fantasy fiction novels into great movies. No one doubts Villeneuve’s ability to do the same. Unfortunately, many hardcore Frank Herbert fans hate Dune Messiah. In fact, some readers think Messiahis the worst Dune book and, potentially, the worst sequel ever written.

Apparently, very little happens. Herbert spends too much time exploring flashbacks and possible futures to tell a compelling story. He creates engaging conflicts and resolves them offscreen with little or no fanfare.

The protagonists are determined to make the worst possible decisions. Readers who tuned in for an epic sci-fi adventure in book one complained about the mind-numbingly bland political intrigue that saturates the second novel.

Clearly, Villeneuve disagrees with those takes because his excitement for the Dune Messiah adaptation is unwavering. However, the elements he appreciates about the second book may ultimately repel conventional viewers.

Like many Frank Herbert fans, Villeneuve believes that Dune is a cautionary tale in which the author attempts to warn his readers about the dangers of messianic figures. He emphasizes this theme by turning Paul Atreides into the tyrant Chani feared.

Readers are forced to watch as Paul wreaks havoc on the universe, unleashing a Holy War that claims the lives of billions. You can understand why audiences may rebel against the concept.

For all its grit, Part Two was a heroic tale. Paul was an inspiring figure on a quest to destroy the Harkonnens for betraying his family while simultaneously freeing the Fremen from the Emperor’s boot.

It ended on the highest of notes, with Paul killing the Baron, taking the throne, and declaring war on the other noble houses. Turning such a charismatic figure into a barbaric tyrant may rub viewers the wrong way, attracting a response reminiscent of the backlash against Dany’s fall in Game of Thrones.

Villeneuve is a talented director (if you like his brand of filmmaking). He may massage the events of the book to make the story in Messiah more palatable. But considering the concern I have seen among Frank Herbert fans, it would not surprise me if Dune: Part Three ruins the film franchise’s legacy.


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