Dune Part 2 Breaks from the Original Story and Break Its Story

Critics and filmgoers have praised Denis Villeneuve’s Dune Part 2 as a masterpiece, but the reality is Dune Part 2 breaks the story and setup from Part 1 through a series of baffling story and character changes from the original source material. Some of these changes set some real red flags for what we might expect from the almost certain to be produced Part 3.

I’ve read the original Dune novel, watched the 1984 David Lynch version, and have vague memories of sitting through the 2000 SciFi Channel miniseries. For the purpose of this discussion, I will try to divorce myself of the knowledge of these sources when discussing this new Part II. I’ll give brief mention to vent my own frustration at what might have been but wasn’t or negatively affected the story, but I won’t fall back on lore not mentioned in the film.

Visual Filler, Not Amazing Visuals and a Fear of the Fantastic

The strongest point of this film, which everyone praises, is the visuals. But the visuals are hollow, empty, and lacking. They are often just have the effect of establishing location or to remind us Paul is a mouse. They rarely contribute toward developing the story or the characters. The fight scenes tend to be the most guilty of this. Change the costumes and you could slot them into just about any other fantasy war movie. Desert landscapes become boring. Watching spaceships maneuver in the sky and fire weapons at other vehicles is not new. The worm sledding, not riding, looks silly upon rewatching.

I could forgive a lot of this if the visuals gave me something interesting to look at. The film presents many opportunities to do just that and doesn’t. I wanted to see Giedi Prime’s black sun. I wanted to see the space folding process, which was not in Part 1. We don’t get to see worms swallowing up soldiers in mass or someone trying to shoot a worm with a lasgun. Heck, I would have like to have seen a night sky view from the surface of Arrakis (I’m about 90% it’s not in Part 1 or 2) and not the shimmery, dim views of the moons/suns. It feels like the filmmakers were shying away from the fantastic.

The Fremen Are an Awkward Plot Device

Even if the visuals were better, the story still suffers. It’s stunning how much expository dialog is used to move the story along rather than a visual. The Fremen are amazing fighters, on par or better than the most elite fighters in the universe, the Emperor’s Sardaukor. In Part I, the Sardaukor are sacrificing hundreds of people in a pre-battle ritual and without them, the Harkonnen’s forces would have lost to the Atreidis forces on Arrakis.

But why are the Fremen such amazing fighters? Because Duncan Idaho says so. He declares they fight like demons. Therefore, they are. But they’ve been fighting the Harkonnen’s for decades with minor success, despite numbering in the millions, being as good as the Sardaukor, and having weaponry capable of destroying large vehicles. The films do not explain how the Fremen got this good or where they even got the weaponry when they have no apparent access to space travel.

This is where Paul comes in. Part 1 makes no mention of this divide among the Fremen between the fundamentalist south and the more worldly north. Upon Paul arriving on Arrakis and walking out with his father, the crowds of Fremen operating on the assumption they are required to be there because of Harkonnen rule, essentially cheer at Paul as their messiah with “Lisan al Gaib”.

Before Part 2, I just accepted this as the prep work done by the Bene Gesserit to anticipate Paul, specifically. After Part 2, I don’t believe this. It’s a contradiction. The Harkonnen believe the south to be unhabitable, so much so they don’t consider the Fremen threat to be located there. But the fundamentalist appearing in this crowd cheering Paul are from the South. I guess we’re supposed to assume the Harkonnen’s and their fanatical operatives take no interest from where these pilgrims are journeying.

Part 2 demonstrates the Fremen have one ancient Reverend Mother, so how just the one woman was able to get word of Paul Atreidis, specifically from the Reverend Mother Gaius, and spread it among millions of Fremen separated by desert and sandstorms, I’m unsure. Mother Gaius specifically traveled to Caladan in Part 1 to test Paul’s abilities with the box and in Part 2 claims she pushed the Emperor into destroying the Atreidis for her pursuit of the Kwisatz Haderach. So, we’re left to assume she dispatched an agent as soon as she left Caladan to travel to Arrakis to alert the Reverend Mother among the Fremen to tell the Fremen to look for Paul. And that word spreads back to Arrakeen for the greeting parade. Are the Fremen people or a message board?

What Use for the Lisan al Gaib?

In Part 1, the filmmakers demonstrate Paul’s abilities and learnings, following mostly from the original work. And he is praised by a Fremen as knowing their ways as if born to them. At the end of the film, he slays the Fremen Jamis in a duel. Part 2 begins almost right after that. Paul then has to prove himself among the Fremen by undergoing all their training with the help of Chani and Stilgar. So, he doesn’t really know their ways as if born to them anymore and has to be accepted after being accepted.

When Paul is finally accepted among the Fremen and wants to begin his revenge quest, he actually has little to offer them. He claims to know how to fight the Harkonnen, but so do the Fremen. The Fremen have been in active warfare with the Harkonnen since before the Paul was born. Paul has far less actual combat experience than any of the other Fremen around him. This is one of the big changes from the original story that hurt this movie.

In the original work and the other adaptations, Paul teaches the Fremen the weirding way, This is how the Fremen become dangerous; Paul transforms them into his weapon with the Bene Gesserit training. While Part 1 showed Paul to be a competent fighter trained by the best, his training in the weirding way compounded with his natural gift of foresight, makes him virtually unkillable in a standup fight. Jamis never stood a chance. But Part 2 forgets what makes Paul so capable. Not once in in the film does Paul discuss the weirding way with the Fremen or demonstrate how it can make them unrivaled.

Paul doesn’t teach the Fremen anything they shouldn’t already know. He brings them nothing special.

Yes, he’s a capable fighter, a fast learner, and knows some tactics, but Fremen would never see him as anything more than that, despite the Gesserit propaganda. They get to witness Paul on a day-to-day basis. They get to watch a boy maturing into a man, flirting with a girl, and getting high on the spice like everyone else. The messiah performs no miracles.

After Paul’s initial campaign against the Harkonnen fails and results in the effective annihilation of the northern Fremen, Paul decides its time to drink the water of life, despite his visions of him causing galactic starvation. He’s not forthright about his intention and the caretaker of the water doesn’t even want to let a man try to drink it but Jessica order her to do so with the voice. So, it’s looked at as kind of a taboo/suicidal thing to do, so much so, Paul has to be deceptive about going to do it and Chani describes the water of life as worm piss.

When Paul does ingest it, we get treated with more underwhelming visuals as he falls into a coma. Eventually three days pass and Chani shows up. Paul is in such dire straits, Jessica orders Chani with the voice to help Paul, somehow. If Chani did know she could do something, it’s bizarre she wouldn’t try to do it if she cares about Paul at all.

Chani then sheds some tears (crying wasn’t a thing the Fremen did in the book, because it wasted water) and asks for more water of life to mix with her tears. She them rubs the mixture onto Paul’s lips and Paul wakes.

This was the exact moment the film lost me.

This is not a world of magic. It’s whole point is about the abuse of belief and religion and how it can give rise to cults of personality. Mixing tears with something that’s so toxic only a trained Bene Gesserit can hope to processes out the toxin will not make it less toxic. Then giving it to someone already poisoned by the same toxin just makes the situation worse. That’s not what happened though. Chani saves Paul and he wakes on a cave floor to be greeted with an angry slap from Chani. This undercuts Paul’s messianic nature. But the film makes it seem all prophetic because Chani’s secret name means desert spring or something.

Going back to my gripe about visuals and what could have been. The Lynch version plays up the messiah aspect by not undercutting Paul’s achievement. He wakes up greeted by multiple sandworms that were drawn to his ordeal. And his ordeal was performed in the desert among his allies. Steps were taken to play up the danger and severity of Paul’s undertaking by having him bound for his own protection. And Chani gives him the water of life.

Regardless, the sleeper awakes, decides he’s a Harkonnen now because he has the genetic memories of his ancestors, and goes to seize the reigns of Fremen power. This involves him marching into an enclave of leaders, where Chani gives him more sass. Only leaders are supposed to be able to speak, which means Paul would need to kill Stilgar to become a leader to speak. But he refuses for several reasons but mainly that no one could stand against him.

The Fremen in attendance respond to, Paul, the perceived Lisan Al Gaib, that might have just been saved from being poisoned by the water of life by his still angry girlfriend, by getting ready to rush him and kill him for the insult before he’s able to halt them with the supposed secret knowledge about some random guy’s childhood that Paul would have no way of knowing based on his powers. Paul has the memories of his ancestors, male and female, from the point of conception and he can see possible futures. He can’t see the past of this random guy from another planet that appears to be a little older than Paul but not old enough to be an ancestor.

This all builds to the final battle, which is extremely brief and fails sell the spectacle of the climax. Paul doesn’t ride in on a worm but kind of runs in without a bunch of others. He’s exalted by the fact he overwhelmed an inferior force with nuclear weapons and numbers. It draws to the duel with Feyd where Paul gets stabbed twice but he somehow manages to stab Feyd during a clutch and win.

To put this into perspective, Paul is just as capable a fighter against Jamis as he is against Feyd. Months of combat, drinking the water of life, and living among the Fremen haven’t changed him. Instead of standing victorious, he is essentially bleeding to death while demanding the Emperor’s daughter marry him and the other houses acknowledge him. It’s so pathetic it’s difficult to accept anyone would view this man as something special.

And then Paul tells the Fremen to go to “paradise” when the other houses refuse to recognize him as the new emperor. That’s how the film ends, with Paul ordering the Fremen to their death because there’s an armada in orbit and the Fremen don’t have the know-how or ships to do anything about it. It’s literally the worst place for them to be. But the Fremen start loading onto ships because their “messiah” orders it.

Chani Will Become Paul’s Judas

As mentioned previously, Chani undercuts Paul’s ascendancy the entire film. She’s seen repeatedly disrespecting him and core Fremen beliefs in public. She doesn’t believe Paul is a messiah, even though everyone else does. And she storms off in front of the Imperial court and Paul’s allies and worshippers to call up a worm and ride into the desert.

In the novel, the guerilla war against the Harkonnen’s takes roughly three years. During that time, Paul and Chani have a son, Leto II, that the Hakronnens murder. The Lynch version leaves out Leto II, but also leaves out the ending of making Chani into a concubine. Part 2 shortens the relationship down to a summer romance, removes Leto II, and has Chani leave Paul.

That shortened timeline can only be an intentional setup for major changes to the original story in Part 3. It removes the ability of both Chani and Paul to really mature. I never bought Paul as the hardened man accepting an isolating role he knows will lead to ruin. He always comes off as well-meaning and a little petulant. Chani undergoes no change through Parts 1 and 2. She’s an immature high school girl that talks crap about Paul with her girlfriends, has open disdain for many Fremen customers, and no one, not Paul, Jessica, or Stilgar, call her out on any of it.

Paul has the line where he tells Chani he wants to be equal to her in response to her saying everyone in the Fremen are equals. While it seems like a clever line from Paul, calling back to his inevitable ascendancy to a mortal god, the Fremen are a deeply hierarchal society. They aren’t all equal, as seen in the films. They are so hierarchal that for Paul to be able to speak among the tribal leaders he would have to kill Stilgar for the privilege. So, it makes no sense for Chani to tell Paul that. And Paul’s response doesn’t make a lot of sense unless he’s supposed to be telling her in that scene that he knows he’s the Lisan al Gaib but he doesn’t want to be.

I was baffled by all the changes to Chani from the original works, until I rewatched Part 1 and realized this is not Chani. This is Jani, a completetly different character. Paul has visions of Jani stabbing him to death in the desert. If I had to guess, Part 3 will probably see Jani’s ascension and eventual elimination of Paul. She’s probably pregnant at the end of Part 2 and we haven’t been told, yet. She resents what Paul has become and his eventual political marriage. Expect many more changes to the original Dune Messiah story based on the changes to Jani in Parts 1 and 2.

Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen, a.k.a., Teenage Gangster Pimp Joker

In Part 1, I went with the depiction of the Harkonnens as evil, mostly pale bald people. In Part 2, they resemble Nosferatu more than anything else. They’re also shown to be more evil by implying random violence against female slaves. But when it all got rolled together into Austin Butler’s performance as Feyd, I kept seeing Jared Leto’s version of the The Joker from the Suicide Squad movie. If Feyd snarled just once in Part 2, you’d have virtually the same character. The slow, deliberate delivery of dialog, the constant exposing of dark-colored teeth, the pale skin, the pretense of violence, the twisted sense of honor, is in both characters. The main difference is the Joker displays some charisma; Feyd is just a monster.

Much like with Paul, Part 2 does it best to undercut the menace that is Feyd. He gets to kill a sober prisoner in a gladiatorial battle, meanwhile Chani is buzz-sawing her way through hordes of Sarduakor troops. Then he gets ensnared by a Bene Gesserit after his victory. For once I thought the filmmakers might surprise us and show that this version of Feyd is wise and resistant to the Bene Gesserit, but that doesn’t happen. We learn later than Feyd is going to be a father (another change) and is basically a psychopathic man-child with mother issues that survived the box test.

How Feyd survived the box test is not explained accept to suggest he enjoys pain. It’s a test meant to distinguish between man and animal and Feyd is described as an animal, but sure. Meanwhile, Paul undergoes Bene Gesserit training and is the Kwisatz Haderach, and struggles to survive.

Why Did the Filmmakers Fold the Spacing Guild Out of Part 2?

Spacing Guild representatives appear in Dune Part 1 on Caladan to present Duke Atreides with the formal order to take over Arrakis. And Part 1 explains the purpose of the guild and the spice. Navigators from the Guild use the spice to safely navigate space travel. Traveling without it makes space folding dangerous. These new films don’t explain the why or the how of it, though.

Part 1 then “treats” use with a shot of a massive tube of a Spacing Guild ship that fits all of the Atreides ships inside of it. That’s all we get. And there should be more. The guild that makes interstellar travel possible has ridiculously minor role in both parts, even though they should be involved in all of it by necessity. Someone had to bring the Sardaukor and the Harkonnen forces to sneak attack the Atreides. Also, the guild, more than anyone else, has the greatest interest in the spice production.

Part 2 doesn’t even mention the guild. Things have gone so sideways on Arrakis so quickly the Emperor is forced to travel to it but they make no appearance in the Emperor’s court on Arrakis.

What I found strange, too, is that the explanation of the spice occurs early in Part 1. Even if you’re watching these movies back to back, someone should have reiterated what Paul’s threat of nuking all the spice fields would mean for mankind. But no one does.

The fans that were hoping to see a modern interpretation of a guild navigator will be disappointed.

Technology, Tactics, and Other Nitpicks

Shields drive the Worms into a frenzy. This is why shields aren’t used for spice mining. This is why the Fremen don’t have shields. It is explained in the original work but can also be surmised why Paul struggles initially in combat, as he is used to shield fighting. But using shields is fine within Arrakeen and inside structures and other areas safe from the worms. In the final battle in Part 2, no one uses shields. There’s a significant numbers of Sardaukor left alive to guard the emperor when Paul makes his appearance and order his Fremen to kill them. In truth, with the ability to use shields in the throne room, the Fremen would get butchered.

No shields in the desert, means lasguns and other projectile weapons can be used. In this adaption, however, it appears perfectly okay to shoot a shield with a lasgun, whereas in the original work, doing so can cause an atomic explosion. Other than some of their own lasguns and some shoulder-mounted rocket launchers, it’s hard to believe the Fremen are winning any battles against the Harkonnen, who are shown to have automatic weapons, bombs, rockets, and lasguns.

This is, again, why it is important for Paul to train the Fremen in the weirding way to give them an edge they would not otherwise have had previously. But that got removed from this adapation.

Another change, due to the shortened timeline or maybe because of it, Paul’s sister Alia remained a self-aware fetus for this film. And unlike the other adaptations or the original work, she doesn’t kill Baron Harkonnen, her grandafther. Knowing what I know about the original story, this fits with my theory Part 3 will see some major changes to the original story, and probably not for the better.

Lastly, and I checked this, Mentats appear in Part 1 but are gone in Part 2. I guess they were cut in attempt to streamline the story, but they played major roles in the original work. Paul is effectively a Mentat in the book. The Lynch version has them and kind of follows the plot of the book with one being captured and being forced to cooperate or die from poison. These adaptations don’t mention the Butlerian Jihad and the ban on thinking machines, which is a missed opportunity because it could have been used to shore up the supranatural nature of human beings in this universe.


I loathe to compare things to The Last Jedi, because its usually a lazy comparison and that film deserves a special place of disrespect for what it did to a beloved franchise. The filmmakers behind the sequel trilogy also seem to have an open disdain for the source material and it reflects in their work. I don’t think the filmmakers behind this adaptation of Dune resent the source material but the story changes are questionable now.

Dune Part 2 echoes back to a lot of what was said about The Last Jedi, initially. People loved the visuals. Some celebrated the shocking and unexpected narrative choices. It made a ton of money. Almost no one celebrates that film anymore. It took another film, The Rise of Skywalker, for people to really appreciate just how damaging The Last Jedi was. And with all three films, the poisoned roots of the once universally beloved The Force Awakens became apparent. Its remarkable how Dune Parts 1 and 2 seem to be mirroring the path those Star Wars films took.

I have Dune Part 1 on 4K. I went into Dune Part 2 hyped to see it. Now, I don’t want to buy it if it comes out on disc or even watch it again. And I’m not sure I will run out to see Part 3 when it releases. I suspect that during the years leading to Part 3’s release, more and more people will feel the same as I do.

Dune Part 2 is an unfulfilling film that sabotages what should have been its best moments and there’s a real sense of modern day politics slyly winking at us from behind a sand worm.

Make Astrophotography Simple – Seestar S50

The Seestar S50 makes astrophotography simple. It’s nearly a push-button tool to take some decent pictures of distant celestial objects even when surrounded by city light pollution. ZWO produces it and it is controlled with their app on Android or iOS via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. All you need is a tablet or phone and a stable surface on which to set the Seestar.

I received mine as a Christmas gift. It costs about as much as a PlayStation at $500 but rolls together features that would normally cost much more than that and require hours of experience processing images to produce similar results. I’ve been using it in my yard and took it once to the local observatory to demonstrate it. I captured a video short of it in action. It’s not super thrilling to watch it move to a target, but it gives an idea of its compact size, portability, and how it looks while in operation.

It weighs only 8lbs and fits inside a small foam case provided with it. In some sense, it’s too compact. During the demo at the local observatory, lots of people kept walking in front of it while it was imaging because they either couldn’t see where it was pointed or didn’t understand what part of it was pointed.

Setting up the Seestar involves little more than attaching the tripod, turning it on, connecting it to the app, and then telling it to align itself so it can go to objects. So long as the Seestar has line of sight with stars, it performs the alignment automatically. This is such a huge time saver over performing manual 3-star alignments with larger computerized scopes and mounts. The app then provides a list of recommended objects for the night but lets you search its library for many more, including comets, which is nice.

It comes with some neat bult-in features like a light pollution filter that can be turned on or off and is mechanical and internal to the Seestar; a built-in dew heater than can be turned on or off depending on how much you want to conserve battery life; a solar filter to attach to the outside of the scope; and the ability to change exposure times from 10s to 20s to 30s. I’ll get more into the exposure time aspect further down in this blog.

As just a telescope, it’s not especially powerful as far as magnification. While it is capable of some planetary imaging, don’t expect amazing results, especially with anything smaller than Saturn.

Jupiter captured by Seestar S50.

It performs great with the Moon, but you’re limited to this perspective. Unless you want to zoom in on the image, you’re not getting any close-up views of other features.

The Moon captured by Seestar S50.

The Seestar, as far as I’m aware, doesn’t perform image stacking on planetary imaging and Moon imaging (and presumably Sun imaging, which I haven’t tried). What you see is what you get when you take photos of those objects.

As far as the deepsky imaging, the Seestar displays a live imaging once it acquires a target. When you’re ready to take an image, it switches over to its live stacking mode. For the uninitiated, this means the scope begins to take picture after picture and combines them by finding the best average of each pixel from the images. This produces fine details and highlights otherwise dim aspects of the images.

Messier 42 Orion Nebula captured by Seestar S50.

Depending on the exposure settings selected in the advanced options, it begins taking 10/20/30s exposures of the target and live stacking them. You can watch the image of a practically invisible object come to life on your phone or tablet screen. After about 5 minutes of data collection, you typically can make out the target. This data collection time can take longer than 5 minutes because the Seestar software identifies star trailing and boots bad images automatically instead of stacking them. I’ve run it on a single image for over half an hour and there does seem to be a limit to how much more detail you can wring out of object. Clearer, darker skies contribute to this, of course.

NGC 2359 Thor’s Helmet captured by Seestar S50.

This is also where the exposure setting becomes important. I’ve experimented with exposure times greater than the default 10s setting, but I keep running into the same two issues. First, it takes forever to capture data because any slight vibration or bump to the scope will cause star trails and the image will get discarded at the end of the exposure. So, a strong breeze or even tapping the controlling tablet if it is placed on the same table as the Seestar can delay the final result another frame. Second, the images get noisy. While you can adjust the sensitivity of the scope/ISO, expect to see lots of those off-colored green/yellow/red hues in your images. Maybe this improves with better skies and less light pollution, but I haven’t been able to take it out to a dark site, yet, to find out for certain.

Messier 31 Andromeda Galaxy captured by Seestar S50.

The Seestar does all the stacking and image captures onboard and sends the final result to your phone or tablet. So, it has its own onboard storage and someone using it heavily will need to connect it time to time and move the images off the Seestar through a USB cable. The benefit of this is your phone or tablet isn’t being deluged with imaging data. Once you end the imaging session or take a single picture, as is the case with the Moon or planets, the images save to your phone/tablet image gallery as a JPG. I’m not certain if the output file type can be changed, but if it can that would be beneficial for photo editing veterans.

The final image also includes borders and branding identifying it as coming from the Seestar. I could see this be annoying for some people but it can be cropped out easily. One benefit of this is the data collection time and object ID are saved on these borders. When I’m not attempting serious, dark-site level imaging of an object and I just want to look at things and take pictures, this saves me the embarrassment of forgetting what I was even looking at and not being able to identify the object.

Messier 51 Whirlpool Galaxy captured by Seestar S50.

To summarize all of this, I like the Seestar but I’m of two minds about it. While it makes astrophotography simple and approachable for so many people, it’s not suited for people that want to get into the hobby seriously or are already veterans. For them, it’s a toy. Also, if this is the only scope someone has, there is something lost by not being able to see the night sky optically and not on a tablet screen. It creates a layer of unreality, like taking a virtual tour of a location instead of visiting the location.

NGC 2175 Monkey Head Nebula captured by Seestar S50.

However, the Seestar is the best way to bring space to the masses. Schools, observatories, libraries, etc., can use this tool (with a little A/V work) to show people the things in the sky they can either no longer see due to light pollution or could never see with just their eyes. People can learn about the different objects, the seasonality of some of them, and how things in the sky move.

The device also appeals to many of us that want to check out what’s happening in the night sky but don’t want to go through the hassle of setting up a full astrophotography rig or driving out to a dark site. You can plop this little thing down in your yard (Christmas lights/streetlights/parking lot lights be damned), sit on your porch, and sip a beer while you watch it image a galaxy.

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