It also poses an interesting question for both fans and the studio who’s licensed the rights to Herbert’s overarching masterwork: Can the later Dune books be adapted or is there such a thing as “too esoteric” for mass consumption?
From a purely commercial vantage, it seems obvious that Dune as a movie franchise should continue as long as audiences keep buying tickets, and we imagine that will not change when Dune: Part Two (finally) sees a theatrical release in March 2024 or when the inevitable Part Three surely comes about down the road. As the first half of this decade continues, it’s becoming increasingly clear audiences want new stories at the multiplexes, even in their franchises, and indeed Dune was at that vanguard of that emerging trend when it was able to cross $400 million worldwide despite being released day-and-date on streaming during the height of the Delta wave of the pandemic in 2021.
So when Part Two eventually gets Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya on the red carpet, we suspect the excitement will be even higher for the sequel than the 2021 original. That’s unlikely to change either while headed into an adaptation of Messiah that will see all the popular characters return.
Yet without getting into major spoilers for Messiah/Dune: Part Three, or the stories that come afterward, WB is faced with quite a conundrum about how to continue the franchise. For starters, audiences will have to learn that Dune (as Herbert saw it) really isn’t Paul Atreides’ story or that of anyone you met in the first film. In fact, it’s a story that spans centuries and generations.
Paul is also the closest thing the series ever comes to a traditional hero (in the first book, anyway). As Herbert went on, he became less interested in conventions and archetypal characters than he was in exploring the bizarre, philosophical, and, indeed, esoteric elements of his world-building. And in the case of a potential Dune: Part Four, this would mean getting audiences to accept Chalamet is no longer the star of the franchise as it pivots to the next generation.
Admittedly, George Lucas’ Star Wars mythology is partially influenced by Dune, and he has thus conditioned audiences to treat sci-fi space operas as multi-generational affairs. To date there have been three trilogies in the mainline Star Wars series (which Disney has rechristened “the Skywalker Saga”), and each has followed a different set of protagonists in a different era.