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Dune ending explained

Denis Villeneuve's Dune is only one half of the story - how does the sci-fi movie end?

Dune ending explained

How does Dune end? Denis Villeneuve’s epic science fiction movie based on Frank Herbert’s novel brings Arrakis, and the struggle for Spice, to the big screen for a new generation. For this adaptation, Timothée Chalamet is Paul Atreides, heir to House Atreides, who finds his family on the brink of death from enemies in House Harkonnen.

Sandworms burrow around the endless desert of Arrakis as Harkonnen forces stamp out Atreides people, leaving only a few left. But they aren’t alone – in the final act of Dune, Paul finds Chani (Zendaya), the strange young woman that he’s been dreaming about. Chani is of the Fremen, the people that have been marginalised and abused by the Emperor’s constant mining for Spice.

In the cliffhanger ending, we learn that House Atreides may come back from this stronger than ever. However, many threads are left dangling. Why was Paul dreaming of Chani? Why did he matter so much to the Fremen? Why was House Atreides given the Spice mines to begin with? We’ve done our homework on Herbert’s gloriously expansive universe, and we’ve got all the answers you seek.

What happens in the Dune ending?

The thrust of the last stretch is Paul and his mother, Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), making a last ditch effort to outrun the Harkonnens. Presumed dead after flying a Thopter into a sandstorm, they survive, and continue into the harsh, barren landscape until they encounter a roving tribe of Fremen, Javier Bardem’s Stilgar among them.

Although Stilgar had met Paul and Oscar Isaac’s Duke Leto Atreides earlier, it buys them no goodwill, and the Fremen are instantly in attack mode, ready to kill the off-worlders to drain their bodies of hydration. Paul and Jessica fight Stilgar and Jamis (Babs Olusanmokun), another warrior, and manage to outdo them, and then things get really interesting: because Stilgar, head of the group, was defeated, Jamis invokes a rule that allows him challenge for leadership via battle to the death.

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Paul will fight Jamis in Jessica’s stead. This all ties into the dreams that have been haunting Paul since the start of the film, and he’s seen Jamis killed by Crysknife, a Fremen weapon. What’s more, Paul has seen himself becoming deep with the Fremen – but we’ll come back to that.

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At this point, Chani steps out of Paul’s dreams and into the actual story, by getting the drop on all of them. She tells Paul she was there to protect Jamis, and hands him the Crysknife. This isn’t to help him – more so that when Jamis, a master in hand-to-hand combat, kills him, he’ll die with the honour of the Fremen. Ooft.

She also explains she doesn’t buy into the Fremen prophecy of some Messiah who’ll arrive from another planet, which is meant to be Paul. However, of course, we know things to be slightly different since Paul is the son of a Bene Gesserit and the head of House Atreides, and he has oodles of untapped power.

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Though Paul isn’t quite as strong as Jamis, he exploits the weakness of Fremen armour and tries to get Jamis to submit. Fremen don’t tap out though, creating a conundrum for Paul because he’s never killed before. However, in the completion of his arc from reluctant and unsure prince towards the start of the film, Paul kills Jamis, earning him and Jessica’s place among the Fremen.

In the final scene, they’re all walking toward Fremen territory, and Paul spots one riding on the back of a sandworm. “Desert power,” he mumbles, to which Chani adds: “This is just the beginning.” And credits.

Who is Paul to the Fremen?

Dune ending explained: Timothée Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson in Dune

The people living off the desert of Arrakis have a belief that a messianic figure, the Lisan al’Gaib, will arrive from another world and bring them to salvation. The implication is that Paul will be that prophet, given his psychic powers via his Bene Gesserit mother, and political sway with being next in line for House Atreides and the planet of Caladan.

Paul has visions of adopting this position and using it to lead an insurgency that makes him a very powerful person within the universe of Dune. At first, he fears this outcome, but the ending makes it look more like he embraces his destiny, even if only as a means of defeating House Harkonnen and getting retribution for what’s happened to his family.

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Not everyone believes in any of this, like Chani, who has a more myopic worldview thanks to the prolonged oppression of her people. There’s a lot of convenience at play, and some of the established forces, particularly the Bene Gesserit, are known for social engineering and playing the long game. Part Two should offer more answers.

Why was House Atreides given the Spice mines on Arrakis?

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Dune doesn’t fully go into this, but there are hints from the scenes with Baron Harkonnen. The Padishah Emperor and House Harkonnen are weary of the level of forces, resources, and ambition in House Atreides, and decide to cut them down a peg or two by using Arrakis as a political trap.

By switching custody of the spice mines, it leaves many of the higher-ups from House Atreides vulnerable to attack on Arrakis. House Harkonnen takes advantage with a swift, violent onslaught, but not without some compromise. Dave Bautista’s Glossu Rabban, nephew to Baron Harkonnen, hasn’t been told the full plan, and gets frustrated, suggesting this entire thing may compromise the house more than initially thought.

Why did Paul dream of his death?

Throughout the movie, Paul has visions of his demise, Chani, and a greater manifest destiny. This is all linked. His death is symbolic – it’s less that he literally dies, and more that the mawkish, indecisive Paul we know from the beginning the film must give way to someone stronger and more assertive.

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Chani is the catalyst for that transformation, giving him the weapon to best Jamis, and the Fremen allow him to step out of the shadow of his father and the Atreides and Harkonnen paradigm to do something greater. Dune makes it very clear the system as it stands was archaic and ill-fitting for all sides. Paul Atreides is the one to change all of that. How is that going to happen? We’ll find out in Dune: Part Two. After all, this was only the beginning.

Dune is in theatres across the UK and US now, and available on streaming service HBO Max.