I Found Frank Herbert’s ‘Dune’ Script. ‘Dune: Part Two’ Is Better

I Found Frank Herbert’s ‘Dune’ Script. ‘Dune: Part Two’ Is Better

As with the book, the script begins with the gom jabbar scene between Paul Atreides and Reverend Mother Mohiam, except in this version the Atreides have already made their trek from Caladan to Arrakis. Right after Paul passes his test with the box, the four wise men of Thufir, Yueh, Gurney, and Duncan present Duke Leto with a wounded Fremen and three others assassinated by the Harkonnens.


Assassins! They trapped three of these poor fellows over there beyond the cliffs.


There was a worm. We had to run for it.

You can see the problem: Right off the bat, Herbert is using dialog to discuss action scenes that would be far better to see than to hear about. He’s also introducing concepts left and right (the Bene Gesserit order, the Kwizatz Haderach, sandworms, Fremen, Harkonnens) without giving any context to them.

As in Lynch’s film (and the book itself), we get those lovely inner-thought voiceovers. Duke Leto (Oscar Isaac in Part One) thinks to himself, “We’ve been on this damned planet only two days and already the Harkonnens are at work!” Often these VOs contain psychic conversations between two characters, a technique Villeneuve uses several times in Part Two, as between Feyd (Austin Butler) and Lady Fenring (Léa Seydoux).

The stage-play-esque stretches of barefaced expository dialog continue unabated when Herbert’s script introduces the world of the hedonist Harkonnens, who covet a globe of Arrakis made out of jewels in their Guild Ship decorated with pornographic paintings. Introducing a character not in Villeneuve’s film, they’re shown torturing Wanna with an “agony box” as Feyd essentially videotapes it for Wanna’s husband, Doctor Yueh, so he will do their bidding against House Atreides. She calls them “monsters,” with the Baron articulating, “Of course we are, my dear Wanna. We will do anything to regain our planet and its precious spice … We must rule Dune and the spice. We all need the spice. It lengthens our lives and you Bene Gesserit witches need the spice for your dreams.” Not quite Paddy Chayefsky.

Stilgar arrives at Leto’s Great Hall with a whole contingent (including Mapes, Kynes, and Chani) to extract the water from the dead Fremen using a deathstill. Paul tells his mother, Jessica, that he recognizes Chani from his dreams, prophesying that she will bind him to the Fremen. Stilgar gifts his people’s water to Paul, whom he instantly recognizes as the Mahdi (the messiah of legend, though it is never explained beyond that he may be “the Shortening of the Way”). Duncan joins the Fremen as an olive branch, and Mapes joins the Atreides as a house servant. On her way out of the hall, Chani gives one of those backward glances to Paul that Zendaya does so frequently in the new movies.

After Wanna unexpectedly dies during torture, the Baron plans to use Yueh to kill Paul with a hunter seeker while preserving Yueh’s wife in a “crystallis” (a crystal case). Count Fenring (who will lead the Emperor’s Sardaukar to attack the Atreides disguised in Harkonnen uniforms) arrives at the Guild Ship. Disgusted by Harkonnens and acting only in the Emperor’s interest, he takes the recording of Wanna’s torture to hand off to Yueh.

On Arrakis, the Duke’s remaining soldiers and luggage (including atomics) are delivered, with Gurney playing accompaniment on his Baliset. Herbert was reportedly insistent that the playing of this instrument appear in the film, something which was filmed but cut from Lynch’s film and Villeneuve’s first Dune, but which finally appears in Part Two. Herbert then includes the scene where Duke Leto rescues the carryall crew from the worm, almost beat-for-beat like Lynch’s, though Villeneuve gave the scene more juice by having Paul be nearly killed. One great moment acknowledges the injustice served to the Fremen as two of them (guides) try to board Leto’s ornithopter:


We have no room for them.


There’s a capsule history of the Fremen!

We get a cool scene of Duncan fighting literally back-to-back with Stilgar against a squad of Harkonnen amid the dunes. Stilgar chastises Duncan for using his shield (it attracts the worm), then they capture a Harkonnen who warns them there is a traitor in their midst. The scene where Mapes cuts herself to show fealty to Jessica is there, as is the scene of Paul and Gurney practice-fighting (although sans shields) and the hunter seeker’s attack on Paul.

Because Herbert cannot let much go, we get the banquet scene that has been left out of both theatrical adaptations of Dune because the political machinations it reflects are not essential to the plot (Leto is going to die soon anyway). The banquet winds up eating up nearly 25 pages of the script before it is interrupted by Count Fenring’s attack on the Atreides fortress with the aid of Yueh lowering the shields.


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