Dune: Part Two is definitely not a sequel. That’s what Denis Villeneuve stressed in a new piece about the movie at Vanity Fair. He wants viewers to know it’s a continuation that will pick up right where the first film ended. What can audiences expect when they return to Arrakis? According to the director, Dune: Part Two is also both a love story and an epic war action movie. And both elements will be told by iconic characters played by some of Hollywood’s best actors.

Vanity Fair‘s new piece and accompanying images provide our first look yet at what to expect from the second half of Villeneuve’s blockbuster adaptation of Frank Herbert’s classic sci-fi novel. It begins with the budding romance between Timothée Chalamet’s Paul Atreides and Zendaya’s Chani. She’s a member of Arrakis’ desert-dwelling Fremen which he joined at the end of Dune: Part One. She’s also the woman he saw in his dreams. Their relationship will anchor Dune: Part Two. That was one of Villeneuve’s main focuses because he wants viewers invested in the outcome of the larger geopolitical war being waged.

Florence Pugh’s Princess Irulan Arrives in Dune: Part Two

Learning how to ride sandworms and awkwardly flirting with Chani is far from the only issue the young Atreides will face, though. Florence Pugh will help spice things up as Princess Irulan, daughter of Christopher Walken’s Emperor Shaddam IV. She’s worried about her father’s weakening grip on the galaxy and what that means for her future.

Austin Butler’s Feyd-Rautha Will Be a Deadly Enemy

Paul will also have a deadly new enemy to contend with in Dune: Part Two, Austin Butler’s Feyd-Rautha. Villeneuve describes the (you better believe bald) nephew of Baron Harrkonnen as “a cross between a psychotic, sociopath serial killer and Mick Jagger.”

Feyd-Rautha’s so imposing the director doesn’t even want to show him off just yet. The only image of him released at first was from behind, holding his infamous twin blades.

But more recently, we finally glimpsed Austin Butler’s full villainous majesty in a teaser for the Dune: Part Two trailer.

Familiar Faces Return in Dune: Part Two

We don’t need to wait to see his uncle, though. Baron Harkonnen is back in all his disgusting glory. An attack left Stellan Skarsgård’s notorious spice peddler weakened in the first film. The larger-than-life villain now finds even more comfort bathing and smoking spice.

He has a second nephew seeking to serve as his successor, too. Dave Bautista’s Glossu Rabban is also back in Dune: Part Two. But he doesn’t have the Machiavellian skills of his “much more cruel, much more strategic,” and much “more narcissistic” cousin Feyd-Rautha.

The Bene Gesserit Are Back

The Bene Gesserit are back in a big way, too. Lady Jessica, no longer a royal figure after losing almost everything, is so committed to making sure her son fulfills her ancient order’s prophecy she wears that prophecy on her face. A figure that can liberate the galaxy is a plan eons in the making. So no surprise the Bene Gesserit are sending someone else to factor into it whether or not Paul is the figure they’ve worked for so long to create. Léa Seydoux will play Lady Margot Fenring in Dune: Part Two, she is a Bene Gesserit sister working as a “secret agent.” But Villeneuve won’t reveal exactly what she’s doing. No matter her mission, don’t think of it in terms of good and evil. The Bene Gesserit doesn’t think in such terms.

Other Dune: Part Two Characters in Play

Fortunately for Paul Atreides, he will have some allies he can rely on. Josh Brolin’s Gurney Halleck is back, having survived the Harkonnen attack on the family he serves. He wants revenge and will be part of a huge battle readers know is coming.

Also returning is Javier Bardem’s Stilgar. The leader of the Fremen will be more accepting of Paul and Lady Jessica than some others. He will also be a father figure to the young would-be prophetic hero. Stilgar thinks Paul really could be the hero they’ve been waiting for.

Paul Atreides in his stillsuit in front of Chani in hers out in the desert in Dune: Part One
Warner Bros./Legendary

Chani Is the Key

But in the end, it will all come back to Chani and Paul’s story. Chalamet says Chani is the key to his own character’s arc in Dune: Part Two. “The universe of Dune is a complex world of geopolitics and with tons of ecological and technological metaphors that hold up today,” he said. “But at the center, there’s this relationship where Chani sort of becomes a moral compass.”

Just remember, that relationship is the continuation of a story, not a totally new one.

Editor’s Note: Nerdist is a subsidiary of Legendary Digital Networks.

Originally published on April 27, 2023.