Paul Atreides: The Hero’s Story or a Descent into Villainy? Dune 2’s Perspective


  • Dune: Part Two settles the age-old debate over Frank Herbert’s protagonist, Paul Atreides and reveals that he’s a tragic figure and a villain in many ways.
  • Paul’s character arc finally crescendos into him becoming a god-like figure to the Fremen and unveils the dark part of heroism.

Dune: Part Two finally answers the 59-year-old debate over whether protagonist Paul Atreides (Timothee Chalamet) is a hero or a villain.

Although Paul ‘MuadDib’ Atreides is the film’s center, it doesn’t make him a hero. In fact, the reason Frank Herbert’s novel remains a classic even today is that it breaks the typical science fiction archetype, i.e., a one-hero narrative, which is often problematic.

However, creator Denis Villeneuve convincingly answers the question in the recently released Dune: Part Two.

Dune: Part Two | Official Trailer 3

Frank Herbert deliberately includes all the hallmarks of a ‘chosen one’ narrative in ‘Dune’ to highlight that Paul isn’t a hero. Rather, he’s a tragic character who uses his wit to escape tricky situations in dubious ways.

After Paul’s father gets assassinated by House Harkonnen, Paul sides with the Fremen people because he thinks that his goals align with them. Both want to overthrow the Harkonnens, albeit for different reasons.

Therefore, Paul integrates himself with the Fremen people and mounts a devastating attack on the Harkonnen spice-harvesting scheme. Thereafter, he faces a choice: listen to the call of destiny or ignore the burden altogether.

Paul is reluctant to accept the role of the Fremen messiah, but it has nothing to do with heroism. Instead, Paul avoids it because he knows that assuming the role will kickstart a series of unstoppable events. 

To him, avenging his father and liberating Arrakis isn’t worth the bloodshed that will follow.

For most of ‘Dune: Part Two,’ Paul insists that he isn’t the prophesied Lisan al Gaib and that one of their own people should lead them. 

Meanwhile, Jessica ingests the toxic Water of Life and tries to use her power to influence other Fremens of Paul’s destiny. 

Initially, Paul resents these tactics, but after the Harkonnen bombing of the Fremen outpost, Paul finally gives in to his call of destiny.

Is Paul Atreides a Hero or a Villain in Dune: Part Two?
Paul Atreides | Source: IMDb

By the end of ”Dune: Part Two’, Paul succeeds in freeing Arrakis, but his actions are anything but heroic. 

Paul consumes the Water of Life, awakening a power to see across time and space and becoming the prophesied Kwisatz Haderach. In doing so, he embraces the fate he’s spent the entire movie trying to escape.

The real shocker is how good Paul is at fulfilling his destiny. When he summons the Fremen and uses his power to threaten them, we get a glimpse of the terrifying evil that lurks behind those innocent eyes.

Is Paul Atreides a Hero or a Villain in Dune: Part Two?
Is Paul Atreides a Hero or a Villain in Dune: Part Two? | Source: IMDb

By the film’s end, Paul realizes that his lifelong dream of liberating Arrakis and destroying the Harkonnens has a catastrophic downside, i.e., the inevitable bloody war.

The Fremen look at him like a God, and Paul can no longer restrain the insatiable desire to conquer the universe in his name. 

‘Dune’ ends with a warning to be wary of heroes who attain a god-like status. 

Earlier film adaptations have struggled to mine this grey sentiment and Paul’s unparalleled dilemma throughout the film. 

In the words of Frank Herbert, Dune is all about ‘showing you the superhero syndrome and your own participation in it,’ and ‘Dune: Part Two’ does precisely that. 

About Dune

Dune (also known as Dune: Part One) is an American sci-fi film based on Frank Herbert’s novel of the same name, directed by Denis Villeneuve.

Part One introduced the planet of Dune/Arrakis, the only place where the enhancer drug “Melange” is found and sought out by many. The Atreides House is sent to the planet as the ruling Duke, as part of their adversaries’ trap. However, the Atreides are aware of the same and aim to defend Dune and their house.

The ensemble cast is made up of Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Zendaya, David Dastmalchian, Chang Chen, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Charlotte Rampling, Jason Momoa, and Javier Bardem.

Rajarsi Chakraborty

Rajarsi Chakraborty

Got the rare talent to binge an entire show in a single sitting just like that. Although a sucker for psychological thrillers, no bias for any genre when it comes to a good story. A living proof that Netflix and chill is not a myth!


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