Is Paul Atreides a Hero or Villain in Dune 2?

“Dune: Part Two,” the epic continuation of Denis Villeneuve’s 2021 adaptation of Frank Herbert’s beloved sci-fi novel. The film has been wowing audiences and critics alike since its release in early March with its visually captivating depiction of the desert planet Arrakis and its power plays. It charts the journey of Paul Atreides, who seeks justice for his fallen house and transitions into an unlikely villain, despite his prophesied heroic role.

The narrative develops with the treacherous assault on House Atreides under the emperor’s scheme. Duke Leto Atreides, Paul’s father, was given the responsibility of overseeing the spice production on Arrakis—a political move aimed to oust the increasingly popular Atreides House. The spice, essential for interstellar travel, is sacred to the Fremen, the native inhabitants of the arid planet. The assault orchestrated by the emperor and executed by House Harkonnen ends in slaughter, leaving Paul and his Bene Gesserit mother, Lady Jessica, fugitives in Fremen territory.

There, they earn the trust of the local community, including Stilgar, the leader of Sietch Tabr, and others who believe Paul to be the Lisan al Gaib—the prophesied messiah. Despite his initial rejection of this destiny, Paul’s humble leadership and respect for the Fremen culture earn him a prominent place within the community, even as his mother works tirelessly to convert any remaining nonbelievers. Nonetheless, despite his heroic image, he gradually morphs into the emerging villain of the narrative.

The concept of Paul as the prophesied Chosen One is a hot topic of dispute in “Dune: Part Two.” While Fremen like Chani find the prophecy enslaving, others like Stilgar see it as a beacon of hope. Paul’s reluctant acceptance of the prophecy and careful manipulation by the Bene Gesserit lead him to embrace his role, making him the Chosen One by default. But does this make him a hero or a villain?

Despite his noble intentions, Paul’s consuming of the Water of Life is what steers him toward villainy. The Fremen see this act as proof of prophecy, and it pushes him to lead them into a war he has tried to avoid. Paul’s visions only further cement the belief of his messiah role, unwittingly leading to dire consequences on Arrakis. His well-intentioned goals of helping the Fremen and avenging his father’s death spiral into a path of war and violence, solidifying his transformation into a villain.

However, some might question whether Paul is truly a villain or simply a fallen hero. In consuming the Water of Life, he’s able to clearly visualize the future and navigate a narrow path to victory. Still, this act requires him to sacrifice his own happiness and love for Chani. In doing so, he solidifies his role as a fallen hero—a character once destined for greatness, but whose actions led to negative outcomes. This moral complexity adds depth to his character and leaves audiences questioning his true nature.

“Dune” is currently available for streaming on Max, and “Dune: Part Two” is showing in theaters. For a full cinematic experience, consider checking out the film on the big screen. You can also explore more about the film and its behind-the-scenes action on HitPlay.

This article may contain affiliate links, which means we may earn a commission if you purchase through these links.