Dune: Children of Dune: Pt.2 “The Children”
“History is written on the sands of Arrakis. Maud-Dib is gone, but his children remain. Almost grown, and about to face the consequences of their fathers legacy. A legacy fiercely guarded by their Aunt, Alia. Even as she struggles with the ominous destiny of her own birthright.” -Irulan
The new chapter opens over a decade later. Saint Alia of the Knife, sister to the God Paul “Maud-Dib” Atreides is acting regent until Paul’s children Leto and Ghanima are of age to rule. She has become a monster, strangling Arrakis to squeeze every last ounce of spice from it while destroying the planet by bringing water, and climate-control. The planet once an entire desert with no rain is now transforming into a paradise. And our story begins once again.
The child of Maud-Dib, Leto II is having a daydream of a foreign Sietch while hearing his father speak of the “Golden Path”. His twin sister Ghanima interrupts, bringing to him her fear of their Aunt. Over the last decade Alia has begun to lose control of her brothers empire. She is changing the face of Arrakis to become hospitable, killing all the worms in the process. Meanwhile she has created a fanatical priesthood, totally devoted to the “Sister of God”(Quizarate). The regular Fremen “Naibs” (Tribal leaders) are becoming worried at the tightening noose that Alia has created. They fear the old ways are gone, and this “Abomination” is destroying their world. To make matters worse, Alia’s mother, Leto and Ghanima’s Grandmother Jessica, is about to return to Arrakis. The rumor is that Lady Jessica has returned to the Bene Gesserit and has once again become a Bene Gesserit “witch” forgetting not only her Fremen way, but the ways of the Atreides.
Irulan comes to collect the twins and return to Arakeen, the Capitol city of Arrakis, and the Jewel at the center of the Lion Throne. Once again we see the evolution of this city. In each film they begin with the same music as the Ornithoptor circles Arakeen, and in each film you see how the city has evolved from mud huts in the sand to a golden city of religion and beauty. You also now see the statues of Maud-Dib in front of the temple, bigger than most anything in the city. Another sign of Alias corruption of turning her brother into a God to serve her needs. It is then we find our arch-villain in the midst of possession writhing on her bed. Her lover and husband Duncan Idaho comes in to soothe her thoughts. He mistakes her possession for fear of Lady Jessica’s return.
We then pan out to a Guild Highliner ship. Upon this highliner are many characters including our old friend Gurney Halleck and Lady Jessica. Jessica is afraid she will be forced to end the life of not only Alia but of the twins as well. The one thing the Bene Gesserit fear more than an uncontrolled Kwizatz Haderach is the “Abomination”; a pre-born mind possessed by its ancestors.
We can’t show our friends without showing our enemies. As such the scene then shifts quickly to Salusa Secundus, home of the former Padisah Emperors and exile home to House Corrino.
Wensescia’s son Prince Farad’n is observing the stolen worm, talking about how in “Ancient Times” (Earth) animals would walk back and forth over and over until sick in places called “Zoos”. Farad’n understands what Paul understands and Alia does not. That the future is pretty much screwed. This connects back to Pauls dream of Leto telling him in the Jacarutu dream “We go forward, we come back” over and over. Farad’n understands that humanity has stopped evolving. They have no dreams of exploration, no wanderlust. They need a tyrant to show to them how horrible the Universe can be when you are earthbound. They need a true God, a living example of just how terrible a place the Universe can be when you choose to remain ignorant. Farad’n understands the Golden Path well, something underplayed in these films.
Alia comes to prepare the twins for their Grandmothers audience. The twins are being berated for their recent excursion by an unusually angry Aunt Alia. Alia believes her mother has betrayed them, and urges the twins to protect themselves, Alia herself believes she is above any judgement by her mother, by alluding to the fact she should have been the first-born as the Bene Gesserit instructed in which case should she be leader to begin with.
As Jessica arrives she exploits the “Missionary Protectiva”, just as she did when she originally wormed her way into Fremen culture. As a Bene Gesserit she knows the Fremen religion and mysteries intimately, after all the Bene Gesserit created most of it. By exploiting their myths she appears as a demi-god, or in the very least a prophet, the Mother of God. By speaking in their tongue in their holy words, she removes many of the fears the Fremen have of her after Alia promoted the fact that her mother had returned to the Sisterhood. The meeting between Alia and her mother is a tense one, the possession has already settled in, so she goes from a sneer to an angry look, to overjoyed and embracing her fiercely. Great acting! The twins greet their grandmother in the Fremen way, which is interesting. The twins like their aunt are Pre-Born, containing the memories of their ancestors. Because of this they know rituals and languages dating all the way back to the time of Achilles and Hector in Ancient Greece on Earth. Using the Fremen greeting was a reminder that in order to survive they must accommodate ritual which they also tell her outright for the audience unfamiliar with the books.
“Reverand Mother! I bring you a warning. The Blessings of Maud-Dib have been corrupted. The religion of Maud-Dib is not Maud-Dib. He renounces it as he renounces you. ALL OF YOU! Maud-Dib is dead! Sand will cover this place. Sand will cover you.” -Preacher
Just then a Maula pistol is fired which misses so badly its hard to tell who was the target. A man runs and detonates an explosive device screaming the word “Jacarutu!”.
In the aftermath Stilgar and Halleck argue over the way to approach this. Jessica is simply concerned with whether or not the Preacher is her son. Stilgar explains they want to kill the Preacher but Alia forbids it. Jessica knows this is because it is in fact Paul. Even though Alia is possessed her relationship with Paul is identical to the relationship between Ghanima and Leto. And later in the film Alia will remind them that she lost her other half, and one day they too will be alone which is the worst feeling possible.
Jessica retires to Paul and Chaini’s old bedroom. Alia has kept it identical as they day they died. As Leto and Ghanima enter Jessica imagines they are Paul and Chani. This was a bit of a homage to the book, as Leto and Ghanima play a game called “Father and Mother” when they allow Chani and Paul to take over their bodies and err ummm yeah it can be a bit sick at times but displays again the overwhelming theme of the first half of the Saga is “Love”.
Alia and Jessica finally have their showdown. Alia feels abandoned, after all once Paul died everyone left Alia. Her mother returned to Caladan, Duncan became withdrawn, and the Naibs feel she is a traitor. Because of which Alias voices which terrify her also become her only friends. She had no choice but to become a an angry dictator, no one would guide or aid her. While in the Zen garden Jessica and Alia get into an argument and Jessica realizes her daughter is lost forever. Alice Kriege adds a lot of empathy to the role of Jessica, and it comes across in this scene well. While speaking Alia tells her mother the thing she hates about her mother most is that she could call her “Abomination” but as she says the word we don’t hear her voice. We hear a throaty, bassonic voice, rumblingly familiar…
We are then treated to a nice scene of Arakeen, with merchants in the streets, water being poured openly, and pictures of Alia and Paul everywhere. The Preacher, party pooper that he is comes forward to denounce the ritual and ceremony that has become Maud-Dib. He tells them those who accept self-deception, will perish by that same self-deception. They begin to chant “Maud-Dib” and he grows furious once again. We switch back to Alia who is hanging out with a lovely young boy named “Javid”. Javid appeared in the previous movie but was a child, if you caught it, you’ve earned 2 brownie points.
But just when we get into a nervous flirting, we hear the bassonic voice again saying “Alia, just what the doctor ordered” and on cue Alia tells Javid he is good medicine for what ails her. What is going on here??? It’s almost as if she’s two different people at once. Duncan Idaho then catches Javid and Alia coupling in her private chambers. Unable to do direct damage to House Atreides he goes off to sulk in a corner.
Meanwhile Irulan and Jessica have a private meeting in Fenring’s old garden. Here is when we find out that Irulan loves the Twins so much she would kill even Jessica to protect them. Originally in the books, Irulan was a direct part of Scytale’s conspiracy against Paul, because of her change of heart and becoming the most loyal of all Atreides, they chose not to include all of it, probably a smart choice. Going from arch-enemy to loyal lap dog in 6 hours is tough. All Irulan cares about now is her writings and the twins.
Finally Jessica visits Leto, a well written conversation ensues. Leto tells her obtusely that he is Pre-Born, and Jessica immediately uses the Voice to subdue him, at which Leto laughs. Leto explains gently that Paul and those who came before him were mere children to his power. And speaking to her like a child he explains he has two choices. To serve and die like Paul, or to choose the Golden Path, a horrible path that will change human destiny forever. Jessica offers to help, then using the voice Leto says “On the contrary mother, it is I that will help you”. Cool stuff!
In the next scene Alia interrupts a giggling Ghanima and Leto as they play a futuristic form of Chess at lightning fast speed. Alia urges the twins to go under the Spice Agony, to become like Paul and Alia and see the future. She goads them by telling them its what their father wanted, and their father was the greatest man in history. The twins know this path leads to Abomination, and instead explain to their Aunt that she herself can still be saved. It is in this scene when Alia explains; “One day you will call out for help, one day each of you will find yourselves, alone.” In this one sentence Alia explains her characters existence and that it is not her fault. Many fans of the series consider Alia a great figure and a hero, tainted by her Mothers mistakes. The movie makes her a villain, an interesting choice.
Alia then returns to her chamber where she goes insane hearing all the voices of her ancestors (Including the voice of her Titan forefather) but one voice comes through the deluge telling the others to go away. It is our old friend, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, Alias maternal grandfather.
Jessica meanwhile is asking Stilgar about the word “Jacarutu” at which Stilgar grows white. He explains that Jacarutu is tabu(taboo). The first rule of the Fremen is to never steal water, their most sacred rule. However the Jacurutu Fremen did so, because of which all Fremen united and destroyed their entire Sietch. A few remain even today called the “Cast Out”. These are the people committing the terrorist acts around Arakeen.
Back to Alia we are find her in a Spice Trance seeking the future and a way out of Abomination. Unfortunately Baron Harkonnen appears to explain to her that “Abomination” is nothing more than a Bene Gesserit Witch term. If Alia would only embrace the possession and choose one voice IE the Baron, he will keep the other voices out and in exchange she will allow him to have a tiny corner of her mind. This is a great scene which is artistically done with existential overtones:
Alia: “You murdered my father, you tried to destroy my family!!”
Baron: “Oh that, yes, yes. Of course I would’ve killed you, you stood in my way, but that is old business, you won.”
The film plays it as a conversation that slowly merges into one voice, very cool!
Alia agrees and finally succumbs to the possession forever lost to humanity (Not that she had a chance anyway).
Meanwhile Stilgar and Leto have a conversation in the desert where Leto explains that most of the Fremen ways are gone, and the rest are soon to follow. As a butterfly passes, Leto explains that on most worlds this is a sign of beauty, but on Arrakis it is a sign of the alien corruption that Alia has brought. Like the books, Leto just confuses Stilgar and the audience with his talk of the empire he will eventually create. He explains that Maud-Dib has dissolved but his Crysknife remains.
In other words the damage done by the religion Paul and Jessica exploited, will continue to infect humanity until it is destroyed from the inside, or worse devolves into a religiously fanatic society with no concern for the Universe itself. You will never hear in the Dune Saga people talk about exploration, or colonizing new worlds. There are other “enemies” out there, ancient, terrible, non-human enemies from before and during the Butlerian Jihad. These enemies will one day return and if humanity is not prepared, humanity will die out entirely. But the biggest trick of all is that only the Atreides pre-born even know this “enemy” exists. It’s even possible that a stagnant religious empire is what these “enemies” wanted in the first place. I’m spoiling things a bit but as the movie never bothers to explain *why this needs to happen* in the first place, it should be said here. If you want to know who the “enemies” are, read the books as it’s ambiguous and open for speculation, and a heck of a lot of fun.
Wenescia continues to gloat over her victories. Javid(Pretty Boy) has reported that Alia is becoming more and more paranoid and the Empire is slipping from her grasp. The Corrino have been training “Laza Tigers” to kill anyone wearing a certain Corrino cloak. These cloaks are presented as gifts to the Twins and Irulan knows there is something afoot. Alia rebukes Irulan calling her a “bloodless bitch” a term that Baron Harkonnen would use but not someone like Alia. Jessica notes this and again is saddened by the loss of her daughter. She immediately realizes like Irulan the Twins are in mortal danger. Her daughter has no wish to leave her Regency and allow the Twins to rule. In the Bene Gesserit sign-language Jessica orders Irulan to kidnap the twins and leave immediately. I think in the books they used Chakobasa, but the whole sign language stuff was really cool! They incorporated verbal language in with the sign-language so it really was a neat way of doing it.
The twins escape under the watchful eye of the Jacarutu traitors. Leto turns and notices them, but he is clueless to why they are so interested in him. Just about this time Alia learns of the abduction and orders the death of all those involved. She even claims to herself she wants her mother dead. Yikes!! The Baron tells her it’s too early, and Alia notes that he couldn’t defeat them before so why the hell is he adding his input now? The Baron tells her she must take care of Jessica in public and expose her for the Bene Gesserit witch that she really is. Javid returns to report to his Jacurutu buddies, explaining Alia is totally mad now and the rebellion will start as planned.
And now the payoff. The big finale scene of Night 2. To explain something really fast that they don’t explain in the movie again: Jessica was allowed to rule over one decision as a Fremen ritual thingy. And the supplicant she is to judge over is a Fremen Naib, and an old friend of Paul’s. Alia is angry about this, she intended to use it to humiliate Jessica in front of the Fremen, but it backfires. But now back to the movie:
A Fremen interrupts their court session claiming a ‘matter of the desert’ needs hearing. At this Jessica responds in the Fremen way, Alia goes berserk and Jessica cuts her off (Remember Alia is Regent, Jessica is a nobody, so why can she do this? Read above, that’s why the book explanation was needed). The Fremen explains that Arrakis is being destroyed, and Alia has betrayed the Fremen ways. Alia explains that it was Liet (Pauls Father-in-law, a Fremen Prophet/Leader) himself that demanded Arrakis be changed. But the Fremen retorts that Liet never wanted the Worms to die and die they will. Alia summons up her royal power and decrees that she is the law, and no one will disobey or question her. Jessica stands up and shouts “No!” And announces that she has never left her Fremen ways. And I’ll stop the review here to give you a transcript, since I can’t do this conversation justice.
Jessica: “I will always be Fremen”
Alia: “Be quiet!”
Jessica: “We cannot abandon the desert, my daughter is lying! The worms will not survive if the desert shrinks. She knows this. Spice production will slow until it is only a faction of what it has been. And when that happens…”
Alia: “We will have a corner on the scarcest commodity in the Universe!”
Jessica: “You will have a corner in Hell!”
And with that a maula pistol is fired at Jessica and she uses the Prina Bindu(Bene Gesserit Matrix Moves, sometimes called “The Weirding Way) training to avoid it as she stares at her daughter in horror as she realizes it was her that attempted to have her killed. Even I was stunned!!
Ghanima and Leto are still huddled in Sietch and they agree they must leave and seek Jacarutu. Ghanima knows Leto is not explaining everything and wants to know more. But instead he just tells her this is what their father wanted, and knowing the Golden Path would be dangerous for her. As they escape in their Corrino cloaks, the laza tigers are released.
As this episode ends, a civil war is about to begin. on one side you have Jessica, the Naibs and most the Fremen. on the other Alia and her Imperial horde and Quizarate fanatics.
The twins are pinned in a cave about to meet their death. And Duncan is twisted by his imperative to help the Atreides. Which Atreides will he choose? His wife and sister to Paul? Or Lady Jessica, a product of Harkonnen breeding, his mortal enemy? As Alia orders Duncan to kill Lady Jessica, his choice is made. He takes Jessica and flees to House Corrino. We return to the twins, fleeing for their lives, Leto forces Ghanima into a small cave then turns into the face of death itself, unsheathing his Crysknife and facing the Tigers. The film ends with the scream of Leto.
Will the twins live? Why on earth would Jessica and Duncan seek refuge with the Corrinos, the House they destroyed? And what of Alia, and her newly found plans to control the Empire forever? Stay tuned for part 3!
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