The Purpose Of Zendaya’s Character In Dune Explained

Zendaya stars as Chani in Dune, but she’s hardly in the movie, appearing primarily in dream sequences. Here’s why she’s in the movie and what’s next.

Zendaya has very little screen time in Dune, raising questions as to what her character’s purpose is in the movie and what’s next for Chani in Dune 2. Despite her character not appearing much outside of dream sequences in the Denis Villeneuve-directed film, she has an important part to play in the near future. Villeneuve’s film is a part one, covering roughly half of Frank Herbert’s seminal 1965 science-fiction novel, and Zendaya’s Fremen, Chani, will become one of the most pivotal characters in the Dune sequel.

Dune primarily follows Timothée Chalamet’s Paul Atreides, the son of Duke Leto (Oscar Isaac) and Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), covering only half of Frank Herbert’s seminal science-fiction novel. Alongside Chalamet, Isaac, and Ferguson, Zendaya is touted as one of Dune‘s main stars, appearing prominently in the movie’s trailers, posters, and premiere events. Despite this, Zendaya isn’t in Dune all that much, appearing predominantly through Paul Atreides’ dreams and visions of the future.

Related: Everything We Know About Dune Part 2

In adapting Herbert’s novel, Villeneuve set out from the beginning to split the film in two parts, knowing that the story is too dense to be told in a single two-hour film. While Dune 2 has yet to get the greenlight, Villeneuve has insisted he is ready to go as soon he gets permission from Warner Bros. Now that Dune is finally out, the studio will likely make a decision soon after looking at box office receipts and streaming numbers, after which audiences will finally know whether or not Zendaya will be taking center stage in Dune 2, as has already been hinted by the director.

Zendaya’s Dune 2021 Role Explained

Dune 2021 Chani Zendaya

Zendaya’s Chani is a member of the Fremen, the people indigenous to Arrakis, which is the only source of the spice melange in the Dune universe. In the film, Chani serves as a source of exposition, acting as a narrator of sorts to give audiences the rundown of Herbert’s complicated world. More importantly, though, is her role as a sort of guide to Paul. By appearing in his dreams, Chani’s role primarily communicates that Paul’s destiny is much bigger than he could have imagined and it is inextricably linked to the Fremen people. Because of her importance later on, it is vital that Villeneuve include Chani as a character, even if she only appears briefly in the film.

Why Zendaya Is In Dune’s Marketing So Much

dune trailer breakdown zendaya timothee chalamet chani paul atreides

Zendaya is featured heavily in Dune‘s marketing, from posters to trailers and premiere events. This seems to be primarily a marketing tool – while Villeneuve’s film has a star-studded cast, the rest of the cast may not appeal as much to a younger demographic, as someone like Chalamet does. Pairing the Academy Award nominated Call Me By Your Name actor, who has a large following on social media, with Zendaya, who also has quite a large following, is marketing gold.

Zendaya currently appears in the MCU’s Spider-Man movies as MJ. She also headlines one of HBO’s buzziest shows, Euphoria, and having her feature prominently in the marketing is the perfect way to bring in that audience. Zendaya’s Chani will also have a prominent role going forward and featuring her at the front of the marketing campaign communicates that in a way that the movie may not. With so little screen time, it would be hard for Villeneuve to stress Chani’s importance in Dune 2‘s story without adding additional scenes of her character.

What Zendaya’s Role Will Be In Dune Part 2

Zendaya Eyes in Dune Movie

With Dune only covering half of Frank Herbert’s novel, Chani’s importance in the story is largely unrealized in the 2021 film. Villeneuve has said that Chani will become a main character in Dune 2, and considering at which point in the overarching story 2021 Dune‘s movie ending comes, it’s clear that Chani’s role will grow exponentially in the sequel. Villeneuve has expressed excitement about putting Zendaya front and center in Dune 2, and that he likely would’ve done so in Dune, if he had the time. While Zendaya doesn’t appear all that much in the final cut of the first film, her role is vital to the story and to Paul’s journey, making her a small but important character in the movie.

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