dune trailer breakdown

Today’s new Dune trailer gave us a much better look at what Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of Frank Herbert’s popular sci-fi book will look like. Longtime Dune fans are very excited, and for good reason — the trailer looks great and captures the best part of Herbert’s work.

For those who’ve never read Dune, however, the trailer may beg the question: what the hell is going on? Good question! Read on for my breakdown of the trailer to get the answer.

Planet Arrakis: Zendaya’s Home and Herbert’s Sci-Fi Version of an Oil-Rich Country

Let’s get into it! We start out with Zendaya’s character, Chani, telling us how beautiful her desert planet of Arrakis is. Arrakis is full of the “Spice Melange” (also referred to as simply “the spice”), a rare substance that makes interstellar travel possible. Herbert wrote Dune in the ‘60s, and spice is a clear reference to our society’s dependence on oil.

Like empires usually do, the Empire in Dune ravages Arrakis for its Spice and Chani’s people, the Fremen, are treated cruelly. House Harkonnen, led in part by Glossu ‘Beast’ Rabban (Dave Bautista), is in charge of Arrakis and spend their time killing Fremen and lining their own pockets (after paying the Empire a tithe) with the profits from selling Spice.

“What’s to Become of Our World?”

That’s what Zendaya/Chani’s voiceover asks after she gives the down-low on the suffering of her planet and her people. The answer is Dune’s Chosen One, Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet).

The trailer then shows Paul talking to his family’s right-hand warrior, Duncan Idaho (Jason Momoa). Paul’s been dreaming about Chani, and he doesn’t know why (spoiler: it’s because he’s the Chosen One and has special powers).

We Are House Atreides And We’re Going to Arrakis 

The trailer then gives us a bit more of House Atreides. Chalamet’s Paul is the son of Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac) and Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson). The Atreides, like the Harkonnens, are another Great House in the Empire (similar to the Houses in Game of Thrones). The Empire, however, is like the corporate headquarters the local branches hate to hear from.

Look how excited Duke Leto,  Warmaster Gurney Halleck (Josh Brolin), and Thufir Hawat (Stephen McKinley Henderson) look to receive the Empire’s delegates.

The Empire asks (orders) House Atreides to establish peace on Arrakis since the Harkonnen and Fremen are fighting. The whole Atreides gang goes, including Paul. Paul’s destiny (he’s the Chosen One, remember) lies on Arrakis. He has a connection with Chani and there’s weird stuff happening in his mind…because he’s special. Here’s an image from the trailer showing House Atreides landing on Arrakis.

We then get some shots of bad things going down on the Spicy planet. The war between the Harkonnen and the Fremen goes on, and the Atreides end up in the middle. We see a quick image of Chani and Paul physically together, confirming that Paul ends up on the Fremen’s side.

The Harkonnens Are Bad

In case we weren’t sure, we then get a bunch of images that hammer home that the Harkonnens are serious and pretty much the worst.

“The Duke’s Son Sees Too Much”

Paul’s special mind powers also come to the attention of others. The trailer also gives us a quick shot of Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgård) — the head of House Harkonnen who yes, also looks like a cross between an un-helmeted Darth Vader and Slimer from Ghostbusters.

Piter de Vries (David Dastmalchian), a mentat (AKA a human computer) who serves the Baron, is also in the scene.

“Kill Them All”

The Baron says this in the trailer, and he’s talking about House Atreides. The next part of the trailer shows scenes of the Harkonnens going after the new arrivals on Arrakis.

As Paul says, the Harkonnens are out to kill everyone, and they’re picking off his family one by one. Atreides will fight back, of course, and some quick cuts suggest the Fremen will be on their side.

Paul’s Parents Love Him, Which is Nice

The trailer spends a few seconds also reminding us that the Atreides are a nice loving family and everyone loves Paul. We get Leto saying he’s proud of his boy no matter what and Lady Jessica vowing to protect him at all costs.

“A Great Man Doesn’t Seek To Lead, He’s Called To It.”

Destiny’s calling, Paul — it’s asking you to lead, take on the Harkonnens, and maybe have a run-in with a sandworm or two.

Part of Paul’s destiny involves glowing eyes and kissing Chani. The trailer ends with the young Atreides kissing the (literal) girl of his dreams and becoming a warrior in his own right. A warrior with glowing blue eyes.

The Spice Must Flow

Those blue eyes mean he’s fully soaked in the Spice (also called melange) that’s mixed with the sands of Arrakis. That Spicy melange does a lot of stuff to folks — it makes them live longer, lets them see the future, and also gives them a hell of a psychedelic trip.

Paul being well-dosed with melange means he’s well on the way to experiencing all of these things. And, of course, fulfilling his destiny. This movie only covers the first part of the book, and I’m curious where in Paul’s journey the movie stops. His blue eyes suggest he gets pretty far, but we’ll have to wait until October to find out for sure.

Dune comes to theaters and HBO Max on October 22, 2021.

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