Fear is the mind-killer. That is why fans must not be afraid to nitpick through the new trailer for Denis Villeneuve’s Dune adaptation to find all the awesome tidbits from Frank Herbert’s extensive sci-fi world. There’s so much to enjoy as the massive and star-studded cast treks across Arrakis, mines the spice, and deals with the tumultuous politics of interstellar trade.
It might not all be familiar to those who’ve read the book or watched one of several adaptations (including David Lynch’s wet-and-wild take), because Villeneuve notes there are changes. “Dune is a movie about the capacity of adaptation because there’s a lot of changes that are coming,” the filmmaker said during a press event ahead of the trailer’s debut. “That’s why I think Dune is more relevant than ever.”
But no matter the relationship to the source material, the new Dune details still warrant analysis. The film is the first in a planned two-part series, so fans shouldn’t expect anything too late in the novel to crop up in the first movie. But for everything in the first half — at least everything in the trailer — we’ve got fans covered.
Check out our breakdown of the film’s first trailer, highlighting the detailed fun and pointing out all the questions they raise.
The sleeper must awaken
“Without change something sleeps inside us, and seldom awakens. The sleeper must awaken.” That’s a direct pull from Dune the novel. Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) says in the opening line of the trailer, “There’s happening to me. There’s something awakening in my mind. I can’t control it.” Not only does the awakening refer to Paul’s superhuman powers, but his realization that there is a religious war coming — a “crusade” rather than the book’s “jihad” — and that it involves Chani (Zendaya).
Paul is tested in the trailer by the Bene Gesserit — and not just any Bene Gesserit, but the Reverend Mother Mohiam (Charlotte Rampling). This leads to the iconic nerve induction device (the box) that inflicts great pain but leaves no lasting damage.
The Gom Jabbar
The deadly needle poisoned with meta-cyanide is one of the most famous of Dune‘s dangerous creations. It’s held by many nobles and is famously used to make Paul keep his hand in that agony box. Why? To test his ability to reason through intense pain.
Defensive shields and Gurney Halleck
That blur isn’t bad CGI and you didn’t forget to put on your 3D glasses: Those are the personal shields that Dune fighters use to protect themselves. The form-fitting personal defense force fields make Paul’s training session with Gurney Halleck (Josh Brolin), the warrior-bard weapons master of House Atreides, perfectly safe. And awesome. Also yes, Brolin confirms that he’ll be playing the zither-like baliset in the film.
The oceanic planet that serves as the ancestral home of House Atreides and ruled by Paul’s dad, Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac), Caladan is what the family loses at the beginning of the film and what they must leave when they depart for Arrakis. Leto looks to be touching a grave in this shot, probably one of his many family members who ruled the planet for 26 generations.
The rivals to the Atreides family, the Harkonnens are bad news. Here is Glossu Rabban (Dave Bautista), the nephew and weapon of Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgård). He’s just the worst and will have a devastating relationship to Arrakis.
War is coming
Conflict is a part of the Dune universe and the fight over Arrakis between the armies of Atreides, Harkonnen, and the Emperor’s Sardaukar troops (not to mention the native Fremen) is only the beginning.
The treachery of the sand
Those looking to harvest the spice on Arrakis better know what they’re doing — one wrong move and they’re sandworm food. That means the sand seas are the site of tons and tons of airlifts, which is what this shot seems to show as a building is sucked under the dunes. Looks like someone didn’t watch the wormsigns close enough, but at least they got in the Carryall in time.
This is what it’s all about: the spice. Melange, the life-extending, mind-enhancing drug that’s described in the book as being a little like cinnamon, is why Arrakis is so important … and why those sandworms are worth bothering with in the first place. Welcome to Spice World.
The spice might be a driving force in the story, but the sandworms are what REALLY define Dune. The classic creatures are indestructible, massive, and completely awesome. That they happen to make the spice is kind of beside the point. Just look at it.
Dune hits theaters on Dec. 18.