The first trailer for Denis Villeneuve’s Dune was full of sand, which is rough and coarse and gets everywhere. But it also hinted at a few key, exciting moments from Frank Herbert’s book, ones that we simply have to talk about.
After the spoiler warning below, we enter a no-holds-barred zone where anything and everything from the book is up for grabs. For those who haven’t read it and want to go in fresh, I’d recommend putting this piece away for now. But if you’ve already read the book or don’t care about spoilers for a 60-year-old novel, let’s have some fun!
Note: We’ll also discuss a major reveal from the first sequel, Dune Messiah. It will be placed at the bottom with an extra spoiler warning.
1. The Tablet
In the trailer breakdown, I mentioned the Greek-inspired tablet Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac) is examining while on Caladan, along with how it connects to House Atreides’ claims to be descended from King Agamemnon (touched on in Dune Messiah and further explored in other sequels, albeit with mixed results). But there’s a lot more to it. The tragedy of Agamemnon is a direct parallel to the events of Dune and points to the saga’s ongoing theme of history repeating itself.
Agamemnon led the Greek forces in the Trojan War, tasked with the return of his brother’s wife, Helen of Troy, after she was kidnapped by Paris. The Greeks ultimately succeeded in sacking Troy, in spite of the odds, but Agamemnon was ignorant of the real threats waiting for him. Upon returning home, Agamemnon and his entourage were killed in a grand betrayal—orchestrated by his wife, Clytemnestra, and her lover Aegisthus.
This foreshadows the same betrayal that takes place in Dune, as well as the misinformation that surrounds it for years. Baron Harkonnen kills Duke Leto and destroys House Atreides in their own home, thanks to a traitor in their midst. Then, he manages to convince some of the only survivors that Leto’s concubine, Lady Jessica, was the one who made it happen. It just shows how good Villeneuve is at symbolism.
2. Baron Harkonnen’s Soldiers
Did anyone else get tickled pink when they saw the vast army of soldiers ready to obey the commands of Baron Harkonnen and his nephew, Glossu Rabban? That’s because they’re not just any fighting force: They’re the Sardaukar! That’s the elite military force of Emperor Shaddam IV, ruler of the known universe. They’re famous through the galaxy for their brutal, often unmatched fighting tactics—most children don’t even survive the training process.
They might be disguised as Harkonnen forces (like we see in the shot of Dr. Wellington Yueh), but they are part of the Emperor’s army. The reason they’re helping the Harkonnens is because the Emperor is secretly part of the whole conspiracy. He handed Arrakis over to House Atreides solely so he could help House Harkonnen invade and take it back. He helped plan the whole thing to get rid of Duke Leto, who he saw as a threat to his rule because of his popularity with the other House leaders. This makes him just as responsible as Baron Harkonnen, something that has dire consequences for his empire later.
3. Betrayal Time
One of the biggest events in Dune that looks to also play a huge role in the movie (based on the trailer) is the Harkonnen invasion of Arrakis. We catch glimpses of a few key moments; Duke Leto looking terrified at someone who leaves a bloody handprint on his shirt as they lay dying (in the book, this would be Shadout Mapes, a Fremen who works in the palace and is killed after uncovering the attack, but we haven’t seen that character on the casting list so it might be someone else) and all the shots of Duncan Idaho, Gurney Halleck, Paul Atreides, and others reacting to the fight in casual clothes, which shows this was an invasion that took them by surprise.
But the best moment has to be the brief glimpse of Dr. Wellington Yueh walking with the Harkonnen soldiers (who we know to be Sardaukar in disguise). That’s because Yueh is the one who betrays the Atreides’, even though his Suk doctor conditioning is supposed to prevent him from causing harm to other people. The look on his face in this moment feels like a mix of guilt, anger, and accomplishment—and I can’t wait to see the aftermath.
4. Paul and Jamis’ Fight
There are several shots in the trailer of what look to be the hand-to-hand combat battle between Paul and Jamis, the Fremen warrior who opposes letting Paul and Lady Jessica into their sietch, or their community. This fight is an important moment in the book, and could very well serve as the climax of the first film (although I think the movie will end with Lady Jessica becoming the sietch’s new Reverend Mother). Defeating Jamis solidifies Paul’s place among the sietch, making him and his mother full-fledged members of the Fremen. He even gets to choose his “manhood name.” He picks Paul-Muad’Dib—invoking the very name he’s heard in his vision of a future where he’s the all-powerful ruler of the universe.
The end of the Dune trailer contains something shocking—and I’m not just talking about Duncan Idaho calling Paul “my Lord Duke,” which represents Paul becoming the House Atreides patriarch after his father is killed in the Harkonnen attack. I’m talking about the sandworm stopping to acknowledge Paul in the middle of the desert.
As we know, Paul rises up to become the leader of House Atreides and the Fremen on Arrakis, but his destiny is so much greater. He’s Muad’Dib, the prescient ruler who can see the past, present, and future—often at the same time. One of the first indications of his greater destiny involves the sandworms, colossal beings that have a connection to the spice. They’re worshipped by the Fremen as physical manifestations of God, or “Shai-Hulud.” Only the Fremen have mastered the art of controlling them...until Paul comes into the picture.
He not only learns how to ride one, something no other outsider has been able to do, but he also becomes the first man to successfully drink and filter the poisonous Water of Life (from the body of a baby sandworm) and gain the wisdom of the ages. However, let’s not get into the whole “other” worm thing, because noooo thank you.
The fact that this sandworm is pausing to acknowledge Paul’s presence not only hints at his future rise in power, but also the godlike destiny that follows him wherever he goes.
Note: Extra spoiler warning for Dune Messiah.
6. Duncan Idaho’s Swan Song
The trailer shows Duncan Idaho (Jason Momoa) facing off against Sardaukar soldiers, getting ready to “fight like demons.” However, what’s interesting is that we see two different fights going on. The first, where Duncan is in civilian clothes, is clearly from the surprise attack when the Harkonnens first invaded Arrakis. The second looks to be from the fight in the desert, when Duncan held off the Sardaukar so Paul and Lady Jessica could get away. This battle does end up costing Duncan his life, which means Momoa will most likely not appear in the second Dune movie.
However, that’s not the end of his story. In Dune Messiah, Duncan Idaho is resurrected and returned to Paul Muad’dib’s side, mostly because fans loved him so much. He was turned into a ghola (a type of clone) named Hayt by the Tleilaxu, a society known for genetic manipulation and the creation of artificial body parts. Hayt was trained as a Mentat and philosopher by the Tleilaxu, and seems to have no recollection of his former life. However, by the end of the book, he’s regained his memories and becomes Duncan Idaho once again. Does this mean there’s hope for Momoa’s future in the Dune universe? Maaaaaaybe.
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