The trailer for the highly anticipated adaptation of Dune dropped today, and there is a lot to look at. The sci-fi epic directed by acclaimed genre director Denis Villeneuve is set for release in December. We have already seen photos from the Dune set, and behind the scenes footage. But the trailer is our first real look at the new Dune movie, and it looks spectacular. Let’s stomp the sands, and see what the new Dune trailer reveals.
Dune Is The Source Material For So Much Science Fiction
A mythic and emotionally charged hero’s journey: Dune tells the story of Paul Atreides, a brilliant and gifted young man born into a great destiny beyond his understanding. He must travel to the most dangerous planet in the universe to ensure the future of his family and his people. As malevolent forces explode into conflict over the planet’s exclusive supply of the most precious resource in existence—a commodity capable of unlocking humanity’s greatest potential—only those who can conquer their fear will survive.
Dune is the 1965 novel by Frank Herbert that has influenced a generation of sci-fi films and literature. It is interesting to see how this influence comes full circle. Films like Star Wars drew heavily from Dune for inspiration, and it looks like elements from Star Wars may also inform the aesthetic of this Dune adaptation. But it is vital to remember that Dune was the original inspiration for much of this imagery. And after several attempts at adaptation over the decades since the book’s publication, the world of Arrakis is finally coming to life in a way that does it justice. Villeneuve elevates this Dune adaptation from its forebears with stunning cinematography, and an A-List cast of actors.
Of course we have Star Wars veteran Oscar Isaac and his mighty beard in Dune, playing the role of Duke Leto Atreides. Paul’s father leaves his oceanic homeworld of Caladan to bring his family to the desert planet of Arrakis. Joining him is an ensemble cast of genre actors including Jason Momoa; Dave Bautista, Rebecca Ferguson, Zendaya, and more.
A Dream of Arrakis Finally Comes True
Image via Warner Bros.
The trope of the Chosen One is embedded in Dune much like in Star Wars and other genre fiction. In this case we have the young Paul Atreides, played by Timothée Chalamet. The trailer shows Paul waking from a dream of the Fremen, notably starring his love interest Chani (played by Zendaya). The Fremen are the native people of Arrakis, they are the only ones who can live in the desert. They can call the sandworms and use the spice in their rituals. But their way of life is on the verge of being wiped out by the greed of the great Houses who want to control the flow of the spice.
Image via Warner Bros.
The Dune trailer also establishes that Paul’s dreams are premonitory, and often come true. He is tested by the Bene-Gesserit, an ancient order of space witches. They have developed superhuman abilities through the use of the famous spice from Arrakis. Paul’s mother Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) is a former member of this order, and she trained her son from a young age to pass this very test.
Impressive Action Builds Up An Awe-Inspiring Spectacle
There are several quick action sequences in the Dune trailer. We get to see Duncan Idaho (Jason Momoa) in action with his mentat-focused fighting skills. There is a glimpse of the Sardaukar, the military force employed by the Emperor. Explosions abound and sands roil. Most interesting to me was the sparring session between Paul and his mentor Gurney Halleck (Josh Brolin). This clearly shows a force-field shield that is customarily utilized in battle. Some subtle visual effects demonstrate this beautifully. Notably, this type of shield does not last long in the deserts of Arrakis. The harmonic vibrations have the unfortunate side-effect of attracting sandworms.
Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho | Photo by Chiabella James
And speaking of the sandworms, this is of course the most impressive CGI glimpsed in the trailer at the very end. The open maw of the worm as it rises colossal over the desert is awe-inspiring. It is by far the best version of the all-important sandworms that has been seen in any Dune adaptation. These sandworms are the source of the potent drug melange, also called the spice. We see very few spectacularly glowing blue eyes in the trailer. We also don’t see anyone using the spice, but it is always there, an undercurrent beneath the politics and dire portents. “He who controls the spice, controls the universe.”
A Reminder: The Dune Movie Will Not Cover The Entire Book
Image via MacMillan Books
Of course the new Dune movie is only the first film in Villeneuve’s adaptation. The director has often spoken about how he has longed to make this movie since he was a teenager. He says that he has always felt that the scope of the novel deserve at least two films to do it justice. This is kind of funny, since the first Dune book barely comes it at 400 pages.
I imagine that the second film will also encompass the slimmer sequel Dune Messiah, much like the Syfy Dune miniseries did in the early 2000’s. There is also a possibility that Villeneuve will bring in history from all of the other Dune books that have been written in recent years. But this is all speculation. There is no timeline for when a second Dune film will be out. The recent production shutdown due to the pandemic has almost certainly affected the film. So while fans have waited for decades for a proper Dune adaptation, we will have to wait even longer to see the end of the story as brought to life by Denis Villeneuve.
Emily O'Donnell is a writer and photographer with roots in some of the earliest online fandoms. She cut her genre teeth on the Wizard of Oz books at the tender age of 6 years old, and was reading epic adult fantasy novels by the age of 10. Decades later, she still consumes genre fiction like there is no tomorrow. She is delighted to be living through the golden age of sci-fi and fantasy popularity. She is unashamed of the amount of fanfiction that still lingers online under her name.