New to the world of Dune? Here’s everything you need to know.
Our first real look at Denis Villeneuve’s (Blade Runner 2049, Arrival) upcoming Dune adaptation has finally arrived–and, unsurprisingly given both the director and the source material, it’s pretty dense. But don’t panic if you didn’t immediately follow every scene in the trailer–if you’ve never set foot into Frank Herbert’s 400-odd page epic or if you simply haven’t revisited it in years, we’ve got you covered. We’ll be breaking down the trailer scene-by-scene, but first we’d like to set the stage by introducing all the key players.
The trailer sets up not only the heroic House Atreides, led by the noble Duke Leto and his son Paul, but the Fremen of the desert planet Arrakis and the villainous House Harkonnen, dominated by Baron Vladimir. In addition to them, we also see some of the supporting cast, like House Atreides’ Mentat, Thurfir Hawat, swordmaster Duncan Idaho, and surgeon Dr. Yueh.
Here’s everything you should know about them–and the rest of the cast seen in this first trailer–as you prepare yourself for Dune’s arrival on December 18.
1. Paul Atreides (Timothee Chalamet)
Paul Atreides is Dune’s main protagonist and all around golden boy. The son of Duke Leto and his Bene Gesserit (don’t worry, we’ll explain them in a second) concubine, Paul enjoyed a privileged, if slightly paranoid childhood on the temperate planet Caladan until, at age 15, he was made to leave with his family and move to Arrakis, the desert planet, AKA Dune.
Paul’s aristocratic upbringing afforded him all sorts of fancy training and schooling, from advanced combat techniques taught by top strategists and swordsmen to extreme mental conditioning (read: he’s super smart). Basically, Paul is the exact opposite of the traditional come-from-nothing fantasy or sci-fi protagonist. He starts the story very close to the top of his game, despite being only a teenager, and really only gets stronger and more god-like as things progress.
That said, Paul’s life hasn’t exactly been easy. His family’s longstanding feud with the rival Harkonnens has placed a target on Paul’s back since birth, leaving him in near constant danger of assassination or other schemes against him.
2. Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac)
Head of House Atreides, Duke Leto is a well-liked and fair ruler with a keen mind for political maneuvering and strategy. Unfortunately, however, he’s also deeply embroiled in a feud with House Harkonnen, meaning he lives every day of his life in a state of hypervigilance trying to outmaneuver any potential schemes against him and his family.
That doesn’t mean that Leto stays totally on the defensive, however. The story of Dune opens with Leto making a calculated gamble in moving his family from Caladan to Arrakis, where they will become the conduit for the Empire’s most precious resource: spice. Mined only in the endless deserts of Arrakis, spice is consumed throughout imperial space for both its mental and physical effects. Consuming large amounts can alter biology, prolong life, and even grant magical-seeming abilities. But more than that, taking over Arrakis will also allow Leto to oust House Harkonnen, who have ruled the planet for years.
Unfortunately for him, there are more plans within plans in play here–some that even the most vigilant people can’t hope to see.
3. Lady Jessica (Rebecca Furguson)
Paul’s mother and Duke Leto’s concubine–they never married for political reasons–Lady Jessica is a Bene Gesserit. In Dune, this essentially means she’s the member of a highly specialized and highly trained all-female cabal who use both science and mysticism to influence the political landscape. They’re kind of like this universe’s equivalent of the Catholic church, complete with their own complicated and often ritualistic history as well as strict hierarchies and systems of self-governing laws.
It’s not unusual for Bene Gesserit to enter into political marriages or become the concubines of various high-ranking figures in order to exert Bene Gesserit influence over the galaxy at large. This was the case with Lady Jessica but, luckily, she did wind up genuinely falling in love with her Duke, enough to directly oppose an order from her Reverend Mother. It was the will of the Bene Gesserit for Jessica to bear Duke Leto only daughters–something the Bene Gesserit can actually control (don’t think too much about it)–but Jessica, wishing to fulfill the Duke’s need for an heir and experiencing visions of her own leading her to believe that a son could potentially be a messiah-like figure from Bene Gessierit mythology, had Paul.
4. Thufir Hawat (Stephen McKinley Henderson)
Thufir Hawat is what’s known as a Mentat, which in Dune parlance is basically just a human computer. In Dune’s universe, artificial intelligence and most computing technology has been rendered taboo and illegal after an uprising against the “god of machine-logic” that resulted in the complete destruction of any and all machines that exhibited human-like intelligence. It gave rise to a new quasi-religious doctrine proclaiming “thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a human mind.”
The need for computing was still there, however, and this gave rise to the practice of the Mentat order–people who are trained from birth to use their brains like computers. Thufir has served House Atreides loyally for decades. He’s now an old man, which makes some doubt his abilities.
5. Gurney Halleck (Josh Brolin)
House Atreides’ weapons master and one of Paul’s primary combat instructors, Gurney Halleck is a bit of a walking contradiction. Though he’s one of the very best fighters in the world, he prefers to spend his free time dabbling in the arts. He’s a skilled musician, playing a stringed instrument known as the baliset, and an accomplished scholar, teaching Paul with poetry and literature as much as weapons.
6. Duncan Idaho (Jason Momoa)
The third and final member of Duke Leto’s war council alongside Thufir and Gurney is Duncan Idaho, House Atreides’ swordmaster. Another of Paul’s teachers, Duncan is renowned for both his skill and his handsome features–as well as his way with diplomacy. Duncan was among the first sent from the Atreides homeworld Caladan to Arrakis as an envoy to the Fremen people, where he was able to quickly gain their trust and embrace their culture.
7. Dr. Wellington Yueh (Chen Chang)
The chief doctor of House Atreides, Dr. Yueh was trained in the Suk Inner School, one of the most famous medical schools in the galaxy. Suk doctors are widely respected for their skill and their craft, and also understood to have undergone a practice of rigorous mental indoctrination known as Suk Imperial Conditioning which makes them physically incapable of inflicting harm on people. Those who graduate with Imperial Conditioning have a black diamond tattooed on their forehead.
8. Chani (Zendaya)
Chani is a Fremen, one of the people native to Arrakis, known for their blue-on-blue eyes that develop thanks to their proximity to the Spice. She is connected with Paul on an almost mystical level–Paul begins having prophetic dreams of her even before his move to Arrakis, and, upon their eventual meeting, Chani becomes Paul’s guide to Fremen culture.
9. Liet-Kynes (Sharon Duncan-Brewster)
Kynes was originally a man in the novel but has been switched to a female character in the 2020 version. An imperial “planetologist,” Liet-Kynes strides the line between two worlds–officially stationed on Arrakis to monitor, study, and report to the Emperor, Kynes is actually the daughter of the former planetologist stationed on the planet and a Fremen woman, and it’s to the Fremen that Kynes remains fiercely loyal. She is the nearest thing the scattered Fremen communities have to a figurehead and the person to whom all Fremen align themselves.
10. Stilgar (Javier Bardem)
The leader, or Naib, of the Sietech tribe of Fremen, Stilgar is one of the first on Arrakis to formally ally themselves with House Atreides, in no small part thanks to the efforts of Duncan Idaho.
11. Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgård)
The villainous Baron Harkonnen represents a diametric opposition to Duke Leto. With a generations-long rivalry, House Harkonnen would love nothing more than to see House Atreides destroyed–and to make this dream a reality, Vladimir is willing to stop at nothing to completely exterminate Leto’s linage, even if that necessitates an extremely complicated (and convoluted) trap to be sprung on him.
Perhaps more importantly, House Harkonnen held the Arrakis fief prior to it being passed to House Atreides and, while the desert planet is considered one of the most brutal and inhospitable in the galaxy, both of the great Houses know its value as the center of the spice trade.
12. Glossu Rabban Harkonnen (Dave Bautista)
The elder nephew of Baron Harkonnen, Glossu Rabban was the seated governor of Arrakis during Harkonnen rule. Known for his devastating cruelty and sadism, Glossu Rabban was nicknamed “Mudir Nahya” or “Demon Ruler” by the Fremen, who he brutalized for years. The reality of Glossu Rabban’s position was actually more machiavellian than originally let on–the Baron had positioned him in power hoping that he would make the Fremen people so miserable that, later, when the Baron could remove him from his post and replace him with his younger (theoretically more clever) nephew, Feyd-Rautha, the Fremen would see it as an act of great benevolence.
13. Shai-Hulud, Makers, Sandworms (Themselves)
Arguably the most famous part of Arrakis’s ecosystem, the giant sandworms that prowl beneath the dunes are worshiped as gods by the Fremen people. With giant mouths ringed with massive teeth, the sandworms share a symbiotic relationship with the Spice, meaning that the actual process of spice mining tends to be extremely dangerous and often lethal. Where there is Spice, so also there are worms, as Liet-Kynes once explained.
Not much is known about the sandworm life cycle, given their size and penchant for destroying anything that gets too near them, but the Fremen are, on occasion, able to take their teeth and form holy daggers known as crysknives.