Fear is the mind-killer.
Have you faced your fear and allowed it to pass over you and through you? If not, you might want to get on that–you can start by watching the first trailer for Denis Villeneuve’s Dune and then heading back here as we break down every little moment you probably missed. But first, if you have watched the trailer and are completely new to the Duniverse, you may want to go check out our primer on every character you’ll need to know–it’s spoiler-free, so don’t worry. Frank Herbert’s novel may be 55 years old, but we’re still invested in making sure you get a pure, Spice-infused Dune experience no matter how you come to the story.
Now, with that in mind, this trailer is pretty dense in terms of Dune lore, so strap in and prepare yourself to be a little overwhelmed by the scope and scale of it all as we take you through shot-by-shot.
Dune is set to hit theaters on December 18.
1. Meet Paul
Naturally, the first shot of the first trailer is dedicated to Dune’s hero, Paul Atreides, heir to House Atreides. Paul is played by Timothee Chalamet in this version of the story.
2. Paul’s Visions
One of the key elements in Dune’s story is Paul’s prophetic visions. Long before he actually sets foot on Arrakis, he begins to have dreams about the desert planet and, more specifically, about a woman he’s never actually met. We see those dreams play out here in brief flashes–and though Paul doesn’t know it yet, it’s obvious the woman he’s seeing is none other than Chani.
Chani, the daughter of Arrakis planetologist Liet-Kynes, is a prominent figure in Paul’s dreams, and a critical part of Paul’s introduction to Fremen culture. Chani is played by Zendaya in the 2020 version of Dune.
4. There’s a crusade coming
Paul’s visions are, unfortunately, not enough to help him completely circumvent the disaster that befalls his family–some moments of which we briefly see here. The story of Dune centers on the complicated political machinations of two great houses–the heroic House Atreides and the villainous House Harkonnen–with the planet Arrakis as the stage. Even if you’re totally unfamiliar with the novel, moments like this in the trailer should tell you everything you need to know about exactly how poorly that goes.
5. Meeting the Reverend Mother
Dune’s political system is complicated, to say the least, and while the galaxy is essentially ruled by an emperor, the emperor is surrounded by other extremely powerful and influential groups who are able to wield just as much–if not more–power and influence. One such group is the Bene Gesserit, an all-female cabal who blend theology and spirituality with socio-economic maneuvering to exert their influence across the galaxy.
The Reverend Mother Gaius Mohaim, portrayed by Charlotte Rampling, is an extremely high-ranking Bene Gesserit and the person responsible for training Paul’s mother, Lady Jessica. She can be seen here, waiting for Paul, and heard narrating the bulk of the trailer.
6. The Gom Jabbar
One of the most famous parts of Dune lore has to be the Gom Jabbar Test of Humanity, which Gaius Mohaim gives to Paul. The test is relatively simple–the subject must put their hand inside a box which causes them great physical pain. As this happens and the pain escalates, the Bene Gesserit administering the test holds a Gom Jabbar–a needle coated with extremely lethal venom–at the subject’s throat. If the subject removes their hand from the box or jerks away, the Bene Gesserit will drive the needle into their neck, killing them.
Rather than considering it a test of a person’s pain threshold, the whole process was actually designed to see if a person was “human,” in that they could ignore their instincts for long enough to hone their awareness and school their mind and body–which the Bene Gesserit believe to be the chief distinction between human and animal.
As Paul endures his own test, he taps into the Bene Gesserit training his mother gave him to hold out for longer than anyone Gaius Mohaim had ever tested–thanks in part to the Litany Against Fear, a Bene Gesserit meditation (and arguably the most famous quote from the series) which can be heard later in the trailer.
7. Goodbye Caladan
Dune’s major inciting moment is the move of House Atreides from their home planet Caladan to the desert planet Arrakis–we see some of that migration here, as well as some establishing shots of Caladan, so you can see just how different it is from their new home world. Basically any shot with water in it throughout this trailer is on Caladan.
One of the stranger bits of tech in the Duniverse is the personal shield, or Holtzman shield, that can be projected over a person’s body from an emitter usually worn on the belt, though in this trailer both Gurney and Paul wear theirs on their hands. A personal shield acts as a sort of one-man force field, bubbling the wearer in a protective case to help protect them from any potentially lethal blows and help with training–we can see a few different times here that the shields seem to flash blue when blows are blocked and red when blows break through. We see Paul activate his here.
9. Training with Gurney
Paul trains extensively with House Atreides’ weapon master, Gurney Halleck–played by Josh Brolin. The scene here is likely from the beginning of the story, before the family relocates to Arrakis. Gurney is a poet and musician at heart, but is worried about Paul’s safety on their new homeworld, so he’s definitely not going easy on him.
10. The Duke
Duke Leto is, above all else, a noble man who tries to keep the best interests of his family at heart. The move to Arrakis was not an easy decision for him to make, but the potential reward was something he judged to be greater than the risks. We see him contemplating his choices here while the voice of Gaius Mohaim states ominously that he’s losing his planet for a new one, and he’ll lose that one, too. Duke Leto Atreides is portrayed by Oscar Issac in the 2020 adaptation.
11. Lady Jessica
Paul’s mother, the Bene Gesserit Lady Jessica, is Duke Leto’s concubine. The two never married for political reasons but remain absolutely faithful to one another. Rebecca Ferguson portrays Lady Jessica in this particular interpretation of the novel.
12. Bene Gesserit Sisters
The look and feel of members of the Bene Gesserit order is something that has changed pretty dramatically across every adaptation of Dune. Here we see Villeneuve’s take on them, complete with sheer shrouds over their heads and gold ornamental jewelry.
13. Thufir Hawat
Duke Leto’s trusted Mentat (human computer–see our character breakdown for more on him), Thufir Hawat (Stephen McKinnley Henderson), is only briefly seen in the trailer, carrying a classy little parasol to help block out the harsh Arrakis sun.
14. Duncan Idaho
Duncan Idaho, played by Jason Momoa, is one of the most skilled fighters serving House Atreides. He was among the first to travel from Caladan to Arrakis in order to scout ahead and see if he could find any in-roads with the Fremen. We see him here as he’s reunited with the family–especially Paul, who he trains.
Stilgar, played by Javier Bardem, is one of the leaders of the Fremen people. We see him here taking the mask off his stillsuit, a full-body device that repurposes all escaped moisture and bodily fluid (yes, all bodily fluids) into drinkable water.
16. The Harkonnens
We only briefly see the figureheads of House Harkonnen in this trailer–a murky, over the shoulder shot of Baron Vladimir (Stellan Skarsgard) and a moment of Glossu Rabban (Dave Bautista), apparently surveying his troops.
17. Dr. Yueh
Dr. Wellington Yueh, the chief doctor of House Atreides, is easy to pick out in a crowd thanks to the tattoo on his forehead which marks him as a person who has undergone Suk Conditioning, which, in theory, prevents him from harming another living person.
18. The coming of the Sardaukar
One of the looming threats the Harkonnens hold above House Atreides is a connection with the Emperor and his elite military force, the Sardaukar. The Sardaukar are raised from birth on a prison planet called Salusa Secundus, which instills in them not only a natural survival instinct and fierce fighting ability, but a zealous and cult-like religious devotion to the Emperor. We get to watch them landing from their drop ships here, aided by their suspender tech which helps soften their fall–it’s the same tech you might recognize from David Lynch’s 1984 take on Baron Harkonnen, but, well, perhaps a bit more accurate to the novel.
18. “Let’s fight like demons.”
Duncan gets a featured spot in the trailer, showcasing just how great of a fighter he really is as he faces off against the Sardaukar troops. In the novel, Duncan was responsible for rallying House Atreides’ only chance to defend themselves–the Fremen, who they believed to be the only fighting force in the galaxy who could come close to holding their own against the Sardaukar.
Technology in the Duniverse is a strange thing–thanks in part to a historical war called the Butlerian Jihad, which took place some 10,000 years prior to the events of the story. The Butlerian Jihad completely pivoted the Dune timeline away from our own in terms of how tech works (especially computers) and totally reshaped the look and feel of most machines. We can see a “Thopter” here, the Dune version of a helicopter, obviously modeled after a dragonfly.
21. Atreides Battle Language
Paul and Duncan share a brief gesture that looks almost like a salute, but is more likely a sign in House Atreides’ “battle language.” Somewhere between military hand-signals and secret code, House Atreides developed their very own system of communication to be used on the battlefield that would be indecipherable to any outsiders
22. The Baron takes a dip
Though we don’t see much of Baron Vladimir in this trailer, we do catch a quick glimpse of him emerging from some sort of bath. In the novel, the Baron is described as physically malformed and plagued with all sorts of health problems. In the 1984 version, he was covered in pus-filled boils. We’ll have to wait and see exactly what sort of person he is in this version.
23. My his passage cleanse the world
Our first hint of a famous Arrakis sandworm is an aerial shot of one consuming a Spice mining craft–in the novel, this is Paul’s first ever experience with a sandworm.
We only get a brief glimpse of Dr. Kynes, Arrakis’s resident planetologist, and the nearest thing the Fremen have to a unifying leader between all tribes. Head to our character breakdown for more info on her.
25. Paul and the Fremen
Given Paul’s visions of Chani and the destruction rained down during the Harkonnen “crusade” against House Atreides, it’s no surprise we see Paul finding his way to the Fremen.
26. The litany
Through the voiceover we hear part of the famous Litany Against Fear: “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
27. The Spice
Dune’s famous Spice, or Melange, is found only on Arrakis and mined directly out of the sand. We see Paul take a handful and get a good look at it, glittering between his fingers. Spice apparently smells and tastes a lot like cinnamon–the more you know.
28. Duke Paul
Duncan bows and greets Paul as “my lord duke” at the end of the trailer, which probably tells you everything you need to know about how well Duke Leto fairs.
The final shot of the trailer is a doozy, featuring Paul coming face-to-face (or, well, face-to-gaping maw) with a giant Shai-Hulud, or sandworm. While virtually everyone in the galaxy sees the worms as massive, deadly pests, the Fremen see them as divine and have mastered a way to work with them rather than against them for survival. This includes a way to ride them, and fashion their teeth into holy weapons called crysknives.