We sift through the sands of Arrakis to find the nuggets of spice in the trailer for Denis Villeneuve’s sprawling space epic Dune.
(This trailer breakdown comes courtesy of Spool staffers Beau North and Megan Sunday.)
So the trailer for Denis Villeneuve’s Dune adaptation dropped a few minutes ago and we have some thoughts.
It does what a good genre trailer should do: offer up details for the knowledgeable (Paul’s fish bed! The Old Duke and the Bull!) and still generalize the story to make it accessible for the uninitiated. You don’t know what Dune is about? Well, here’s a little helping of its universe. You do know? Here’s Duncan Idaho doing his thing. Get ready!
Pacing-wise, it’s strong, though I’m sure people expected the trailer to open with the testing scene rather than a dreamy, romantic one. Paul (Timothée Chalamet) and Chani’s (Zendaya) relationship is important, it’s not just a side story or something for the youth. Opening with it sets up Dune as more than just another war story or space boy epic, although, as we all know, it’s all of the above. To that end, the trailer has a little bit for everyone: romance, battle, politics, spaceships, hats, Thufir’s cute little parasol, and a giant worm.
It’s fascinating to see the Atreides as this force rather than just a loving family who get put into a bad situation. You get a real feeling of the danger and political maneuvering involved. And Oscar Isaac might be the closest we’ve seen to Duke Leto from the book. There’s a weariness about him but also a sharp intensity and real feeling of ruthlessness.
Paul’s confusion and determination are front and center here. I think this might be one of those times an adaptation will portray Paul as a Protagonist rather than a Hero. Extra points for using the word “crusade” instead of “Jihad”. I particularly liked how angry and frightened Paul is while confessing to the Reverend Mother that yes, he does dream things that come to pass. Prescience would be terrifying and it’s refreshing to see that instead of “I can see the future?! Boss!”
The trailer makes no bones about his family’s fate. The Reverend Mother tells Paul he must be the one to lead and doesn’t waste any time telling him that his father will lose everything. She literally says “Arrakis is a death trap,” so if you’re unfamiliar with Dune, don’t get too attached to any one character! It’s good that they’re setting expectations for how bloody this story really is, and the scenes of Jason Momoa’s swordmaster Duncan Idaho really reinforce that. Not only that but you see HUGE armies which should give you an idea of how big this story is. Everyone here looks ready to fight, even Chani, who looks as if a strong wind might blow her away.
And while we’re talking about scale, it should also be noted that Arrakis is home to Sandworms. It was pure joy to finally get a real sense of how massive they are, how dangerous they are. Yeah, they look a bit silly (like giant lampreys) but they’re so important to the story, to the Fremen religion, that you really needed to see Paul facing one like David meeting the Goliath to get an idea of how vital a character he is.
If there are any negatives, the trailer spends very little time on Paul’s mother, Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), or Liet Kynes (Sharon Duncan-Brewster). It’s possible they’re saving these two characters for an extended trailer, but Jessica certainly is maybe the most important character next to Paul. But, it’s fitting that they’d keep the great Bene Gesserit under their hats. Jessica is such a cipher, when you do get a glimpse behind her mask the depth of her feelings always comes as a bit of a shock.
There’s been much made already about the color palette, particularly when the first images were released. But seeing it made large and in conjunction with everything happening on-screen plot and location-wise, it’s perfect. People are fighting or traveling, earth tones and black are fine. Arrakis is a desert, Caladan is the PNW, browns and reds and blues and greens just work.
So if the trailer piqued your interest or you have questions about Dune, you’ve still got time to read the book before the movie drops, depending on how fast you read. Or you can check out Let’s Get Weirding: A Dune Podcast, where we discuss the books, chapter by chapter.