7 Things The Dune Trailer Just Taught Us About The Movie

The Spice in Dune

It was all the way back in February 2017 when it was first announced that acclaimed director Denis Villeneuve would be helming a new adaptation of Frank Herbert’s legendary novel Dune. In the years since then, fans have watched in awe as the production has come together, assembling an all-star cast… but up until now it’s really all been theoretical. Without any footage available, we really have had no idea what to expect from the blockbuster. Of course, that time has now come to an end thanks to the stunning new trailer.

Following a virtual Q&A session hosted by Stephen Colbert and featuring Denis Villeneuve and his cast, the debut Dune trailer has delivered an epic first look at the blockbuster – showcasing elements of both story and plot while also showing off its crazy ensemble. And what’s particularly nice about it is that there’s a lot that can be gleaned from it if you’re familiar with the source material… which we happen to be. That in mind, let’s dive into eight things we just learned about the blockbuster.

Rebecca Fergusson as Lady Jessica in Dune

We Now Have A Pretty Good Sense Of How Much Of The Book Is Being Adapted

One of the most interesting things about Dune’s development is the fact that the movie is adapting only half of the source material – with the plan being that a yet-to-be-confirmed-but-planned sequel will follow it and cover the rest. That being said, details have been fuzzy in regards to the spot in the book where this first film will leave things. Based on this trailer, however, it feels like we now have a pretty good idea.

Without getting so far into the details as to provide spoilers for those who haven’t read the book, the footage suggests that the movie is going to build up to a climax that is the raid on House Atreides orchestrated by Baron Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgard). The story will follow Paul (Timothee Chalamet) and his family as they try and establish themselves on Arrakis, known for its giant sandworms and spice mining, but all the while, as discussed in the voice over of Reverend Mother Mohiam (Charlotte Rampling), there is the looming knowledge that the Harkonnens have orchestrated the Atreides move to the planet as part of a trap.

Zendaya as Chani in Dune

We Will See Paul’s Dreams Of The Future

Acknowledging the aforementioned split, book fans will recognize that this means that the film won’t dig deep into the relationship between Paul and Chani (Zendaya), as that primarily unfolds in the latter half of the novel, but Dune’s trailer most definitely confirms that the movie will highlight the importance of their pairing. Specifically, the movie will feature the protagonist’s dreams that turn out to be premonitions, and Chani is a major figure in those visions.

It’s true that the trailer does seem to feature the moment when Paul and Chani meet in person for the first time (with the line “I know you” highlighting the edit), but the footage and knowing the book also seems to also suggest that Zendaya will have a more chimerical presence in the majority of the film. If done well (which we fully expect, given all the talent involved), the lead up to the characters’ first interaction should be an emotionally impactful scene.

Paul taking the Gom Jabbar test in Dune

The Gom Jabbar Test Will Help Us Get To Know Paul

Dune is a story that wastes no time testing its protagonist – specifically with a literal test. Those who don’t know the book might have no clue what’s going on with the box of pain and the needle, but what that scene features is mightily important for Paul as a character, as it’s a trial of strength and will.

When Paul sticks his hand in that box, what he feels is an ever-increasing heat that makes him feel like his limb is being burned off. If he tries to pull his hand out, Reverend Mother Mohiam will prick him in the neck with that needle, which sports a poison that will kill him. The idea is to determine whether Paul has a mind stronger than that of an animal, as “an animal caught in a trap will gnaw off its own leg to escape.” Not only will it be a key moment early in Dune that will have the protagonist demonstrate his mettle, but it should also be a solid acting moment for Timothee Chalamet as he has to sell the audience on him being it truly wretched pain.

Paul uses his shield in Dune

The Holtzman Shields Have A Wild, Excellent Look

When the first big screen adaptation of Dune was made by David Lynch in 1984, visual effects were still in early stages – and there is no element of the film where this is more glaring than in the depiction of the book’s Holtzman Shields – which are described in the source material as essentially being personal force fields that are emitted from a user’s belt and activated with a switch. The best that the mid-1980s feature could do was generate transparent orange boxes around the bodies of the characters. Of course, technology has come a long way since then, and the new adaptation has them looking excellent.

We only get brief looks at the shield in the Dune trailer, with the most prominent moment being a sparring session between Paul and Gurney Halleck (Josh Brolin), but the look is great. The belt with a switch has been replaced by a button on the back of the hand, and while the shield isn’t obvious when a person is idle, it activates with a blue shimmer when contact is attempted. It’s a beautiful effect, and we can’t wait to see more of it.

Duncan Idaho tears dudes apart in Dune

Duncan Idaho Will Be Unleashed

Dune has no shortage of total badasses, but the warrior who takes center stage in the action in the first trailer is most definitely Jason Momoa’s Duncan Idaho. The character in the book is a Swordmaster of the Ginaz, one of the best in the galaxy with a blade, and the first look footage provides a nice hefty dose of what it is that he can do.

It’s not exactly surprising that the marketing team would push Jason Momoa, given that he is the star of Warner Bros.’ highest-earning superhero film, but watching him in action we have absolutely no reason to complain. The glimpses of his action are brief, but it looks like we are going to see Duncan just mowing through Sardaukar (a.k.a. Harkonnen forces) and we can’t wait for every second of it. “Let’s fight like demons” indeed.

Skellan Skarsgard as Baron Harkonnen in Dune

Baron Harkonnen Looks Like A Nightmare

When it comes to showcasing Stellan Skarsgard as Baron Harkonnen, it seems that Dune is playing things subtle. Though he is the primary antagonist in the story, we only actually get two quick shots of him in the footage – and both of them are obscured (the first with white smoke and the second with black goop). Similarly, he only says two words: “Kill them.” And yet his presence makes an awesome impact that has us hotly anticipating his full reveal.

In the book, Baron Harkonnen is so immensely overweight that his skeletal structure can’t manage – requiring the use of anti-gravity suspensors to get around – and while his mass is only hinted at in the footage, it’s clearly there. We can’t say for certain at this point if we’ll get a full look at the character before the movie is released, or if that’s being maintained as a big screen surprise, but either way it’s a nightmare we anticipate.

Sandworm in Dune

The Sandworms Are Immense And Terrifying

Around the 2:08 mark in the Dune trailer we see a sandworm devouring a spice mining facility, and had the footage only provided that tease we may have been satisfied. Instead, however, the preview gave the massive Arrakis-born creature the big spotlight moment at the end of the piece… and we’re still recovering. It’s a much different look than the 1984 movie incarnation, primarily because of the endless spiny teeth, and they look remarkable.

Again, we don’t want to say too much just so that we can provide non-readers with spoiler protection, but it’s likely that the scene with the sandworm rearing up at the end is going to play out toward the end of the movie, and it appears that it will very much be a hold-your-breath moment. The design of the worm is both beautiful and horrifying, which is exactly what it should be, and is just yet another part of this Dune adaptation that has us counting down the days until it finally arrives for our consumption.

What are your big takeaways from the Dune trailer? What are you most excited to see play out? Is there anything you’re afraid they are going to change or cut? Which character/performance are you most excited to see on the big screen? Hit the comments section with all of your thoughts, feelings, and opinions, and stay tuned for more of CinemaBlend’s coverage of this ridiculously exciting blockbuster – currently scheduled to hit theaters on December 18.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.