Timothée Chalamet is Paul Atreides in Dune.

Dune: We Break Down That Epic First Trailer

Dept. of Sneaks and Peeks


It’s here! After what felt like an impossibly long wait, we finally got our first look at Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of Dune. And boy is it a doozy. Everyone is here. Timothée Chalamet is here. Zendaya is here. Jason Momoa, and Oscar Isaacs, and Josh Brolin, and Rebecca Ferguson, and Charlotte Rampling are here. The sandworms are here!

And while these three minutes provide a thrilling tease of what’s to come, how does Team Goggler feel about the direction that Denis Villeneuve has taken in adapting this most unadaptable of novels?

Umapagan Ampikaipakan: So let’s do this. What are your first impressions! Go!

Bahir Yeusuff: Honestly, it was aight.

Iain McNally: *to crowds of assembled Fremen* “Ok guys. Pack it up. That’s a wrap. He said it was ‘aight’. We’re done here.” 

UA: You get out of here right now. You leave. Meanwhile, I’ll just sit here chanting Denis Villeneuve’s name.

IM: Bahir this article, like Arrakis, is a deathtrap. C’mere, I just need you to put your hand in this box for oooone second…

BY: See all those references you just made? I don’t get it. I mean, I get it because I saw it in the trailer, but I don’t get it.

IM: And to be fair, that’s to be expected. What did you think of what you saw? Does this look like an Arrival-y sci-fi thriller you might be interested in, or just some weird niche sci-fi Lord of the Rings/Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets nonsense that you feel like you can safely skip?

BY: Look, don’t get me wrong, the trailer looks amazing. Especially after what little I saw of Lynch’s Dune (I nopped out hard when Sting first shows up) and the colorful jester clothes of Jodorowsky’s Dune. But the trailer really feels like it was made for people who know what all those things mean. The thing with the vibrating sword. I don’t know why that’s supposed to be exciting. The box. Sure, it’s a danger pain box. But a lot of the trailer’s references felt very alienating. I mean, I’ll still watch it because it looks like a kick ass movie, but it didn’t make me want to replay the trailer.

IM: Sting sends his regards.

Look at what Sting is wearing.

UA: We’ll get to “what’s in the box?” in a little bit. (Note: It’s not Gwyneth’s head! Spoilers for anyone who hasn’t seen Se7en.) But why I think the trailer works, for both folk who are familiar with the source material and the casual viewer, is because Villenueve manages to tread that fine line between obscure concepts like the Gom Jabbar and just out-and-out star wars.

IM: “The trailer works, for both folk who are familiar with the source material and the casual viewer.” Does it though? What was it that you found ”amazing” Bahir? What in this trailer would entice to you to see the movie? I think Uma and I might be too close to the source material. God knows I’m going because ORNITHOPTERS!

BY: Honestly, the fact that it’s a Denis Villenueve joint. And the fact that people I respect, like and respect the book. It’s just that I didn’t jump out of my seat when I saw the vibrating knife fight. Or the giant worm at the end.

UA: All of the cosmetic things about this movie look and feel right. The casting. The costumes. The sandworm. And even Villeneuve’s tendency towards a slightly washed out colour palate. Not to mention the sheer scale of what this movie is. I think the trailer manages to communicate all of that rather well. 

Shields on!

BY: Okay, so we’ve heard what this noob has to say. What do you Dune nerds think? How many times have you watched the trailer Uma?

UA: Only seven times! For me, making Dune was always difficult because I didn’t want something too true to the novel. The book is very cerebral. It’s all about what people are thinking. We go deep into the inner lives of the characters. And while that works on the page, a movie needs to be exciting. And from this trailer, it looks like Villenueve has added a little spice (pun intended) to the proceedings. I already know that some fans are going to be annoyed at just how much “action” there appears to be in this movie. But I think it actually does a lot to supplement Paul’s journey.

BY: That’s Chalamet right?

IM: Yes, that’s him. It’s HIS movie. I like that it does look like an adaptation. Villeneuve has a definite take. There’s a thread running through the trailer of what Paul will do. Can he learn to lead successfully? What will he do if caught in a trap (“Arrakis is a death trap” and “an animal will sometimes gnaw off it’s own leg to escape a trap”)? Villeneuve seems to be treating it as an honest to goodness coming of age story, with a love story thrown in with Zendaya. Which I’d prefer over a dry, arid, parched, etc. etc. etc. retelling of the events of the book. I mean, this isn’t a Disney remake.

What's in the box?

UA: I also think it was really smart to show us the scene with the box. That was definitely for the fans. It is such a pivotal moment from early in the novel, and the way it’s depicted here is pitch perfect.

So, the box is a test. Paul places his hand inside the box and the Bene Gesserit Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam channels her energy (Chi, the Force, whatever you want to call it) to create a sensation of overwhelming pain. If Paul removes his hand at any point, she will prick his neck with a Gom Jabbar, that poison pin she’s got held up against his skin, and kill him instantly. To survive, he has to resist the urge to pull his hand out, no matter how much it hurts. The idea here is to see if his intellect can supersede his survival instincts.

In the book, Paul actually holds out longer than anyone ever has. You know, because he’s the chosen one and all. And the words you hear toward the end of the trailer are called “The Litany Against Fear,” which he recites in order to distract himself from the pain. It’s probably one of the most iconic set of lines from the novel.  (IM: It’s also the basis for a banging track on the REZ soundtrack.)

So when I saw that, I felt that it was Villeneuve going, “I know what I’m doing suckers.”

IM: I mean, Paul IS the chosen one, but after Mulan, I’d prefer to think at that stage he passes the box test because he’s had some naughty (mental martial arts) training from mommy. What did you guys think of the look of the film? I’ve seen complaints that it looks washed out (as compared to Mad Max: Fury Road) but I can see that as a choice for “moody sci-fi.” The armour looks cool. As does Dave Bautista as The Beast Rabban. I’m on board the with ornithopters as they look like cool dragonflies which always beings me back to the old Cryo Dune videogame.  

The ornithopter in the classic Cryo video game.

BY: I’m on board with the look. I mean, it’s about warring space tribes on a dessert. Sure colours would be nice, but colours could also look really out of place in that setting.

UA: It’s very much in line with Villeneuve’s style. See: Arrival, Sicario, even Blade Runner 2049. This isn’t an explosion of colour like in Valerian

IM: I presume they’ll keep some colour for key elements and moments that should pop, like that bloody hand on Oscar Isaac’s shirt, which reminded me of the hand (and the sleeper must awaken line) from Lynch’s version.

Were those Sardaukar all dressed in white and ninja roping into a scene without actual ninja ropes because “IT IS THE YEAR 10,191” as Virginia Madsen might say?

UA: I miss Virginia Madsen’s face. The two things we didn’t have in this trailer that I’m most looking forward to are Feyd and the Guild Navigators. I think the most exciting thing about these various adaptations (even Jodorwoksy’s) is seeing how the different directors and concept artists have interpreted Frank Herbert’s ideas.

IM: Speaking of which, whats’s going on with the design of Stellan Skarsgård’s neck muscles? In that bath scene he looks like the old muscley prison Bill and Ted from Face The Music? Is Stellan Ripped now?

BY: This is going to be multiple movies right? Do you guys have any idea where the break might be?

IM: Right after we’re introduced to Stellan’s neck meat!

I don’t know though. There’s one scene where paul sees a “crusade” not a “jihad” that seems to show him and Chani standing in silhouette with a battle raging in the background. That would seem to come from much later in the story, but most of the other stuff looks like it all comes from Paul and family arriving on Arrakis, and then Paul running off to the desert to escape the evil Harkonnen.

I’m guessing he joins the Fremen (Dune natives basically) and swears revenge in this movie, with Part 2 showing him rising in the ranks of the Fremen.

We don’t know if they are going to include anything from the later books, do we? 

Hi Dave!

UA: I was thinking that a natural place to split the movies would be at the point at which the Atreides are taken out by the Harkonnen/Sardaukar. That feels like a good cliffhanger. Or would it be too harsh to end the movie there?

IM: It comes down to what you want from a Dune movie. You want a (white)  saviour narrative, then that’s the second half of the story. The first bit is all about space politics and Game of Thrones in space. 

BY: I want to AVOID hearing about white saviour narratives please. Thank you very much.

IM: Ehhhhh. It’s kind of at the core of the material, but that’s okay! The locals are white too! They just have blue eyes. Like really, really blue, so that’s okay, and not racist, or weird, or anything. 

UA: I think it’s a very conscious decision to use the word “crusade” instead of “jihad.” It’s one way of sidestepping some of the more touchy subjects in the novel.

IM: Absolutely.

BY: I don’t really care if it is a white saviour story. I just don’t want to see the 300 think pieces for and against it.

UA: It’s really going to be interesting to see how the mass moviegoing audience reacts to this. The problem with any sort of big question sci-fi has always been people going in and expecting a lot of pew pew. And then being disappointed when all they see are people talking. (Exhibit A: Blade Runner 2049.)

IM:  So what did we think of using Pink Floyd in the trailer? Of course it won’t be in the movie, but it’s a really odd choice for the trailer. Was it an original cover done for the trailer? 

UA: I read that it was a cover. They got Hans Zimmer to rearrange “Eclipse” for this trailer. But when I first heard it, I thought it was an homage to Jodorowsky wanting Pink Floyd to compose the soundtrack for his Dune

IM: Could well be. Or it could end up being the end credits music for the film (would you hire Zimmer just for a trailer?).  Either way it lent a totally epic air to those scenes, right?

UA: It totally did. It was also a nice acknowledgement that this movie doesn’t exist in isolation. Villeneuve nodding to previous attempts is classy.

IM: Hopefully he’ll have David Lynch back again to reprise his role as Spice Miner from the 1984 version.

Look, it's the Great Pit of Carkoon.

BY: I don’t know if this movie will convert me, but I have faith enough in Villeneuve that this will be a movie to remember. Hell, may even be worth buying a Blu-ray. 

IM: Agreed. *lifts sword to chest, then to forehead, in cool salute from the trailer*

UA: I think this is where The Lord of the Rings test applies. A tonne of people watched those movies, went out and bought those books, only to realise that Peter Jackson had essentially given us the “good bits version.” They never did finish those novels. 

BY: Jumping in on the Lord Of The Rings/Dune comparison, do you think Lord Of The Rings was more accessible?

UA: The movies are a lot more accessible than the books. That’s for sure. 

IM: Who’s the Tom Bombadil of Dune though? It’s not Duncan Idaho, CAUSE HE IS ALL OVER THIS TRAILER (that’s Jason Momoa, Bahir). If you are just adapting the first book, he is one of the first things I’d jettison. He only really becomes super important in later books. LOTR has a classic quest narrative. Express delivery of one ring to Mordor. Dune has an obvious (white) saviour plot line, but it’s also about warrior nuns, ecology, mind (and space) bending drugs, and a hero trying to survive while plotting his way through multiple futures THAT HE CAN ACTUALLY SEE (thanks to those aforementioned drugs), most of which result in him unleashing a JIHAD (yes, I said it) across the universe. And that’s one of the better outcomes.

UA: But we don’t mention the unmentionable sequels in this house! 

IM: Not even if I give you your own personal ghola? All the way from planet Ix! Still in its original packaging, never used!

UA: I hate you for reminding me of that. 

Sandworms motherfucker!

IM: Hold on to your hat Bahir, the later Herbert sequels do get a little wild. Look up what happens to Leto II ( Paul’s son) in the later books. It’s wild, and very sci-fi, and goofy, and horrifying as all hell.  

To get back to the trailer for this movie though, some other things I liked in no particular order  – the shield fighting, the way the Reverend Mother held the Gom Jabbar needle to Paul’s neck, indicating the complete mastery of physical movement and poise thanks to the Bene Gesserit training, ORNITHOPTERS, that sword salute, and THE WORM! 

As someone with no vested interest Bahir, what did you think of the big worm at the end of the trailer Bahir? Impressive or just weird? 

BY: It looks a little weird, but then again, giant sand worms is generally a really weird idea. No weirder than the Sarlacc.

IM: Yeah. It’s just a giant mobile Sarlacc really. No weirder than that.

UA: I agree with all of the things you liked Iain. It feels like this is a movie whose time has come. In that movie magic has finally caught up with everything Frank Herbert imagined. It feels real and believable, but also lived in. That worm though, I can’t wait to see that worm in IMAX.

IM: Well I think that just about wraps things up for this edition of “Two and a half FREmen.” All that’s left to say is: LOOK AT THE ORNITHOPTERS! THEY FINALLY GOT THEM RIGHT! THEY LOOK LIKE DRAGON FLIES! 

I really like the ornithopters, Bahir!

UA: Looks like we know what we’re getting Iain for Christmas!

IM: Rebecca Ferguson?

We have a tonne of Dune content here on Goggler. Uma talks about his first encounter with Frank Herbert’s novel. Iain reviews the Sci-Fi Channel’s mini-series. Bahir takes a look at the greatest Dune movie that never was. We even break down Dune: The Alternative Edition Redux, the incredible fan edit that tries to recompile the movie into a version that’s closer to David Lynch’s original intent. You can find all of that here.

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