With the trailer for Denis Villeneuve's 'Dune' landing online earlier this week, the reaction so far has been largely positive.
More than a few people have noted that it all looks vaguely familiar, be it from 'Star Wars', Disney's adaptation of 'John Carter', or even just standard sci-fi in general. To be fair, 'Dune' was written in 1965 and was hugely influential on a number of directors, writers, actors, and designers.
So yeah, it's going to look familiar seeing as so many people borrowed or outright stole from it. In fact, this isn't even the first time the novel's been adapted. David Lynch made an ill-fated attempt in the '80s with Kyle MacLachlan, and even a couple of made-for-TV movies with a very young James McAvoy.
But what's it actually about? What's in that weird box? Why is it all sand? What's spice? Is it in the future or what?
With that in mind, let's dive into the trailer itself and explain as we go.
So, this is Paul Atreides - played by teen heartthrob Timothée Chalamet. 'Dune' is set in the far, far, far, far, faaaar future. We're talking 20,000 years in the future. The planets are ruled by noble families - think 'Game of Thrones', but in space - and are ruled over by an all-powerful ruler known as the Padishah Emperor.
The story follows as the House of Atreides, led by Duke Leto Atreides - that's Oscar Isaac - takes control of the planet Arrakis, also called Dune. The planet is the only known place in the galaxy where spice is available. Now, this is where it gets weird. This spice basically helps to prolong life, gives people super-intelligence, and allows for the use of space travel. It's the most valuable commodity in the galaxy, and all of these noble families trade amongst each other and deal with the one and only people who access to space travel - the Spacing Guild.
None of this actually features in the trailer per se, but, y'know, it might help with understanding what you're seeing. OK, moving on.
"There's something happening to me. There’s something awakening in my mind. I can’t control it." Remember when we said how 'Dune' was influential in loads of stuff? Yeah, the whole 'chosen one' thing was really codified and locked in with 'Dune' in popular sci-fi. The way that 'The Matrix' talks about Neo being "the one" and how he's embracing his destiny, etc. etc., is very much reminiscent of what 'Dune' is about.
"There's a crusade coming." So, in a nutshell, Paul Atreides - that's Timothée Chalamet's character - has visions of the future whenever he sleeps. Visions of him leading a huge crusade across the galaxy, as generations of his children wipes out the current order of the galaxy.
Again, this is heavy stuff to try and make sense of from a trailer, but it'll make sense when you see the movie. Or maybe not.
Anyway, this is Arrakis - the planet in question where his family are due to take control of. However, the family that was previously in charge of it - known as House Harkonnen - want to wipe out House Atreides, at the behest of the Padishah Emperor.
In a nutshell, the Padishah Emperor is keen to keep everyone fearful and under his control, hence why in a later scene, we see Paul being told that his father rules a planet, and will lose another too.
"The test is simple - remove your hand, and you die."
This is what's known as the Gom Jabbar Test. If you saw 'Blade Runner', you'll know they had a thing called the Voight-Kampff Test, which was to check if you were human or not. This is pretty much the same, and may have even inspired the Voight-Kampff Test.
Basically, what the Gom Jabbar Test does is to see if the person is human or not. The basic idea is to see whether a person's awareness was greater than their instincts. In other words, if they can tell whether a person can act rationally - even when in pain. The woman testing him is called the Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam of the Bene Gesserit.
The Bene Gesserit are this all-female organisation that holds a huge amount of political, religious and social power in the galaxy. They believe it's their duty to guide humanity on a more spiritual, enlightened path and often send their members to wealthy houses to act as concubines or advisors. Paul's mother, the Lady Jessica Atreides, is a member of the Bene Gesserit and Paul was trained in their ways from a very young age - hence why he's able to withstand the test.
Why is she putting him through the test? Ooft. That's... going to take way longer to explain and we're already piling up here. Let's move on.
So, next scene, we see Josh Brolin as Gurney Halleck flipping a sword around himself and fighting Timothée Chalamet with some kind of shield thing on his hand. Again, this is more to reiterate that Chalamet's character lives in a dangerous world, but that he's more than capable of looking after himself as he has teachers and instructors in everything from sword-fighting to mental techniques and warfare.
Next, we finally get to see Oscar Isaac as Duke Leto Atreides, the ruler of House Atreides and the governor of the lush and rainy planet, Caladan. House Atreides has ruled over that planet for generations, so it's a big deal that they've been told to govern Arrakis instead.
So, this is Caladan - where House Atreides has lived for centuries, where Paul grew up and is now leaving for Arrakis. Really, this is more to contrast with Arrakis and how harsh and dead the planet is in comparison with Caladan. Water is a huge thing on Arrakis, because of the fact that it's so scarce.
All those weird suits you see them wearing later on? Those are called still-suits, and they literally suck up every bit of moisture in a person's body and keeps them hydrated long after a point where they shouldn't actually be able to survive. That they - Paul, House Atreides, so on - come from a place where water is so plentiful and abundant to a place that doesn't underline the social ordering in this universe.
That's Lady Jessica, played by Rebecca Ferguson. She's Paul's mother and Duke Leto's concubine. While they're not formally married, they've been together for many years. Because she's a member of the Bene Gesserit and because the House Atreides is that powerful, the political machinations mean that it's better if Duke Leto Atreides remains unmarried because marriages could potentially be valuable to them later on.
Lots of desert shots, the House Atreides stepping on to the planet, and here we see all the ships landing on Arrakis. As mentioned, the planet is essentially one giant desert, but the spice in the sand is the most valuable commodity in the galaxy - and the reason why House Atreides has been sent there to manage the mining operations previously run by House Harkonnen.
That's Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho, another of Paul's teachers and the lead fighter of House Atreides, doing that sneaking up thing that Jason Momoa does in real life.
That's Javier Bardem as Stilgar, one of the leaders of the Fremen. See that weird blue thing in his eyes? That's spice addiction. The Fremen are the natives on Arrakis and survive in the harsh desert environments by wearing still-suits, which we mentioned earlier. A lot of the names, imagery, and the design are taken from Arabian and North African culture, so it shouldn't be a surprise that much of the movie was shot in Jordan.
"Arrakis is a death trap." Yeah, no kidding. Remember how we mentioned 'Game of Thrones' at the top of this? It's not just the whole noble families thing that 'Game of Thrones' took inspiration from. The idea of a central character dying in and around the halfway point in a story is also pretty central in 'Dune'.
Now, we're not going to say who and how they die or what it entails for the rest of the story, but again, this book has been out since 1965 so it's kind of hard to claims spoilers when the source material is older than a fair chunk of the cast in the movie itself. Leaving all that aside for the minute, we see the Saradukar, Baron Harkonnen, played by Stellan Skarsgard, and 'The Beast' Rabban, played by Dave Bautista.
The Saradukar are the Padishah Emperor's elite warrior caste, who are on Arrakis helping the Harkonnens to wipe out House Atreides. The Harkonnens are the ruling family who previously controlled Arrakis and were "forced" - note the inverted commas - by the Padishah Emperor to turn control of the planet over to House Atreides.
Because they'd been in control of the planet for so long, House Harkonnen's wealth and power came from that and they're obviously not going to give that up without a fight. More to the point, the whole thing was engineered by the Padishah Emperor to have the Harkonnens wipe out the Atreides without having to get directly involved. Again, it's all very court intrigue, backstabbing, noble families fighting each other, and very influential on 'Game of Thrones'.
From there, you can see palm trees on fire, Rebecca Ferguson looking scared, Timothée Chalamet calling it an "extermination", a brief glimpse of Dr. Wellington Yueh played by Chen Chang, Jason Momoa fighting like a demon, and then a callback to the Gom Jabbar Test.
So, this is Chani - the woman that Paul Atreides saw in his dreams, and the one that he was destined to meet on Arrakis. As you can probably guess, the two of them are the romantic core of the movie, as well as being pretty hugely important for the rest of the series.
After that, we see lots of explosions and a few flashes of stuff, which we'll go through one by one.
That's Stellan Skarsgard again as Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, the movie's big baddie in every sense of the word.
Really, when you come right down to it, 'Dune' is an examination of what happens to a people when they've been colonised, had their land exploited and plundered, and when they decided to fight back. The spice, while it might have all these incredible properties, has been held in the grip of terrible people, and has only imposed more and more inequality on them.
The book, as well, goes into huge detail about ecology, planetary science, not to mention the whole mind-expanding aspect of spice comes from '60s counter-culture and mushrooms. On top of that, the final shot in the trailer introduces the sand worms - which are the indigenous creatures on Arrakis that the Fremen ride with these special hooks.
Again, when 'Dune' was written in 1965, the idea of turning it into a movie was just completely nuts. You couldn't even think about making a movie with this many moving parts, this level of imagination, and this kind of depth. A lot of people draw parallels between 'Dune' and 'Lord of the Rings' in how detailed the world is, how the characters interact with one another, and how it's only now that they're able to fully realised on screen.
So, are we excited for 'Dune', you ask? Yeah, a little bit.