Dune promises to be a truly sweeping science-fiction saga when it arrives in Cineworld cinemas this week. Sicario and Arrival director Denis Villeneuve stages a genuinely breathtaking adaptation of Frank Herbert's novel (at least, the first half of it), although it can't be denied that the Dune universe is a complicated one.
We realise many of you may be uninitiated in the ways of the book, so we've arranged a handy character guide to bring you up to speed. If you don't know your Barons from your Yuehs, then you've come to the right place. Also be sure to check out our Dune glossary of terms for yet more important background detail.
Baron Vladimir Harkonnen
Played by Stellan Skarsgard
The scheming figurehead of House Harkonnen, the Baron is grotesquely fat and floats around with the aid of a suspensor. Dune author Frank Herbert partly modelled the character on the decadent corruption of Roman emperors, and the Baron is scheming with the Padishah Emperor to destroy House Atreides. This is because the Emperor fears the rising influence of Duke Leto Atreides. By vacating the planet of Arrakis, where they have been mining for spice and indulging in the profits, the Harkonnens are luring their mortal enemies the Atreides family into a trap. With the Atreides clan out of the way, the Harkonnens can enforce a steel grip on the vulnerable ecosystem of Arrakis and the valuable spice contained within.
Glossu 'Beast' Rabban Harkonnen
Played by Dave Bautista
The brutish nephew of Baron Vladimir Harkonnen who terrorises the indigenous Arrakis Fremen while the Harkonnens are occupying the planet. When the House of Atreides is later granted stewardship of Arrakis, Beast Rabban is paired with the Emperor's fearsome elite troops, the Sardaukar, to lead an insurgent attack on Duke Leto and his family.
Played by Zendaya
A member of the indigenous Fremen and the daughter of ecologist Liet-Kynes. Chani appears to young Paul Atreides in his dreams, which portends an era of great change and upheaval.
Duke Leto Atreides
Played by Oscar Isaac
Heavy lies the crown on the head of House Atreides, who is granted stewardship of the planet Arrakis. Duke Leto knows that he and his family are being lured into a trap, being well-aware of the Padishah Emperor's jealousy and suspicion. Nevertheless, Leto is duty-bound and must uproot from his home planet of Caladan to Arrakis to begin spice harvesting. He aims to be different from the past colonisers of Arrakis, vowing to build a closer connection with the indigenous and oft-exploited Fremen. However, the desert peoples are naturally suspicious of any outsiders, or 'off-worlders'. Duke Leto must balance his duty with his paternal love towards his son Paul, the heir-in-waiting whom Leto is schooling in the arts of political, mental and physical warfare.
Played by Jason Momoa
The swordmaster of House Atreides and an important mentor to Paul Atreides. Duncan Idaho leads an advance party to Arrakis where he attempts to assimilate with the Fremen in one of their 'sietches' (native dwellings). He subsequently gains great respect for the Fremen and attempts to impart this onto Paul and the rest of House Atreides.
Played by Josh Brolin
Another important mentor to Paul Atreides who steps in as combat master when Duncan Idaho must leave early for Arrakis. The strong-willed and wry-humoured Gurney is steadfast in teaching young Paul in the arts of warfare, training via use of a Holtzman shield, which throws up a blue forcefield and turns red when it's breached. Gurney is also a fan of proverbs and can often be heard throwing out maxims in unexpected situations.
Played by Rebecca Ferguson
Duke Leto's concubine and the mother of Paul Atreides. Lady Jessica is a member of the Bene Gesserit, a secretive matriarchal religious order that holds important sway over the Guild of Navigators and the Emperor in their quest to exploit the Arrakis spice. The Bene Gesserit harnesses the ability to communicate with an inner-voice, which they can use to compel people to their will. More significantly, in bearing Duke Leto a son rather than a daughter, Lady Jessica has broken with the orthodox Bene Gesserit convention. She has been teaching Paul about the ways of the order, and his raw yet instinctive abilities appear to portend the arrival of the messiah known as the 'Kwisatz Haderach' ('shortening of the way') who will liberate the universe – albeit at great cost.
Played by Sharon Duncan-Brewster
A Fremen tribesperson, mother of Chani and an ecologist who also acts as Judge of the Change on Arrakis, overseeing the transfer of spice harvesting from the Harkonnens to the Atreides family. Liet Kynes possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of the Arrakis eco-system and the marauding sandworms, although given her dealings with the Harkonnens, she's naturally suspicious of Duke Leto Atreides and his promises.
Played by Timotheé Chalamet
The protagonist of Dune, and the young man who finds himself at the centre of an inter-planetary crossroads. Paul is an unassuming youth from Caladan who must learn to bear the mantle of his father, Duke Leto Atreides, while also being schooled in the arts of the Bene Gesserit order. Upon his arrival on Arrakis, Paul realises that his dreams of the planet portend actual events in his future. The indigenous Fremen eventually see him as their 'Mahdi', or 'the one who will lead us to paradise'. Paul will learn that his prophesised destiny as the 'kwisatz haderach' is a double-edged sword, and that promises of liberation come at great cost to the rest of the universe.
Piter de Vries
Played by David Dastmalchian
The 'Mentat' (essentially a human computer) of House Harkonnen who advises the Baron in his schemes.
Played by Charlotte Rampling
Aka Gaius Helen Mohiam, the fearsome Bene Gesserit member who possesses an advanced level of training and knowledge. She also holds the ear of the Padishah Emperor. The Reverend Mother is aware of Lady Jessica's attempts to train Paul Atreides in the ways of the order, so the former puts him through the 'Gom Jabbar', essentially a litmus test to challenge his humanity and locate whether he is, in fact, destined to become the 'kwisatz haderach'. The Reverend Mother disapproves of Lady Jessica steering the Bene Gesserit bloodline towards males but must remain loyal to her as a member of the order, and these multifaceted allegiances become more significant as the story proceeds.
Played by Javier Bardem
The leader of the Fremen tribe located at Sietch Tabr on Arrakis. Stilgar has been witness to much cruelty towards his people, and Duke Leto's promise of an accord don't sit easily with him. For Stilgar and the rest of his people, the real currency of Arrakis is water, and the Fremen are uniquely positioned to take advantage of this precious resource, including the use of stillsuits that recycle the body's water supply. When Paul and Lady Jessica find themselves stranded in the Arrakis desert following the Harkonnen betrayal. Stilgar reluctantly accepts them into the Fremen collective, but not before putting Paul through a test of manhood.
Played by Stephen McKinley Henderson
The Mentat of House Atreides and a key ally to both Duke Leto and Paul.
Played by Chang Chen
The physician of House Atreides whose actions play a key role in determining the fate of the royal household.
Click here to book your tickets for Dune, released in Cineworld cinemas nationwide on 21st October.