Have you tasted the spice emanating from the Dune: Part Two trailer? The first promo for Denis Villeneuve's gargantuan sci-fi sequel went live yesterday evening and promises a spectacular escalation of the Arrakis-set saga. Here it is again for those who need reminding.
Dune newcomer? Not read the entirety of Frank Herbert's classic source novel? Here are the key plot details and characters that we've spotted in the trailer.
1. Paul and Chani's connection
Cast your mind back to Dune: Part One. Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet), the heir of House Atreides, was haunted by visions of a mysterious woman on the desert planet of Arrakis, of which his noble family was about to take up stewardship.
Numerous conflicts, betrayals and deaths later, Paul and his mother, Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) find themselves outcasts in the vast, hostile Arrakis desert, and seemingly at the mercy of the indigenous Fremen. They have long been persecuted by the merciless Harkonnen family, the incumbent Arrakis stewards who have been mining the planet for the coveted spice melange, the substance that powers interstellar travel.
Paul and his family were betrayed via the machinations of the Harkonnens and Emperor Shaddam Corrino IV (played in Dune: Part Two by the as-yet-unseen Christopher Walken). The Emperor had started to fear the influence of House Atreides and coerced the noble clan into taking over Arrakis, setting in motion the ability of House Harkonnen to fight back and wipe them out.
However, Paul and his mother are embraced by the Fremen with the former emerging as the tribe's Mahdi, the chosen one who will lead them to freedom. Crucially, Paul makes contact with the girl he has seen in his dreams: Chani (Zendaya) and their ensuing romance forms the backdrop of Paul's destiny throughout the remainder of the Dune saga. (This encompasses several other books by Frank Herbert and his son Brian, although it's currently unclear if any will be granted fresh big-screen treatments.)
2. Princess Irulan's destiny begins to overlap with that of Paul
Although Princess Irulan's historic epigraphs pepper the chapters of Frank Herbert's original novel, recapping the ascendance of Paul Atreides as the fabled 'kwisatz haderach' (more on which momentarily), the character has yet to appear in Denis Villeneuve's sprawling two-part adaptation.
She now steps out of the shadows as played by the versatile Oscar nominee Florence Pugh. She cottons onto the fact that Paul may still be alive, which portends all manner of intergalactic reckoning and turbulence for Irulan's family. Her father is the aforementioned Emperor Shaddam Corrino IV, and the fact that his great enemy, the heir of House Atreides, still lives, sets in motion a complex union between Paul and the Princess.
In many ways, the narrative starts to act as a commentary on the notion of a romantic union as a political strategy versus a companionship based on genuine trust and connection. Paul's emerging relationships with both Irulan and Chani put these conflicting philosophies to the test.
3. Feyd-Rautha's fearsome fighting abilities
There's a lot of excitement among Dune aficionados about Villeneuve's treatment of the dreaded Feyd-Rautha and for good reason. For one, he's played by Elvis sensation and Oscar nominee Austin Butler, although we're expecting a little less conversation and a lot more action. Certainly, the trailer alludes to a key sequence in the novel where Feyd is seen fighting in a gladiatorial arena, working up the crowd and showing off his bloodthirsty skills.
Butler cuts a striking figure in the trailers, bald of pate and pale in his visage, which is notably different from Herbert's description in the original text. Feyd-Rautha has been raised from birth as a fierce, muscular fighting machine and is also favoured as the heir-apparent to House Harkonnen by his uncle, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgard).
The Baron's machinations will make the Harkonnen sequences much more intriguing in Dune: Part Two than they were in the first instalment, where the villains threatened to feel a tad incidental. The Baron plans to cement Feyd-Rautha as his heir by initially installing Feyd's brother and rival Glossu 'Beast' Rabban (Dave Bautista) as a temporary stool-pigeon ruler.
In the Baron's mind, Rabban's clear incapabilities as a leader will only serve to strengthen Feyd's standing as the next in line. However, Feyd's quicksilver temper and impatience may threaten to undermine the scheme before it's even got off the ground.
4. Lady Margot and the Bene Gesserit plan for Feyd
Feyd-Rautha is but another pawn in the wider Dune narrative. Remember the reference to the 'kwisatz haderach'? These prophesied super-beings are male-born members of the Bene Gesserit sect; whereas Lady Jessica knowingly gave birth to Paul in direct violation of her order, who demanded a daughter as per tradition, the Bene Gesserit have their own plans for Feyd-Rautha's bloodline.
For that reason, the Bene Gesserit have installed a member of their order, Lady Margot Fenring (Lea Seydoux), for a special purpose. It's her job to seduce Feyd and subsequently produce an heir to his bloodline, thus continuing the Bene Gesserit's plan of producing their own 'kwisatz haderach'.
Remember, both their sect and the Harkonnens believe Paul to be dead at this stage, and hence the potential of Lady Jessica's 'kwisatz haderach' with him. Hence why we see Seydoux's character keeping a close eye on Feyd during the grayscale sequences in the trailer.
However, with two rival messiahs on the scene, both representing different houses and acting as sworn enemies, there's a strong chance that Feyd's 'kwisatz haderach' bloodline could die out in a fight to the death with Paul (and trust us, such a fight is coming in this movie instalment).
5. Paul riding the fabled Shai-Hulud
Enough political backstory for now. Dune: Part Two is much heavier on the action than Dune: Part One, and those who've read Frank Herbert's novel will know what they're in for. The feared Arrakis sandworms only appeared a couple of times in the first movie but they play a much more important role in the next film.
The trailer gives hints of one of the story's most spectacular set-pieces: Paul cementing his Mahdi status by riding the near-mystical, enormous worm known colloquially as Shai-Hulud (roughly translated as 'the old man of the desert'). Replete with nothing more than a couple of worm hooks and an awful lot of tenacity, Paul must solidify his status among the Fremen in order to free them from their oppressed position beneath the vicious Harkonnens.
How does the set-piece work out? We couldn't possibly say, although the awed visage of Fremen leader Stilgar (Javier Bardem) surely says it all.
6. Lady Jessica and the Water of Life
You may be confused by Lady Jessica's appearance throughout the Dune: Part Two trailer. At various points, she appears with inscriptions or tattoos on her face (plus the familiar blue eyes from sustained spice ingestion), which she didn't bear in the first movie.
This is a sign that the trailer is chronologically scrambling scenes both before and after the pivotal Water of Life sequence. This noxious, highly dangerous substance (essentially, bile from a sandworm) is a test of Bene Gesserit members, used to unlock the wider genetic memory of the entire sect. In the process, Lady Jessica plans to become the de facto Reverend Mother to the Fremen.
So, what happens when Lady Jessica takes the test? We won't spoil it for you, but there are significant ramifications for the remainder of the Dune narrative that is set to stretch beyond the conclusion of Dune: Part Two.
And then Paul drinks the water himself, which portends even more miraculous things related to his destiny as the 'kwisatz haderach'...
7. Gurney Halleck is still alive
Paul's one-time weapons master was thought dead during the attack on Arrakeen in the first movie. However, the taciturn and wry Gurney (Josh Brolin) is still very much alive, having gone to ground in the sand-baked blasts of the Arrakis desert.
When he and Paul cross paths again, it acts as one of the most cathartic moments in Frank Herbert's story. No doubt Denis Villeneuve will do justice to the emotional weight of such a long-delayed reunion.
8. Paul Muad'Dib leads the Fremen against the Harkonnens
Paul's new-found status among the Fremen is solidified by his new name, Muad'Dib, so named after the Fremen name for the "second moon" of Arrakis, the smaller of the planet's two moons. The surface of said moon is said to resemble the outline of the plucky desert mouse known as Muad'Dib that manages to survive the incredibly challenging conditions on Arrakis.
Embraced as the Fremen Mahdi while also grappling with his destiny as the 'kwisatz haderach', Paul shoulders some truly interstellar weight as he plans to lead his new adopted tribe to freedom. However, as those who've read the first Dune novel will know, Paul's emblematic status as a freedom fighter is very much a double-edged sword, portending calamity across the universe.
Fragmentary, disturbing visions in Dune: Part One alluded to this development, and should Denis Villeneuve achieve his plan of adapting Dune: Messiah, Frank Herbert's second book in the series, this will be fully dramatised.
9. Paul Atreides versus Feyd-Rautha
Here it is: a glimpse of the climactic battle between the remnants of House Atreides and the future of House Harkonnen, the outcome of which determines everything.
Bearing his symbolic crystknife, Paul invokes the words of his Fremen rival Jamis whom he defeated in Dune: Part One: "May thy knife chip and shatter."
The piercing vocals on Hans Zimmer's soundtrack invoke the feminine Bene Gesserit power that lurks behind the Emperor's throne, and we emerge from the trailer utterly exhilarated and hungry for more.
With Dune: Part Two set for release on November 3rd, you've got a lot of time on your hands to soak up all the Dune lore.