clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The first Dune trailer is here

Timothée Chalamet leads the cast of director Denis Villeneuve’s epic adaptation

If you buy something from a Polygon link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Matt Patches is an executive editor at Polygon. He has over 15 years of experience reporting on movies and TV, and reviewing pop culture.

The first Dune trailer is, if the world makes good on its many teases, just hours away. From Blade Runner 2049 and Arrival director Denis Villeneuve, the new incarnation of Frank Herbert’s essential science-fiction book looks to deliver the Star Wars-sized adaptation the material has always demanded. Though early looks at the film sport a desaturated look that recalls David Lynch’s polarizing take on Dune from 1984, the new movie promises a blend of Game of Thrones intrigue and space operatics that should make it one of the first adaptations to be, well, accessible.

A high-caliber cast should help, too. Timothée Chalamet (Call Me by Your Name) takes center stage in Dune as Paul Atreides, the heir to the throne of House Atreides. Joining the Oscar-nominated actor are Rebecca Ferguson (Mission: Impossible – Fallout), Oscar Isaac (Star Wars: The Last Jedi), Josh Brolin (Sicario), Stellan Skarsgård (HBO’s Chernobyl), Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy), Stephen McKinley Henderson (Lady Bird), Zendaya (HBO’s Euphoria), Chang Chen (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), David Dastmalchian (Ant-Man), Sharon Duncan-Brewster (Netflix’s Sex Education), Charlotte Rampling (45 Years), Jason Momoa (Aquaman), and Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men).

In addition to the trailer, the cast sat down with none other than Dune super nerd Stephen Colbert to discuss Villeneuve’s vision:

The Dune trailer is light on plot, and high on drama. But we do see some key moments that are worth delving into: The trailer opens on the face of Paul Atreides (Chalamet). He’s experiencing a vision: a blue-eyed girl standing in a rocky desert. This is Chani (Zendaya), a young Fremen woman from the planet Arrakis, but he doesn’t know that yet. Paul has precognitive abilities, which makes him one of the most important young lads in the galaxy.

Unlike so many of us, Paul awakens from his sexy dream remembering the bad parts. Not only does he kiss the mysterious Chani, he also envisions a Great War. “There’s a crusade coming.” Book readers know what’s up, but the trailer doesn’t spoil too much.

zendaya with blue eyes in the dune trailer
Zendaya as Chani
Image: Warner Bros. Pictures

In the next sequence, Paul enters a test session with Gaius Helen Mohiam, a member of the religious order known as the Bene Gesserit. “Remove your hand from the box, and you die.” [Brad Pitt voice] What’s in the boooooxxxxxx???? The trailer doesn’t really make sense of it, but the book makes sense of the character-building exercise.

Next we see Paul walking the beach of Caladan, the gloomy, ocean-planet home of House Atreides. Inside, we see the once and future king sparring with Gurney Halleck (Brolin), the family’s weapons master and #1 brute. In the world of Dune, everyone has force fields that only work on high-speed projectiles, making the art of handheld attacks a vital part of warrior life. Kind of like when the Gungans fought the droid army, ya know?

Throughout the trailer, Gaius explains to Paul that the future of House Atreides is pretty much on him. His dad, Duke Leto Atreides (Isaac), is set to inherit the desert planet Arrakis, which is full of a mind-bending drug known as Spice, but his fate is ultimately tragic. Gaius knows this, Paul’s mom Lady Jessica (Ferguson) knows this, and Paul knows this too — he just needs to trust his visions. “Arrakis is a death trap,” Gaius says in voice over. None of this is stopping the Atreides family from descending on the dune planet. We wouldn’t have much of a story if they didn’t!

On Arrakis, Paul arrives to some extremely sandcrawler-in-Star-Wars people-movers and his old pal Duncan Idaho (Jason Momoa), a swordmaster and another mentor figure to the prince. We also catch a glimpse of Stephen McKinley Henderson as Thufir Hawat, a hyper-knowledgeable “Mentat;” and Javier Bardem’s Stilgar, one of the leaders of the Fremen. The Fremen are the locals of Arrakis, and key to Paul’s ascension as a leader for all. The trip will also bring him back into the life of Chani, who is no mere dream.

Dave Bautista as Glossu Rabban in Dune 2020
Dave Bautista as Glossu Rabban
Image: Warner Bros. Pictures

The trailer also introduces, albeit in brief, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, the rival leader to Leto and the Atreides. He and his goon Glossu Rabban (Bautista) want to see all of the Atreides dead, so, uh, yeah, you don’t want to see Timothee Chalamet in a fight against Dave Bautista. “It’s going to be an extermination,” Paul says. Yup!

Luckily, Paul has backup. The trailer wraps up with a ton of action, emphasizing Momoa’s Duncan Idaho as a lethal force with two blunt sticks. But the adversaries are gigantic and Arrakis itself has surprises in store. To manage it all, Paul reminds himself of one of the key mantras penned by Herbert in the source material:

“Fear is the mind killer.”

Hard to blame him for being a little scared of the enormous sandworm in the final shot.

Dune is currently set to hit theaters on Dec. 20, 2020.

Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. For more information, see our ethics policy.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Patch Notes

A weekly roundup of the best things from Polygon