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I found a use for the Dune popcorn bucket — but not what you think!

‘I’m buying it for a friend’

A grown man dares to reach his hand through the maw of Dune 2 popcorn bucket Photo: Chris Plante/Polygon
Chris Plante co-founded Polygon in 2012 and is now editor-in-chief. He co-hosts The Besties, is a board member of the Frida Cinema, and created NYU’s first games journalism course.

Before we get started, let’s answer the obvious question: No, I did not use the Dune popcorn bucket for any romantic and/or NSFW purposes. You’ll notice that the headline on this piece says “I found a use for the Dune popcorn bucket,” not “I bought the Dune fuck bucket” or “I own the sandworm Fleshlight.” I’m not here to yuck anyone’s yums, but please understand, I’m a serious critic. As such, it’s my duty to review the Dune promotional sandworm-shaped popcorn bucket based on what its artist intended it to be, and not what certain corners of the internet would like it to be.

The intention of the Dune popcorn bucket is to serve popcorn. And at that, I regret to inform you, my curious popcorn-bucket aficionados, it fails. The Dune popcorn bucket is the literalization of form over function, a silicon monstrosity that not only makes eating popcorn difficult, but will traumatize you away from ever eating popcorn again.

Also, it looks like a prolapsed butthole.

The Dune popcorn bucket sits next to an ordinary popcorn bucket Photo: Chris Plante/Polygon

I bought my Dune popcorn bucket this past Friday. Call it kismet. One of my tires popped while I was driving on the highway, and I had to limp it to the nearest off-ramp and wait for it to be repaired. Bored, deeply online, and serendipitously stranded within walking distance of an AMC theater, I recognized that fate had assigned me a mission: Get the bucket.

I walked across four lanes of heavy traffic, asked the ticket attendant if I could enter without seeing a movie if I was just there to buy the Dune bucket, then skittered to the concessions stand. Fortunately, there was no line — ergo, no one to bear witness to my shame.

Even without nosy onlookers, I reflexively asked to buy one Dune popcorn bucket “for a friend.” The teenage staffer at the concessions stand chortled, “For a friend. Right.” As I swiped my credit card (the Dune popcorn bucket costs $24.99), my devastatingly perceptive teenage accuser asked if I wanted the popcorn that comes with the bucket. “With it, or in it?” I asked, confused. “With it,” he said. Putting popcorn in the Dune popcorn bucket, it turned out, would be the equivalent of putting cheese in a mouse trap.

The bucket’s sandworm lid — the object that’s drawn so much off-color attention from the internet — can be analyzed in three layers. First, there’s the hard plastic base meant to look like the sands of the desert planet Arrakis. This base clamps onto the official Dune popcorn tin. Second, protruding from the base is the maw of the sandworm, which, to my surprise, is also a hard plastic. And third, within the yawning mouth are the worm’s semi-soft orifice tentacles — I counted roughly 80 of them. Even without those tentacles, the worm’s jaw is small, so you’d have to make a pincer shape with your fingers if you wanted to wriggle your hand into the bucket to retrieve the popcorn.

But with the tentacles, one must be a trained medical professional to eat out of this thing — not simply to get your hand into the bucket, but to get it back out. The tentacles — I supposed I should have seen this coming — collectively latch onto your wrist. They’re so tight that when I tried to remove my hand, the entire lid popped off the bucket. My wrist was now sporting a sandworm bracelet.

A hand wiggles into the Dune popcorn bucket, as seen from the other side of the sandworm’s mouth Photo: Chris Plante/Polygon

In theory, enough artificial butter topping would lubricate the tendrils and allow for smoother operation — though this would also turn the plastic fibers into a kind of pastry brush, freshly painting your hand with a thick veneer of oily goop every time you reach into the thing.

This is, I assume, why my local AMC concessions attendant handed me not one, but two buckets: the traditional XXL waxed-paper container of steaming hot, freshly popped popcorn, and a metallic tin with a plastic lid that resembles an anus with a case of internal hemorrhoids, worthy of a medical journal.

Standing in the theater, holding one bucket in each arm, I began to suspect that AMC itself must recognize the inherent design flaws of the Dune popcorn bucket. Handing me my Dune memorabilia wrapped in a semi-transparent plastic bag, as an adjunct to my movie snack instead of part of it, amounts to an admission of failure. What good is a popcorn bucket if you can’t, shouldn’t, and don’t put popcorn in it? What else would somebody use it for?

Please don’t answer that question.

The Dune bucket sits next to a normal popcorn bucket, seen from bird’s eye view Photo: Chris Plante/Polygon

But I do I have an answer. After a weekend of perpetual embarrassment (explaining the Dune bucket to my wife, explaining the Dune bucket to my visiting parents, who were horrified about my life choices) I thought of a justification — a practical use case, even. What benefits from being out of sight, an object you can put things into, but never want to take things out of?

Thus, I have now installed the Dune piggybank in the recesses of my office bookshelf. Here, concealed by tall, thick, and heavy books that convey to guests that I am a serious, thoughtful adult, sits the sandworm, willing to collect my spare change, ready to chomp down on my hand should I dare try to reclaim the treasure.

If you, too, want a Dune popcorn bucket-cum-piggybank, they are available exclusively at AMC theaters for the moment. Assuming the chain doesn’t sell out of them, though, they’ll probably eventually be available on AMC’s online store, like so much of its other promo memorabilia. To preserve your reputation, I recommend waiting on, and hoping for, the latter.

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