Breaking Down the Sandworm Riding and Space-Folding in Dune’s New Trailer

Breaking Down the Sandworm Riding and Space-Folding in Dune’s New Trailer
Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) fights with the Fremen. (Image: Warner Bros.)

Arrakis is a beautiful world being torn apart by ugliness, but the man destined to save the planet may also be its doom. Warner Bros. has released a new trailer for Denis Villeneuve’s Dune, and we’re here to look at every key moment, including Baron Harkonnen’s (Stellan Skarsgård) big debut — plus that weird light thing that definitely isn’t a tree.

Dune stars Timotée Chalamet as the aristocrat-turned-rebel-leader Paul Atreides. Together with his mother Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) and the Fremen warrior Chani (Zendaya), Paul strikes back against the forces that destroyed his home and threaten Arrakis and its people. Of course, there’s more to Paul Atreides than meets the eye. Let’s look at what that means — and, for newcomers to Dune, we won’t be diving too heavily into spoiler territory from the books, so come and join us!

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We start with a shot of ornithopters, helicopter-like machines used for travel, flying over the dunes of Arrakis. As mentioned in the previous trailer breakdown, many devices and transports resemble organic life because the galaxy has shunned artificial intelligence technology. That’s why this one looks like a dragonfly. It’s a beautiful shot that shows off Villeneuve’s dedication to filming on location in the desert, instead of relying on CGI.

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Chani (or, rather, Paul’s vision of her) is the narrator for a good portion of this trailer. She talks about the beauty of her planet, Arrakis, and how “you can see spice in the air.” Even through the romantic haze of it being Paul’s vision, you can hear how much Chani loves her home… as the universe fights over it.

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They’re fighting because spice, or melange, is a substance that’s necessary for interstellar space travel — and the only place you can find it is on Arrakis. That makes it the most valuable planet in the known universe. In this shot, we see what looks to be a machine mining spice out in the desert, something Chani describes as “outsiders [ravaging] our land in front of our eyes.” She ponders the future of her world as larger, more powerful forces seek to control it.

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The machine is then attacked by a volley of fire bombs. It’s unclear who’s responsible for the attack, as it could be a couple of things. It may be the Harkonnen forces attacking the Fremen out in the desert, in their pursuit of controlling the spice and crushing the resistance. But it could also be part of the Fremen resistance against the Harkonnens after they’ve invaded. I’m pretty sure it’s the latter, as I think I catch a glimpse of the “blood tracks” that mark Harkonnen soldier uniforms.

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Baron Harkonnen’s nephew, “Beast” Rabban (Dave Bautista), escalates his rampage during the attack on Arrakis. We see him and his fellow soldiers taking hostages — and presumably killing them. We also get a shot of a pile of burning bodies, which indicates that the Harkonnens have no interest in treating the dead with any sort of decency.

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Chani wields a blood-stained crysknife, which is a Fremen weapon carved from the tooth of a sandworm. Based on her outfit and the overall “wooshiness” of this shot, this is likely still in Paul’s vision. It represents how Paul will have to embrace his destiny among the Fremen in order to stand a chance against the rising threat. It also symbolises how Paul’s path will not be a peaceful one.

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On Caladan, a ship glides along the water almost like it’s skimming a sand dune. Based on the next shot, we can surmise this is Duncan Idaho (Jason Momoa) doing some sick stunts. He and Paul embrace warmly after the former lands, and Paul tells Duncan about his vision of Chani. Paul Atreides and Duncan Idaho have one of the closest friendships in the book, and Paul has long looked up to his kind and charming mentor. We even get a bit of playful banter between them, with Duncan joking that Paul needs to get yoked.

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During their conversation about Paul’s dreams, Duncan says, “Dreams make good stories, but everything important happens when we’re awake.” As this happens, we get a shot of someone travelling through the desert, seemingly moving their path in the shifting way that’s designed to avoid detection by the sandworms. They’re also alone, which in Arrakis talk is a very bad sign (means you’re probably going to die). It’s a curious shot, juxtaposing Paul’s dreamy visions of the desert with its much harsher reality, but it’s unclear who it is. It could be Duncan himself, struggling to survive after escaping the Arrakis attack. There’s one other person it could be, but I won’t reveal that here because it would be a major spoiler.

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Nothing much here. I just like the weird egg ship.

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Here we see the people who arrived to Caladan on said weird egg ship, most likely an emissary to the Padishah Emperor Shaddam Corrino IV, ruler of the known universe, along with members of the Bene Gesserit order. The emissary is holding what appears to be a scroll, which could be the “deed” to Arrakis. That makes sense, since the Emperor was crucial in securing the transfer of the planet from House Harkonnen to House Atreides’s Duke Leto (the spectacularly bearded Oscar Isaac).

Image: Warner Bros. Image: Warner Bros.

It’s a bit blurry, but here you can see a ship travelling through space using the faster-than-light method of “space-folding” (you can tell because there’s the outline of another planet within the sphere). The Spacing Guild controls all FTL space travel, using Spacefolder vessels piloted by the fish-like Guild navigators. This is accomplished with spice, as the navigators use it to plot a safe course through folded space.

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We get some heavy symbolism here. Paul mentions “something awakening in my mind,” which we saw in the previous trailer. Only here it’s juxtaposed with explosions, destruction, and a shot of Baron Harkonnen. To me, this represents not only that he’s seeing the future attack on Arrakis, but that the very thing awakening inside of him isn’t just powerful, but extremely dangerous.

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Lady Jessica, again, doesn’t have a big presence in this trailer. It’s unfortunate, since she’s one of the most important characters in the story. But here we get a hint of what’s to come. Lady Jessica will become a key figure among the Fremen, taking on a leadership role within their spiritual community. This could be a shot of her preparing to take the next step in joining their ranks.

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One of the big moments in the first film is Paul’s fight with Jamis (Babs Olusanmokun), a Fremen warrior who doesn’t approve of Paul and Lady Jessica joining them. Here we see Paul preparing for the fight he doesn’t want, but knows he has to do in order to be accepted.

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A brief shot of Paul arriving on Arrakis, accompanied by Atreides soldiers. I liked seeing Paul look over at the Atreides flags as they disembarked. They’re being welcomed to their new home, but Paul knows they’re not really welcome.

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This is the Dune shit I live for. Gurney Halleck (Josh Brolin) warns Paul that the Harkonnens, the previous occupiers of Arrakis, are “not human, they’re brutal.” This is paired with shots of Harkonnen soldiers (who are more than they appear to be) being “blessed” with blood, marking them as ready for the invasion of Arrakis. There’s also a bunch of young people strapped down to tablets, nearly naked and in pain. It’s unclear what’s happening, but I’m guessing it’s part of the Sardaukar training. Sardaukar are members of the Emperor’s elite fighting force, who (for the most part) cannot be matched. The training is brutal and most people do not survive the process. This could either be trainees being subject to psychological torture, or a gruesome display of those who failed. Or it could be something else entirely for Baron Harkonnen’s harsh rule of Arrakis.

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I have no idea who this is (if anyone does, let me know in the comments!). I just wanted to point out how the costumes are bonkers, and I couldn’t be happier.

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Here we see Paul using his Bene Gesserit training — thanks to his mother, Lady Jessica — against a strange threat. I won’t say what it is (if you’re curious, you can find out more here); suffice to say this shot is incredible and makes me very excited for how this whole thing is going to play out.

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Dr. Wellington Yueh (Chang Chen) checks in on Paul, presumably after the aforementioned threat. He’s the Atreides’ doctor and one of Lady Jessica’s confidants. She trusts him implicitly because he’s conditioned to never inflict harm. However, Yueh has got some secrets, as noted by the double meaning when he says Paul sees “too much.”

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The first official shot of Piter de Vries, played by The Suicide Squad’s David Dastmalchian. He’s a Mentat, which is basically a human computer — trained to make logical, calculated decisions. But Piter is a “twisted” Mentat, meaning he uses his training as a way to double-cross, well, everyone in pursuit of his own ends. The entire Dune cast is stellar, but I’ll admit this casting choice was the one that excited me the most. I can’t imagine anyone else in this role.

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Baron Harkonnen rises up on his suspensors as his creepy double voice tells Piter, “This is my Dune. Kill them all.” Baron Harkonnen is a terrifying individual, someone who’s doubted by others but is more in control than anyone gives him credit for. What I love about this shot is how his outfit conceals the suspensors, which are powered lifters he uses to hold his body aloft. In the books and original film, they’re kind of mocked — they’re symbolic of his gluttony (Dune’s representation of obesity is, um, not the best). But here we see Baron Harkonnen using them to his advantage, hiding them beneath flowing robes to give himself a massive, intimidating presence.

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The invasion of Arrakis begins, as everyone appears caught by surprise.

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There are lots of big, impressive explosions in this trailer. This one in particular was, if you’ll pardon the pun, mind-blowing. You see the ship’s shield, which is similar to the shields soldiers wear in battle, exploding in response to the explosion. That’s because of how the shields aren’t designed to handle certain kinds of attacks, namely guns. The Harkonnens are using the Atreides’ own shields against them.

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Paul and Lady Jessica escape a swath of pursuing ornithopters, heading toward a massive sandstorm. But if anyone can handle it, it’s Paul Atreides.

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Paul may be the hero of this story, but the fight for Arrakis was happening long before him — and it’s the Fremen who are leading the charge. Here we see Chani and her fellow Fremen warriors launching an attack against what looks to be the same mining machinery that we saw exploding earlier. That would support the theory I had earlier that this is part of the rebellion against House Harkonnen.

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It’s cool to watch Duncan Idaho fight, so I included a gif of him fighting. Please enjoy.

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House Atreides says goodbye to Caladan, a planet the family ruled for 26 generations and is the only home they’ve ever known when Dune opens. Below you can see hundreds of people gathered to see them off, showing the loyalty they have to the long-standing Atreides family. In the book, after House Atreides leaves for Arrakis, the planet is temporarily granted to Count Hasimir Fenring, a Mentat and advisor to Emperor Shaddam Corrino IV. He’s a fascinating character, one of my personal favourites. He doesn’t look to be in the first Dune movie, but I’m guessing he’ll play a major part in the second film.

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Duke Leto Atreides counsels his son on what it means to be a leader, telling him that “a great man doesn’t seek to lead, he’s called to it.” It’s a touching moment, and shows the love Duke Leto has for Paul. The duke even tells him that the most important thing isn’t that Paul is his heir, it’s that he’s his son.

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As a sandworm approaches in the distance, Dr. Liet Kynes (Sharon Duncan-Brewster) brandishes what are called “maker hooks” to engage in a little wormriding. Riding sandworms is a necessary skill among the Fremen, and a talent they keep secret from the outside world (Liet Kynes is half-Fremen, on her mother’s side). Wormriding is accomplished by first digging hooks into the worm’s scales, forcing it to stay above the sand. Then those hooks are placed around the worm’s mouth to guide it where the rider wants to go. Of course, that whole “Fremen only” thing doesn’t last forever. You’ve all seen the scene from that other movie.

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This scene looks to take place after Paul was attacked by that weird light thing we saw earlier. Duke Leto asks Lady Jessica to protect their son if anything should happen, and she vows to do so “with my life.” We then see her fulfilling that promise, as she subdues the Fremen leader Stilgar (Javier Bardem) using her Bene Gesserit training. This is a crucial moment in the book and movie, as the Fremen aren’t interested in Paul and Lady Jessica at first… until she shows them her “weirding way” abilities.

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Shields can’t protect against a literal backstabbing, I guess, as we see Duke Leto recoil in agony.

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Oh, this is cool. As Paul tells the Fremen that “only together do we stand a chance,” we see them doing just that. Fremen forces launch an attack against the Harkonnen soldiers, as we follow a single fighter brandishing a crysknife to overpower them in hand-to-hand combat. If you look carefully in the wide shot, you’ll see how the Fremen are literally coming out of the sand. This is part of their guerrilla fighting tactics, using their knowledge of the environment to gain the upper hand.

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But who is this graceful, incredible fighter? The face shield is lifted to reveal none other than Paul Atreides. It’s hard to tell in this gif (sorry), but his eyes are starting to turn blue here. It’s a sign he’s becoming part of the Fremen.

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“It’s time.” Lady Jessica tearfully tells Paul that he must be ready for what’s next. In the context of the trailer, it seems like it’s preparing him for retaliation against House Harkonnen. But this is most likely from early on in the movie, when Lady Jessica wakes Paul so he can undergo the Pain Box test (which we saw in detail in the previous trailer).

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We close on a shot of Chani and a fully blue-eyed Paul Atreides, standing with the Fremen… ready for what’s next.

Dune arrives in theatres on October 21.