After plenty of teases, posters, and a quick glimpse of one very large worm, the first full trailer for Denis Villeneuve’s Dune finally arrived on the internet today. And while the visuals of the Arrival director’s new film are clearly evocative—filled, as they are, with sweeping desert vistas, exploding spaceships, and a levitating Stellan Skarsgård—it can be easy to get overwhelmed with questions while watching the quickly-paced trailer. Why are everybody’s eyes that weird shade of blue? What’s up with Dave Bautista? Why are all the people in the future fighting with knives, instead of space guns?
Luckily, The A.V. Club is here to clarify your pressing Dune questions, going through the trailer (roughly) scene-by-scene, in order to explain, say, what Zendaya is up to in all this, or what happened to Jason Momoa’s mustache. (Note: We’re not actually sure what happened to Jason Momoa’s mustache; our working theory is that this is the fate that eventually befalls every Justice League actor.)
In any case: We open on Dune itself—or as it’s properly known to Frank Herbert nerds, Arrakis. The trailer’s early scenes focus on Chani (Zendaya), a young woman whose society, the Fremen, are as close as the almost entirely water-less planet gets to having a native people. (Humans in the Dune-iverse were originally spawned on Earth, but that was several thousand years, and at least one big fight against evil robots, in the past.) Chani’s major distinguishing features include being Zendaya (obviously), but also her telltale Fremen stillsuit, a piece of vital desert survival equipment that doesn’t just filter your pee so that you can drink it again, but, also: It totally filters your pee so that you can drink it again. Like all Fremen, Chani also has the distinctive blue-on-blue eyes of those who habitually consume the spice melange, the chemical MacGuffin that powers most of the conflict in the Dune universe.
Spice, in case it’s not clear, is a big damn deal. It extends lifespans, it grants psychic powers that are necessary for stuff like interstellar travel, it’s hideously addictive, and it only appears at one place in the universe: Arrakis. Hence why Chani and her people are, as we next see, in a running war of occupation against the forces of House Harkonnen, represented on the ground by Bautista’s Glossu “Beast” Rabban, a violent tyrant whose family is known for being galaxy-scale murder perverts. They, in turn, have been granted control of Dune by the little-seen Emperor, who’s using “control” of the universe’s most valuable resource as a way to play political games with potential rivals—most notably noble House Atreides, whose young scion, Paul (Timothée Chalamet), is the one having all of these prophetic dreams of his future girlfriend.
The trailer then quickly introduces us to Paul’s various father figures, all somehow pulled from major recent blockbuster franchises: Jason Momoa is first up, as Atreides Swordmaster (and ridiculously named person) Duncan Idaho, who actually gets to toss out a few light jokes amid the otherwise serious tone. Later, we’ll meet Josh Brolin’s Gurney Halleck (played by Patrick Stewart in the David Lynch adaptation, by the by), who teaches Paul how to knife fight in the series’ distinct “fast, but not too fast” style, designed so as not to bounce the blade off those glowy blue personal forcefields everyone is wearing. (Also, hence, the “nobody really uses guns” thing.) And then there’s Paul’s actual dad, Oscar Isaac’s Duke Leto, who’s introduced being forced to accept the highly lucrative (and highly dangerous) stewardship of Arrakis in an effort to bring “peace” to the occupied planet. (One of several touches here that play up the political subtext of Herbert’s books.)
From there, it’s all quick flashes—of Paul and Chani seemingly locking eyes, of Paul’s mother Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) sporting the Fremen blue-on-blue at some future date, and of Paul rocking his own stillsuit. Then we get what appears to be Villeneuve’s interpretation of one of Herbert’s most-difficult-to-film ideas: Paul’s ability—a consequence of both his carefully crafted genetic heritage, and serious spice exposure—to see future timelines, seemingly represented here by glowing white trees of choice and consequence. Then it’s back to the high-speed stuff: David Dastmalchian (The Suicide Squad) as evil human computer Piter De Vries, our first shot of Skarsgård floating around as the villainous Baron Harkonnen, and the beginning of a bloody attack by the Harkonnens on House Atreides. It all builds to the juxtaposition of Isaac assuaging Chalamet’s daddy issues while a giant phallic sandworm rises above them, which, hey: Who needs subtext? (And yes, the sandworms are also a big deal, since they make exploiting Arrakis incredibly hard for anyone not trained in the Fremen methods of managing them.)
Finally, we close—after seeing Jessica kick some ass, and Leto suffer some kind of weird attack—on the trailer’s final, iconic image: Paul sporting the glowing blue eyes of the Fremen, showing his transition into the material likely to be covered in the prospective Dune: Part II—and maybe into a galactic messiah in the process.
Whew! Dune hits theaters (and HBO Max) on October 22.