Dune trailer breakdown: Spice, sandworms, and Pink Floyd

The first Dune trailer has arrived, and there's a lot going on.

This is the first look we've gotten at Denis Villeneuve's take on the classic (and notoriously dense) 1965 sci-fi novel, so there's a ton of stuff to pick through in the three-minute trailer. We're here to help point out some of the key things you may not have noticed and how they fit into the mythos of the Dune world.

Here's everything you need to know about the Dune trailer – from spice melange to sandworms to a reference to a long-lost version of a Dune movie. 

Paul Atreides' dreams really do predict the future

"There's something awakening in my mind, I can't control it," Paul, played by Timothée Chalamat, says in the opening moments of the Dune trailer as footage of him kissing Chani (Zendaya) shows. This is a dream Paul is having on his home planet Caladan before his family arrives on Arrakis (aka Dune), and it speaks to his growing powers of prescience which will play a major role in the story. 

"There's a crusade coming," he warns. These dreams draw the attention of the Reverend Mother Mohiam as they're not just dreams – they're actual visions of the future. But why would the son of one of the most powerful families in the galaxy be smooching with one of the natives of Arrakis?

What's in the box?

The Bene Gesserit are a secretive, matriarchal order who have honed their bodies and minds to a point that they are somewhat superhuman. Reverend Mother Mohiam (Charlotte Rampling) is a member of that sisterhood and subjects Paul to a test where he must place his hand in a box that will cause him great pain, but removing his hand will kill him. The box – a mental and physical test used amongst the Bene Gesserit – uses nerve induction to mimic the feeling of intense pain, but does not actually cause any. 

Paul's response to this test is incredibly important, but I won't spoil it (just know that it's a test rarely given to men). The Reverend Mother is holding the gom jabbar to his neck – a poison needle that will kill instantly. Tough stuff.

Protective shields are prominent, but not infallible

At around the 50-second mark, there's a training sequence between Paul and Gurney Halleck (Josh Brolin) where Paul activates a bracelet before charging in with a knife. That bracelet activates a Holtzman Shield, which in the novel won't allow an opponent to land a blow if it's thrown too quickly or haphazardly. Only a slow blade can penetrate the shield. By the end of the fight sequence, you can see Paul land on top of Gurney and a red glow appear on his left shoulder – did he strike a blow that broke a shield, or did Gurney?

Meet House Atreides

(Image credit: Chiabella James/Warner Bros)

Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac) and his long-term lover and concubine Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) are Paul's parents. The Lady Jessica is, like Reverend Mother Mohiam, a member of the Bene Gesserit who is meant to procure a daughter for the group's breeding program, but the love between her and Leto creates Paul. 

The Atreides family's home world, Caladan, is nothing like Dune – the planet they are moving to. "The climate is closer to Ireland," Villeneuve tells Entertainment Weekly. "They will be uprooted; when they land on Arrakis, they will be vulnerable. Duke Leto knows at the beginning that he has a chance of success, but his chances are very narrow."

House Atreides is in danger on this new planet 

"You have proven you can rule yourself. Now you must learn to rule others, something none of your ancestors learned," the Reverend Mother tells Paul. 

This is an interesting comment, as the Atreides led the people of the planet Caladan for well over twenty generations, and it was considered a prosperous planet, albeit one that was frequently engaged in war. However, Duke Leto is losing Caladan, and even though he's getting a richer planet in Arrakis, he'll lose that one, too, according to the Reverend Mother. "An extermination," as Paul refers to it, is on the horizon. 

Duncan Idaho is the man 

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Entertainment)

Duncan Idaho (Jason Momoa) is a legendary fighter, the greatest one in House Atreides - and perhaps beyond. "He’s elegant, very precise, and he’s very generous," says Villeneuve. "Duncan Idaho is a cross-mix between a samurai and one of the best knights in the galaxy, and also is known to be a beautiful man. So I needed all those elements. Jason also brought calm. It’s a Duncan who is very calm, very patient, with the deep soul of an explorer. He's someone where you feel that if shit hits the fan, you want to be behind that guy! You know he will protect you." 

Arrakis is a death trap 

Those exact words are spoken by the Reverend Mother, and it has a dual meaning. Arrakis is indeed a trap for the Atreides family set by the Baron Harkonnen, the head of a rival family, (played by Stellan Skarsgard). That trap will drastically shift the Atreides family's path. But the climate of Arrakis is also a death trap as the sand-covered planet is incredibly difficult to live on.

The Baron Harkonnen and his House 

Stellan Skarsgård plays the monstrous Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, the leader of House Harkonnen who wants control over Arrakis because it is the only known source of melange (or "spice") an addictive drug that can give users a longer life and much more. We only get a breif glimpse at the Baron in the Dune trailer – that's because his reveal is sure to shock you no doubt Villeneuve wants to save it for the theater. 

"I didn’t want the Baron to be a buffoon or caricature, I wanted him to have the feeling of strength, a strategist," Villeneuve says. "I wanted the Baron to be seductive, someone who has a certain kind of sensuality to him. Most important, I wanted the Baron to have a deep intelligence." 

Who is that pale guy?  

The super-pale character played by Dave Bautista is Glosu Rabban, nephew to Baron Harkonnen and known as "The Beast" for being a brutally violent ruler who once governed Arrakis.

Meet Fremen leaders Liet-Kynes and Stilgar 

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Stilgar (Javier Bardem) is a chieftain leader of the Fremen people, the natives of the planet Arrakis who have many tribes. All of them honor Liet-Kynes (Sharon Duncan Brewster), the Imperial Planetologist who has plans to terraform the planet. In the novels, however, Liet-Kynes is a man, but in this film, Liet-Kynes is a woman, though she remains Zendeya's character Chani's parent.

Spice up your life

You can see the spice very briefly in this trailer when Paul reaches down and grabs sand in his hand at 02:24. The glittering substance among the sand is most certainly spice. Those who use it extensively will have eyes that are entirely tinted blue – this is a source of great pride among the Fremen.

What's with the suits?

The suits you see Paul, Chani, and others wearing are called stillsuits, which are worn by the Fremen people. Stillsuits are full-body suits designed to preserve the body's moisture by absorbing it through sweating and urinating, filtering it, and circulating drinkable water into catchpockets. The tube that snakes up from the stillsuit and into the wearer's nose also helps capture water. Stillsuit wearers are meant to breathe in through the mouth and out through the nose to exhale air rich in moisture.

The special importance of Pink Floyd's 'Eclipse'

The song that plays in the Dune trailer is a cover of Pink Floyd's "Eclipse" from 1973's Dark Side of the Moon. It's the final song on the album, and the lyrics speak to a dark force overtaking everything in sight – a disturbing omen for the Atreides family. But while "Eclipse" is a great song to tell the Atreides story, it's also a clever throwback to a Dune film that was never made. Alejandro Jodorowsky famously tried to make a Dune movie in the mid-70s, and he had plans for Pink Floyd to write and perform the House Atreides theme.

The sandworm cometh 

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

We finally get a look at Villeneuve's take on the infamous sandworm, the giant creatures who live on Arrakis and who are tied very closely to the planet's sought-after substance. They're a danger for those looking to harvest the spice, as the vehicles have to be airlifted in and out of the sand in order to avoid them. 

"I think that as soon as you say, 'okay, let’s make Dune,' you go back home and the first thing you ask is, 'okay, what about the worm?'" Villeneuve tells EW. "It’s a fantastic central figure of Dune’s story, that massive creature that lives in the deep desert, so when we were creating the worm I tried to create a lifeform that you will totally believe can go and survive in this land. 

"So, of course, it has to have some prehistoric quality to it, because it’s living in the roughest environment. It was a lot of dreaming. We took our time with it. I deeply love the worm we came up with. It was important for me to understand that this huge creature has a soul, to understand that it is revered as a god-like figure." 

There you have it, a breakdown of the Dune trailer. We've been waiting a long time for this, and it was worth it, wasn't it? While we await the sci-fi epic to arrive on the big screen, here's a beginner's guide to the Dune books and movies. Time to brush up.  

Alyssa Mercante

Alyssa Mercante is an editor and features writer at GamesRadar based out of Brooklyn, NY. Prior to entering the industry, she got her Masters's degree in Modern and Contemporary Literature at Newcastle University with a dissertation focusing on contemporary indie games. She spends most of her time playing competitive shooters and in-depth RPGs and was recently on a PAX Panel about the best bars in video games. In her spare time Alyssa rescues cats, practices her Italian, and plays soccer.