Breaking Down the First Look at DUNE

Denis Villeneuve’s Dune will be here on December 18—well, the first of two films will be. Vanity Fair provided a first look at the upcoming adaptation starring Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides. It’s based on Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel of the same name, so unless the adaptation is wildly different, we have a base of knowledge for the characters and the plot. We’ve studied the images again and again for clues; we didn’t need spice to enhance our vision. Let’s break things down image by image without spoilers.

Paul Atreides on Caladan

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures

This dramatic shot, Vanity Fair‘s first release, shows Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides. He’s on his home planet of Caladan, which couldn’t be more different than Arrakis. Caladan is lush, rich with water and life. Arrakis has… sand. And also spice.

The novel features Caladan only briefly at the beginning of the story, and this very much appears to be Paul’s final moments on his world. It’s the only place he’s known. But Thufir Hawat (played by Stephen Mckinley Henderson in the movie), one of his teachers, tells him in the book, “Parting with friends is a sadness. A place is only a place.”

Paul’s back is to the ships above. He doesn’t want to go. He’s resisting the call, a step along the hero’s journey depicted in Dune. Though, as Chalamet tells Vanity Fair, it’s “an anti-hero’s-journey of sorts.”

And by the way, those ships in the background may be transports ready to move the members of House Atreides and their forces to to a giant ship in orbit known as a Heighliner, which allows for instantaneous space travel via the Spacing Guild. Or if these aren’t transport ships, they could be our first look at Spacing Guild ships.

Timothee Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson on a desert planet in Dune.

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures

This shot shows Paul and his mother Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), a Bene Gesserit. They’re wearing Fremen stillsuits. The suits keep the Fremen alive in the desert. They block out the sand, but more importantly, stillsuits recycle the wearer’s fluids (all of them) to provide hydration—hydration that’s not easy to come by in the desert. The nose tube you see reclaims a measure of water from the wearer merely breathing.

Villeneuve’s Dune appears to have a more modern take on the stillsuit compared to what we’ve seen in other adaptations. They’re tactical, but they also look tight and protective. Note they’re donning sand-colored capes for camouflage; the Fremen prefer to keep their numbers to themselves. Paul’s wearing a Fremkit on his back, which includes shelter and water saving gear. That kit saves Paul and Jessica until they find the Fremen.

Talk about desert fashion.

Zendaya wearing a head scarf as Chani in Dune

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures

And then we have Zendaya as Chani. It’s clear she’s a Fremen (note the stillsuit), but she’s mysterious. To talk any more about her would be to share spoilers. Just know she’s incredibly cool.

11 members of House Atreides stand at attention in black suits in Dune.

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures

Ah, the might of House Atreides. Long black coats make your house look instantly cooler. This depicts Duke Leto Atreides’ (Oscar Isaac) family and some of his most trusted leaders: Thufir Hawat, Gurney Halleck (Josh Brolin), and Duncan Idaho (Jason Momoa). The House Atreides hawk symbol adorns a banner in the background.

Josh Brolin in a metalic spacesuit as Gurney in Dune

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures

Let’s stay with House Atreides for a moment to take a closer look at Gurney Halleck. He’s Paul’s combat and weaponry teacher, a lead fighter and adviser in the Atreides army, and a poet. He plays an instrument called a baliset, and I can’t wait to see Josh Brolin being a bard.

Anyway, note the armor he and Duke Leto model so beautifully. It’s very Game of Thrones meets Star Wars, which is a fine intersection for Dune to call home. This could be a metaphor for medieval knight’s armor like in a fantasy story. They each have long knives because hand to hand combat is usually the safest form of fighting in this universe. Body shields (force fields) can be dangerous because a shot from a lasgun will cause an atomic explosion. Then again, body shields also attract sandworms out in Arrakis’ open desert.

Oscar Isaac breaking the fourth wall in a suit of metalic armor in Dune.

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures

Speaking of the Duke, note the red cord and tassel behind him. Could it be part of Gurney’s baliset? We can only hope. A giant loading bay door stands open behind him. This could be the moment Leto and his men walk out onto Arrakis for the first time ever, maybe to meet Dr. Liet Kynes.

Rebecca Ferguson in a black cloak as Lady Jessica in Dune

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures

Lady Jessica looks badass in this photo. She’s wearing a simple Bene Gesserit robe and is likely still on Caladan. Perhaps it’s just before or after she presents her son Paul to Bene Gesserit Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam for the gom jabbar test.

Jason Mamoa wielding a staff as Duncan Idaho in Dune

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures

Hello, Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho. The swordmaster serves the Duke and instructs Paul. He’s a skilled and ruthless fighter, as this photo hints at. We won’t discuss which scene this could be because spoilers.

Denis Villeneuve directs Javier Bardem in Dune

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures

Going behind the scenes we see Villeneuve with Javier Bardem as Stilgar. The latter is the leader of Sietch Tabr, a tribe of Fremen who may or may not welcome Paul and Jessica into their fold. Note all the dust on his stillsuit. This is not a place where you waste water for the sake of cleaniless.

Sharon Duncan-Brewster stands in the desert as Liet Kynes in Dune

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures

Finally, meet Arrakis’ official ecologist, Liet Kynes. Sharon Duncan-Brewster portrays the character, who is described as a white male in the book. Dr. Kynes is a pivotal character who works with both the Emperor and the Fremen. Kynes is also the  “Judge of the Change,” the person put in charge of managing the transition of Arrakis from the Harkonnens to the Atreides.

Whew. Just wait until we get images of the Harkonnens and the Emperor and the Spacing Guild and…

Featured Image: Warner Bros/Legendary

Editor’s Note: Nerdist is a subsidiary of Legendary Digital Networks.

Additional reporting by Matt Caron, Legendary Digital Networks Editor and Post Production Manager and Dune expert.

Amy Ratcliffe is the Managing Editor for Nerdist and the author of Star Wars: Women of the Galaxy. Follow her on  Twitter and Instagram.

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