Anyone who knows me even a little bit is aware of my effusive affinity for “Dune” and the work of Denis Villeneuve in general. The 2021 film was my most-anticipated film ever, giving me something to latch onto and write about from the early days of the pandemic in 2020 when marketing started, to its overwhelming Oscar haul in 2022.
Since the sequel was announced after the opening weekend of “Part One,” my anticipation has been through the roof and somehow still elevated with every new casting or production tease. Finally, with just six months until its release, we have our first trailer for “Dune: Part Two” — let’s take a deep dive together.
For non-book readers, I will not go into any plot points or details that were not already established in the first film. Consider this article spoiler-free.
The trailer opens with none other than Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) describing the oceans of his homeworld to Chani (Zendaya). I can’t think of a better way to center this film than with the two most important characters sharing a sweet moment together on the dunes of Arrakis. Just from this short interaction, I am already buying their chemistry and playful banter.
It then launches into a voiceover from Princess Irulan Corrino (Florence Pugh): “In the shadows of Arrakis lie many secrets,” as we fade in on Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) in a Fremen transport. As a book reader, this particular glimpse brings a lot of glee, from the ornately woven pod she sits in to the impressive yet subtle VFX for the background and atmospheric dust and blowing sand.
The quick push of the camera toward Jessica reveals she has the blue Eyes of Ibad and her face is covered with tattoos. Both of these traits were foreshadowed in Paul’s visions in “Part One.” The line from Irulan may also not just be referencing Jessica herself and Paul surviving, but what about the secret child she said she was pregnant with in the first film? No sight of a child in this trailer, but certainly something to keep in mind.
In the novel, Irulan is something of a historian, logging all the events of the story in excerpts that break up the book’s chapters. Her role looks to be emphasized and expanded here, however, as we don’t get much material outside of those excerpts. I have a theory that her narration might open “Part Two” from the imperial perspective, like Chani’s narration opened “Part One” from the indigenous perspective. This would be a way to immediately introduce her and House Corrino while getting viewers up to speed on the events of the first film and quickly tied back into Paul’s journey.
We also get a glimpse of her walking through the real-life Brion Tomb, which is where the production filmed on location in Italy. “What if Paul Atreides were still alive?” she voices aloud while walking with someone, who we only see via the corner of a dark cloak. It could be Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam (Charlotte Rampling), Margot Fenring (Léa Seydoux) or even her father Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV (Christopher Walken).
Gurney Halleck (Josh Brolin) disappeared in a blaze of battle glory when we last saw him, so it’s nice to see a quick close-up of him, now sporting long hair and a new set of armor. Similarly, we get to see a quick shot of ‘Beast’ Rabban Harkonnen (Dave Bautista), who looks to be outside of his armor for the first time. Donning some sort of coat/vest with Harkonnen inscriptions on it and with cloaked Harkonnens behind him, he appears before Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgård) who is as intimidating as ever standing/floating in front of Rabban.
We also get a few quick shots that highlight the expansive action we can expect in the sequel. Two frames introduce Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen (Austin Butler) in a black-and-white setting as he stands ready to enter the gladiatorial arena. First, the black and white choice could be motivated by a number of factors, be it a product of Giedi Prime’s environment or perhaps an expressionistic means of rendering this decaying society. Whatever it may be, this is a key moment of introduction for the character in the novel, and the close-up we get of him here is stunning. Between the high contrast of the image and the shocking transformation of Butler himself, Villeneuve knows that Feyd is a character who needs to make an impact when he enters the story.
Later shots show the crowd, with 10 or 11 visible tiers of seating for hundreds of thousands of spectators. Feyd’s opponent also appears to be Lieutenant Lanville (Roger Yuan, who doubles as the film’s fight coordinator). Lanville was a very small role in the first film, but may earn a glorious death for himself against Feyd. We then get a brief sequence of an armored vehicle with a gunner manning a turret-like weapon, shooting down at a Fremen who dives across the sand. In the background are massive metal legs supporting this new vehicle, which might be used by Harkonnens or even smugglers as they seemingly fend off a Fremen attack.
Seydoux’s Margot Fenring appears just a few times in the trailer, as well. First, she’s standing in the Harkonnen room on Geidi Prime where Baron met with Mohiam during “Part One.” We also see her observing Feyd at the gladiator fight, using opera glasses rather than something like the binoculars we saw in the first film. Villeneuve continues to implement analog technology and retain vestiges of the old world. Lastly, there is a tight shot of her coming face-to-face with Feyd, suggesting a potentially intimate relationship. As with all Bene Gesserit, I’m sure her intentions aren’t exactly altruistic…
We also get more insight into Fremen culture in this trailer than almost the entirety of “Part One.” We see a glowing, orange fingerprint reader, which seems to be used to access their home. A large chamber door is open with five rings of light spinning along the inside of the tunnel and guiding inward. Jessica and Paul are standing at the face of the tunnel – wearing the same gear they were at the end of the first film – with three Fremen, one of whom is Chani. This is likely very early in the film as they arrive at the Sietch for the first time. We can also see a cloaked and hooded/masked figure who appears to be in a Sietch, bringing forth an ornate glass bottle with a clear liquid in it.
The later shot of Jessica gasping with blue eyes leads me to think this is the pivotal Water of Life ceremony, and a later shot shows similarly obscured figures flanked by male Fremen. The general aesthetic of the Fremen – particularly the costume and makeup of the female characters – is as rich as readers would have hoped.
If the black and white of Giedi Prime was one expressionistic end of the spectrum, the blood orange hues of the sequence we get featuring Paul fighting Harkonnens on Arrakis is the other end. Once again, it isn’t clear why Arrakis looks this way, and it’s unlike anything from the first film. It could be an environmental effect – like the result of an eclipse – or maybe a dream sequence. The shade of orange harkens back to the aesthetic of David Lynch’s 1984 adaptation.
In these few quick shots, Paul grabs a blade from a body laying on the sand and swings it at a figure wearing the same type of uniform as the downed soldier. The suits were only seen previously worn by the Harkonnens guarding their spice harvesters in the intro of “Part One,” sporting large, domed helmets. These same armored uniforms appear in a later shot, surrounding a captured and bloodied Fremen named Shishakli (Souheila Yacoub), who appears in one other shot as she cheers on Paul.
Speaking of cheering on Paul, that brings us to the spectacular centerpiece of this trailer: his first worm ride. This section almost plays out like a short film, leading with Stilgar (Javier Bardem) giving Paul advice and intercutting their dialogue with Paul calling the worm, running along the dunes and mounting it.
Worm riding and worms themselves are major elements of “Dune” that were only hinted at in the first film, so there was some question or even concern about how it would be brought to life in a way that meshes with the more realistic and tangible qualities of Villeneuve’s adaptation. The use of perspective shots continues to be crucial, having characters in the foreground of the frame as some of the more spectacular CGI fills out the rest. We watch over Paul’s shoulder as the worm approaches and as he sprints toward it. We then get brought into close proximity to Paul and he hooks onto and climbs the shield-like scales before establishing both hooks. The practical elements of the worm that Chalamet previously teased at CinemaCon are on full display, and we feel compelled to cheer alongside the crowd of Fremen as they watch from the side of a dune.
It’s just the right amount to show the audience that Paul is really going to become a new man among the Fremen and that learning how to ride his first worm is just a glimpse of the spectacle, action and adventure that you can expect to get more of compared to “Part One.” The very end of the trailer reminds us, however, that it won’t just be a simple, easy conflict to watch play out. Paul and Jessica argue, with the mother telling her son, “We gave them something to hope for,” to which Paul yells out, “That’s not hope!” The final shot of Paul rallying thousands of Fremen is stirring, but the thesis at the heart of the story will ask: what are the implications?
“Dune: Part One” did well at the box office, considering the pandemic restrictions and the HBO Max simultaneous release, grossing $400 million worldwide. It was an epic yet dense introduction to the world and its characters, locations and history. As book readers will know, it is the latter half of the tale where most of the story’s most fascinating beats and opportunities for action come into play.
Ever since this movie got the green light, I knew the opportunity for something even more special was waiting, and this first trailer – and the entire kickoff to the marketing campaign – perfectly illustrate that in a way that honors author Frank Herbert and shows more than ever just how long Villeneuve has been dreaming these images.
It’s more than enough to satisfy me for now, but stay tuned in the coming months as I will be discussing its potential this awards season, breaking down future footage and sharing conversations with members of the production.
“Dune: Part Two” releases in theaters November 3, 2023.
Johnny Sobczak is an entertainment journalist and graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he majored in Media and Journalism and minored in Global Cinema. Johnny is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association and has been with Inside the Film Room since August 2019. He was named Senior Writer in January 2020 and co-hosts the Inside the Film Room podcast with Zach Goins. Johnny spends his days job-hunting, watching films and obsessing over every new detail of Denis Villeneuve's "Dune."