Dune Explained: Everything you Missed
Updated: Mar 13, 2022
Dune is considered to be one of the best sci-fi novels of all time and has recently been adapted to the screens again. With the inclusion of beloved celebrities in the cast such as Timothée Chalamet, Jason Momoa and Zendaya, the movie has been a success, and only one month after its release has more than $300 million dollars in its box office. Yet, many people who didn't read the book didn't really understand what was going on in the film. So this is why, in this article, I'll be breaking down some of the scenes and interesting details you might've missed (warning: this article will contain spoilers).
Dune begins with a strange soundtrack and quote: "Dreams are messages from the deep". This quote is not actually something included in the books, but added by the director in order to represent the importance of dreams in Paul's, the main character's, life. Paul often has dreams that predict what will happen in the future - destining his path to be the "chosen one", who is a legend in their society of a person who would lead the people into prosperity as had never been seen before. However, as the story progresses, some of the scenes that happen in his dreams are forged, leading the character to reflect about if he could create his own destiny. The strange soundtrack I mentioned is actually a man throat singing Sardaukar, which is, in this universe, a language spoken by the elite commandos of the emperor. This throat singing is also a quite common tradition in Mongolia, Tibet and northern European countries. The person narrating the movie, however, is Chunny (the lady Paul often sees in his dreams). She describes Arrakis and mentions that there can be seen spice in the air (which is why everyone living there has distinct blue eyes). This spice is the most valuable thing in the whole universe because guild navigators use these spices to be able to understand complex navigation equations, and can only be found on this planet. But while she narrates, a thumping sound appears, which is later explained to be the thumping used to redirect sand worms, a huge extraterrestrial creature that only exists in Planet Arrakis. All these elements of the ‘sand planet’ - spice, people with psychic powers, an emperor- that are present in the book actually served as inspiration for George Lucas, the director of Star Wars!
Chunni, further on, mentions the oppression her people face from the Harkanins, the house that used to control Arakkis and the spice exploration - but as they are departing by orders from the emperor, it leaves her questioning who her next oppressor will be. After that, when the title of the movie finally appears, it is made clear that it is part one - meaning that it will carry on like the book series, and won't have a definitive finale on this specific movie. We are also made aware of what time the story happens in: 10191 AG. AG means After Guild - after the spacing guild was created and monopolized space. So 1 AG in our calendar would translate to about 11000 A.D/A.C, which means this is set in approximately at 22000 A.D (20,000 years from now). Paul eats breakfast with his mother, Lady Jessica, a nun part of the Bene Gesseri Order, an extremely powerful entity which spent centuries working in a secret breeding program, combining Houses and influential politics, in order to bring the Messiah - “the chosen one”. In the movie, the Bene Gesseri use their telepathic voices in order to control people and command them in doing what they want. While Paul is trying to use his telepathic voice, which his mother taught him how to do growing up as part of his training, the light shifts into a portrait of his grandfather, who was a bull rider. The house Atreides, which Paul is the heir to, is a noble family that can trace their lineage back to the Greeks. In ancient Greece, bulls were the labor of Heracles. This is particularly interesting because the rival house, the house of Harkinin, originated from the word härkönen, which comes from the word härkä, meaning bull. When Paul and his father, Lato, are arguing, the main character mentions that his grandfather used to fight bulls, to which Lato responds, “Yes, look where that got him” - thus foreshadowing his fate while in war with the opposing house.
While waiting for the emperor to arrive at their planet in an official visit, which is later revealed to be him assigning to the House Atreides control of Arrakis Lato asks how much it cost the official representatives to travel all this way. An old man next to him rolls his eyes back until we can’t see his pupil, and answers “1,460,062 salaries”. This man is called the Superior Hawat, an advisor (also known as mentat) that is trained to quickly answer questions similar to the one Lato asked. They do this to replace computers and prevent technological wars between humans and machines. Later on in the scene, Paul meets with Duncan - a pilot and swordmaster, to whom he shows concern since he dreamt of Duncan’s death in the near future. While the main character is saying this, there is a close up of a beetle: which is another foreshadowing to when Duncan plays with a beetle moments before his death. Fast forward to another scene, Paul is shown to be training with Gerney Hallock. He advises the main character to never stand with his back facing the door. Paul responds saying he could tell it was him by his footsteps, to which Gerney warns saying someone could imitate his stride. Paul, however, says he could know the difference. While they're fighting, the spectators can see that, when the blades touch each other, they release blue or red lights. These are known as holtzman generators - blue means fast and red means slower movement. They are emitted to prevent the use of lasers in battle, as they could create a nuclear explosion and, well, kill everyone.
Another interesting scene that many could’ve missed is when Paul goes to see the Reverend Mother, the highest authority of the Bene Gesserit, and he touches, uncomfortably, his left collar, as if predicting the needle that she would point to his neck a few instances later. As part of a test she subjected him to, Paul has to put his hand in a box that will cause him to feel extreme pain and needs to keep it still or else he will die. In the book, the author described this pain as if his hand was burning. In the meantime, while waiting outside of the room and hearing Paul scream, his mother chants the most famous quote of the whole book series: "I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” The phrase “I will turn in the inner eye” is also a foreshadowing of when Paul has to face the shalhoub, whose mouth looks like an inner eye, and is an example of the character facing his fear.
Further on, when Paul arrives at Arrakis, he is shown to be watching educational videos about the planet he's on. This is when a hunter seeker (a technological fly of sorts) operated by a killer (who is hidden in the palace walls) tries to attack Paul. The educational videos, however, were projected as trees and Paul uses them to hide from this hunter - reflecting his adaptations to Arakkis's survival instincts. Whilst hiding, the character notices a mouse-looking animal. This creature is actually known as Muad'dib, which we see later on in the film when it collects moisture using his ears - also showing its adaptation to the desert climate. The Muad'dib is very important as it is also the name that Paul takes when amongst the Fremen people.
Later on, the movie introduces ecologist Liet-Kynes, who gives the characters still suits in order to survive the heat of the desert. While on their journey, Paul is involved in a spice storm which puts him in a hallucination state, which is when he hears an external voice. which is basically saying how he is the Messiah or “the Chosen One”.
In another scene afterwards, on Salusa Secundus, the Imperial Army Planet, the troops are preparing for war using blood to mark their forehead. It is shown that they’re getting this blood from rows of men pinned upside down, who are probably weaker men that didn’t make the cut for the army, serving as an example for the military of what can happen to them if they’re not at their best. Now that the war has begun. Paul and his mom have been captured but later manage to escape with the use of their psychic voices. They run away and hide into a tent in the middle of the desert, from where they are then recovered by Dr. Kynes and Duncan and brought to a freman outpost. The Sadikur (elite troops) then catch up with them and Duncna has to face them, and is then murdered (as predicted by Paul).
Finally, during a sandstorm, Paul and his mom are riding an uncontrollable Thopter (a sort of helicopter) when he has yet another vision of a Fremen called Jamis, who is giving his advice. He said to just let things go with the flow, which is what Paul does. He releases everything and gives up control of the vehicle, and they're able to crash land the Thopter. They rapidly get out of it and once again head to the desert, where a group of Fremen encounters them. They attempt to kill the mother and son for the water from their suits, but Jessica is able to disarm them, leading Jamis to evoke the Amtol Challenge, which is a duel to the death in the name of honor. Paul stands up for Jessica and later has to fight with Jamis. Before the fight, however, another vision strucks him, and he sees himself being killed. The voice returns saying that for the Messiah to awaken Paul must be killed. Then, when the fight takes place, however, Paul kills Jamis, contradicting what he saw in his vision. Nevertheless, the voice also said that when you kill someone, you kill yourself - possibly reflecting that it meant not the death of Paul, but of his innocence and child-like identity. He is now "transformed" into a Fremen, one that belongs in the desert, thus choosing his final path.
Sources Used: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1kE9LOhEjMQ `