Depending on how much you are into science fiction, the release of Dune: Part Two, the next film from acclaimed director Denis Villeneuve and starring Timothee Chalamet and Zendaya, is the big sequel to the next installment of this epic franchise.
Based on the 1965 novel by Frank Herbert, which spawned five sequels, Dune takes place in the year 10191 in a distant galaxy populated by opposing houses that are fully dependent on the production of a precious mineral known as spice melange that is found only on a desert planet called Arrakis.
The spice is just one of literally hundreds of different strands to the narrative which predominantly follows the arc of young Paul Atreides (Chalamet), who we last saw venturing off into the desert after he and his mother were accepted by the Arrakis natives known as the Fremen.
If you were new to the world of Dune then the language and the mythology of the story might have been confusing but hopefully you still understood the story and enjoyed it enough to head out to the cinemas and watch the sequel which is due for release in November.
If you are still a bit confused about what on Earth is going on (what was all that spitting about? why were the eyes completely blue?) want to get a headstart on what you need to know, we've highlighted a handful of the main figures, families, roles, terms and words, many of which have controversially been adopted from Arabic and Islamic culture, you might need to know before seeing the film.
Warning: This article might contain spoilers
Arrakis, also known as Dune, is the planet at the centre of Dune’s story. It has a vast and harsh desert landscape and is native to a human race known as the Fremen and gigantic Sandworms.
It is also the only planet that produces the much sought-after spice melange. Its capital city, Arrakeen, also becomes the seat of government for the Atreides Empire once they are sent to the planet to mine for spice.
Naturally, being a desert, water is a scarce commodity on Arrakis but can be found deep underground.
The Atreides family or House of Atreides are the ‘good guys’ of this story. At the start of Dune, the Atreides are the inhabitants and rulers of the lush oceanic planet Caladan before being ordered by the Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV to go to Arrakis.
The patriarch of the family is the late Duke Leto Atreides, the father of Dune's 'hero' Paul Atreides, who he conceived with concubine, the Bene Gesserit Lady Jessica (Ferguson).
The Atreides have many loyal servants like Thufir Hawat (Stephen McKinley Henderson) and Gurney Halleck (Josh Brolin) who have tutored Paul in a variety of skills and techniques. The fate of the latter remains a mystery after the bloody consequences of the first film.
The all-female Bene Gesserit are amongst, if not, the most powerful group in all of the Dune mythos. The sisterhood, often referred to as 'witches' by some have been trained through mental conditioning to control others using their voice alone and to read minds.
They have vast lifespans, can see the future and the 'truth', known as 'Truthsaying', and have developed their own martial arts technique, which becomes known as ‘the weirding way’.
They also have the ability to control what sex their children will be, a power that causes conflict within the group. The most advanced and highly trained of the Bene Gesserit are known as the Reverend Mother. In the new cinematic adaptation, the Reverend Mother Helen Mohiam is played by Charlotte Rampling with Lea Seydoux also joining the cast as Lady Margot Fenring.
If the Atreides are the good guys of Dune then Harkonnens are definitely the bad guys.
Hailing from their home planet of Giedi Prime, a heavily industrialised world that has virtually been stripped of all vegetation and greenery, the Harkonnens are a brutal and powerful set of people that despise the Atreides and at the start of the story are in charge of spice mining on Arrakis.
Their leader, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen is a rather vile figure who requires an anti-gravity suit to move around due to his severe obesity.
In the film, the Baron is played by Stellan Skarsgard and is flanked by his nephews Glossu 'The Beast' Rabban (Dave Bautista) and Feyd-Rautha (Austin Butler).
The Fremen are the native people of Dune but have been heavily oppressed under the harsh rule of the Harkkonens but remain a fierce entity to be trifled with. They live in the uncompromising environment of the planet's deserts but survive due to the ‘still suits’ they wear, which harness the body's moisture and make it drinkable.
Water is a vital part of Fremen life - so much so that when one of their tribe dies, rather than be cremated or buried, they are rendered down to water. Water is actually so valuable that if a Fremen were to spit in your presence it is considered a sign of respect.
Due to their long exposure to the spice melange, their bloodstream has mutated to give them entirely blue eyes. The Fremen call this transformation the ‘Eyes of the Ibad’.
The Fremen also view the sandworms as godlike figures and hold dear a prophecy that a saviour - or a ‘Mahdi’ - will arrive and free them from the imperial elements imposed upon them in Arrakis.
The main Fremen tribe that we encounter in Dune is the Sietch Tabr whose leader is Stilgar (Javier Bardem). Another key Fremen to be aware of is Chani (Zendaya) the love interest of Paul.
Javier Bardem as Stilgar, the leader of the Fremen Sietch Tabr AP
This is another Bene Gesserit term also known as 'One who can be many places at once' or 'The Shortening of the Way.' This is basically an all-powerful male being that the Bene Gesserit hope to create through their breeding program who could access 'The Golden Path' a special type of knowledge that is unattainable to women.
If such a person is possible the man would be a Bene Gesserit Reverend Mother, Mentat, and Guild Navigator all at the same time.
You might notice in Dune, that despite being thousands of years in the future, the technology is quite primitive and there are no computers to speak of. This is because of a conflict called the Butlerian Jihad (which is conveniently barely mentioned in the original Dune novel) which leads to the complete destruction of all computers, machines, robots and AI in the universe.
Due to this Mentats become more prevalent within the Great Houses. These specially trained individuals are basically human computers whose brains can mimic computers and can process complex calculations and store huge amounts of memory and information. They are mostly employed as political advisors to the house leaders and advise on strategies.
The Padishah Emperor
Although the Emperor was not present in the first film he will have a bigger role and will be played by veteran actor Christopher Walken with his daughter, Princess Irulan being played by Florence Pugh.
The Padishah Emperor is the title taken by the head of House Corrino, the rulers of the planet Kaitain, the Imperium and the Known Universe.
In Dune, the Emperor is Shaddam IV, who concocts a plan to undermine and ruin the Atreides, due to their popularity in the galaxy by handing over control of spice mining on Arrakis to them but sabotaging all of their equipment and staging an insurrection aided by the Harkkonens.
\u201cFIRST LOOK: Florence Pugh is Princess Irulan in #Dune: Part Two, the daughter of the supreme ruler of the galaxy, Emperor Shaddam IV.\n\n\ud83d\udd17: https://t.co/cAWV6AWpN6\u201d
These bad boys are, possibly alongside the Bene Gesserit, the most vital element of Dune’s story. These unbelievably huge creatures produce the highly sought-after spice melange therefore if you can control the worms then you can control the spice.
They exist in the sand seas of Arrakis and will attack all rhythmic vibrations, meaning they command a huge level of respect and caution, especially from the Fremen, who call them the Shai-Hulud and view them as gods.
The bile from a sandworm’s stomach also produces the incredibly poisonous ‘Water of Life’ which a Bene Gesserit must take during their Reverend Mother ritual and is lethal to those that have not completed their training. Therefore a man has never successfully drunk the water.
The Sardaukar, nicknamed the 'Emperor's Blades' are possibly the toughest and most ruthless faction in all of Dune and definitely not the ones you want to mess with. They are essentially the Padishah Emperor's own personal army, an elite fighting force of supersoldiers that has never been beaten in a battle. They are bred on the harsh environment of Salusa Secundus, the former home of the Corrino Empire, now turned into a prison planet.
The Spacing Guild
To put it bluntly, the Spacing Guild are the top dogs in the Dune universe. The Guild's navigators have the ability to navigate the galaxy through 'space folding' i.e. faster than light travel (which is a lot more complex than what you would see in Star Wars or Star Trek) gives them more power than any of the houses in Dune combined.
As they are responsible for all trade and transport between the planets give them an overwhelming monopoly on the economics of the galaxy and space travel. There is a slight drawback to this as the amount of spice that they have been exposed to (the mineral that allows them to fold space) slowly mutates them into ugly amphibian-like humanoids that can see through time and space.
Much like the Mentat’s, each house in Dune has its own specialist ‘Suk Doctor’. These are trained medics who due to ‘Imperial Conditioning’ cannot take a patient’s life or betray those they serve, who are generally wealthy families. They are easily identifiable by the diamond tattoo on their forehead, which indicates their conditioning.
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