The trailer for Denis Villeneuve‘s Dune promises a heady sci-fi ride only Villeneuve could give us. There is so much to behold during the trailer’s two-minute runtime that it’s hard to know where to focus first. Should we talk about Timothée Chalamet as the stoic Paul Atreides? Maybe we spend a good chunk of time processing Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho, who gamely fights and defeats an entire room of men? No, the only thing I want us to discuss right now is perhaps the most impressive aspect of the trailer (and that’s really saying something): The reveal of the giant sandworms of Arrakis.
As seen in the trailer, the sandworms are massive, hulking creatures who burrow their through the sands of Arrakis before emerging through the surface and showing off their mighty maws. The sandworms of Arrakis are integral to the Dune canon. Originating in Herbert’s Dune series, the sandworms are native to Arrakis and are called either the “Shai-Hulud” (to the Fremen, the native people of Arrakis) or “Makers” (to non-Fremen). The Fremen worship the sandworms of Arrakis, understanding their importance to the ecosystem of the planet and having successfully figured out how to ride them. Sandworms can grown to around 450 meters in length, with the Fremen usually measuring distance by their length. If you saw David Lynch‘s 1984 adaptation of Dune, you were treated to Kyle McLachlan‘s Paul Atreides learning how to ride a sandworm with the help of Fremen leader Stilgar (Everett McGill) (Watch here to see how it’s done.)
More importantly, the sandworms are integral to like on the planet because the sandworms’ larvae produce the prized resource known as “melange,” more commonly called “the spice.” Melange has the power to give longer life, more vitality, and even a heightened awareness to the person taking it. Given the fierceness of the sandworms, harvesting melange deposits from the sands of Arrakis is tricky business, which might explain why we see Chalamet’s Paul running for cover as a sandworm pushed its way to the surface. Additionally, it is worth noting that control of the spice production is the key source of tension between the two warring families at the center of Dune: House Atreides and House Harkonnen. Thus, the sandworms’ survival is essential to the plot of Dune. The preservation of their species and habitat is key as they are an important part of the spice production process.
One final fun fact about the giant sandworms of Arrakis: They apparently smell a little like cinnamon. Fingers crossed we get some sweet commentary from Chalamet’s Paul Atreides about that in the forthcoming Dune.
Dune is set to arrive in theaters on December 18, 2020. For more, go watch the Dune trailer to make sure you’re emotionally, mentally, and physically prepared for its theatrical release.
Allie Gemmill is the Weekend Contributing Editor for Collider. You can follow them on Twitter @_matineeidle.