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Sunday, March 3, 2024

Large worms, dour nuns, and Timothée Chalamet: The world of Dune, briefly defined

The largest film launched to this point this 12 months is admittedly a bit complicated. Or perhaps not complicated, but it surely certain has lots of lore.

I’m speaking, after all, about Dune: Half Two.

Denis Villeneuve’s second installment adapting Frank Herbert’s Sixties sci-fi collection of books enters theaters this week. Given it’s been over two years because the first movie, and given the complexity of what’s occurring within the Dune universe, I figured a few of you may need a number of questions.

Like, what’s up with Timothée Chalamet’s psychic boy king? Who’re these dour-looking nuns? And what the hell is happening with the enormous worms in all places?

I like sci-fi — catch me any day with a duplicate of Gideon the Ninth or The Dispossessed — however I’ve by no means learn Dune, so I can’t aid you.

Patrick Reis, Vox’s senior politics editor and longtime Dune fan, can. Patrick and Alex Abad-Santos, a Vox senior correspondent and self-described Dune beginner, went deep on the brand new film right here. Beneath is a slice of their dialog, with extra questions from me, for at present’s version of the publication. — Caroline Houck, senior information editor

Mild spoilers forward concerning the collection’ general narrative arc.

So who’s this Paul Atreides man that Timothée Chalamet is taking part in? I’m supposed to love him, proper?

At first of Villeneuve’s earlier film, Paul is the one little one of Home Atreides, son of Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac) and Girl Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), a Bene Gesserit (extra on them quickly).

Paul’s household has been coerced into leaving their dwelling planet to maneuver to Arrakis (often known as Dune), the place they’re charged with overseeing the manufacturing of spice, the universe’s most treasured useful resource.

On the finish of the primary movie, Paul has hidden away with the Arrakis-native Fremen and allied with them towards Home Harkonnen — the despots who as soon as once more rule Arrakis after murdering Paul’s father and nearly everybody he cherished. (He additionally meets Chani (Zendaya), a Fremen who turns into his lover.) Over the course of Dune: Half Two, he makes his approach up the Fremen ranks to develop into a messianic determine.

This results in a reasonably sophisticated ethical arc over the remainder of the collection.

Proper, see, right here’s my query: Is he a very good messianic determine … or really evil? I’m suspicious of this hero worship. And there’s additionally some bizarre white savior vibes right here, proper?

Is he “evil”? No within the quick time period; type of sure within the medium time period; after which principally no within the extraordinarily, extraordinarily long run — occasions occurring many years, centuries, and even millennia later with the assistance of Paul’s descendants.

Dune Two is about in that short-term “no” a part of the saga, the place he’s serving to the Fremen free themselves from the cruelty of Home Harkonnen.

However to the opposite a part of your query — yeah. Dune is basically a white savior story during which the majority of the company is exercised by outsiders coming to a nomadic tradition.

It’s additionally a reasonably clear allegory to the Center East: Spice is a uncommon substance that sustains fashionable life and facilitates empire-wide commerce and journey, in order that’s fairly clearly oil. And a lot concerning the Fremen appears to be designed to evoke desert nomads — and among the most simplistic stereotypes about Arabs. At its worst, it’s Dances With Worms. All of this could, and in lots of instances does, make followers uncomfortable.

I believe the film makes some steps in the suitable course. Zendaya’s Chani has way more company within the film than the e-book’s Chani does, which places among the energy again within the fingers of the Fremen.

However with out mainly setting apart an enormous chunk of the e-book’s plot, I’m undecided there’s a approach across the white savior trope. Somebody tried making a Dune film with out sticking intently to the e-book, and it’s a hilarious mess.

Who’re the Bene Gesserit, and extra importantly, why aren’t they in cost?

To the bare eye, the Bene Gesserit appear to be a bunch of superpowered nuns — though they’re not precisely nuns — as Paul’s mom Girl Jessica is a part of the sisterhood.

However let’s again up a bit to know why they’re so necessary and what precisely they’re attempting to do.

Lengthy earlier than the occasions of the movies, humanity had a purge of all “pondering machines.” And so for hundreds of years (and perhaps longer), the primary advances in expertise haven’t been higher machines, however re-engineering people themselves.

That’s the large mission the Bene Gesserit are engaged on: breeding the superbeing.

Paul was alleged to be the second-to-last step earlier than that superbeing. Girl Jessica was to have a feminine — Bene Gesserit can decide their offspring’s gender due to course they will — to mate with the inheritor to Home Harkonnen. However out of affection for Oscar Isaac’s Duke Leto (RIP), she granted his want for a male inheritor. That introduced the superbeing into the universe a technology early, upending the Bene Gesserit plan.

So to get again to your query: The Bene Gesserit appear content material to let the lads combat the comparatively small-stakes conflicts over the imperial throne and management of the spice. However behind the scenes, they’re combating an even bigger combat: to provide a superbeing whom they will management.

Sadly for them, they solely get midway there — as Paul is actually not fascinated about being underneath anybody’s management.

Okay, however most significantly, discuss to me about these large worms. They’re fairly necessary to the plot — and tremendous cool to take a look at — however they don’t appear to make sense.

We realized within the first movie that the Fremen and desert dwellers appear to know the way to keep away from getting eaten by the worms, so … simply what are the worms feeding on to get so huge? And, extra importantly, what have they got to do with this omnipotent and treasured spice?

Studying between the strains, I believe they really feed on one thing within the desert sand, moderately than on the creatures of it. Relatively than the apex predator of the ecosystem, they’re higher likened to, you understand, our common outdated earthworms right here on Earth. They tunnel by the desert and enrich it — presumably even by aiding within the manufacturing of spice.

So I believe they’re being territorial, moderately than predatory, once they swallow spice harvesting machines or Harkonnen corpses or the rest that doesn’t adequately disguise its actions when strolling throughout the sands. I might be pleased to debate sandworm ecology with you for about 10 extra hours, however I’ve in all probability stated sufficient right here. Benefit from the movie!

This story appeared initially in Immediately, Defined, Vox’s flagship day by day publication. Enroll right here for future editions.

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