This article contains light spoilers for Dune: Part Two.
Even the biggest fan of David Lynch‘s original Dune movie from 1984 has to admit the (unintentional?) comedy that occurs when Chani (Sean Young) pleads for Paul Atreides (Kyle MacLachlan) to “tell me of your homeworld, Usul.” In the very next scene, the two are in the throes of passion, suggesting that “tell me of your homewold, Usul” is a pick-up line with the power of the Voice.
Believe it or not, the name “Usul” is not some Lynchian term like “Garmonbozia,” something he made up during transcendental meditation. Rather it comes directly from the Frank Herbert book he adapts. Similar to “Muad’Dib,” Usul is a name that the Fremen give to Paul, this one meaning “the strength of the base of the pillar.” But whereas Muad’Dib refers to Paul’s relationship within his Sietch (as well as desert mice!), the extended household he joins under Stilgar (Everett McGill in 1984, Javier Bardem now). It is a name of intimacy—as the scene from the Lynch movie suggests.
Yet during the
perfume commercials visions of Chani (Zendaya) in Denis Villeneuve‘s more recent Dune, she refers to him simply as “Paul,” not “Usul.” We at Den of Geek used that fact to speculate that the Paul Atreides of the these movies would not be called “Usul.” More than a simple bit of streamlining Herbert’s dense fictional world for mainstream audiences, Den of Geek contributor Ryan Britt noted that losing the name signals a different take on Paul. “In a sense, if Paul doesn’t get to be Usul onscreen, one small part of his book counterpart won’t be there either,” Britt observed. “Usul separates him from the god myth he and his mother create around him. It brings him back down to Earth.”
However, an IMAX trailer for Dune: Part Two prophesies the return of Usul. According to Inverse, an exclusive clip from Villeneuve’s second Dune movie included in last night’s theatrical re-release of Dune: Part One showed Paul preparing to ride a sand worm. As Bardem’s Stilgar advises the boy, he referred to him as “Usul,” not as Paul.
Interestingly, the clip also makes a joke that fondly recalls Lynch’s Dune. In the sandworm riding sequence from 1984’s Dune, Stilgar cheers on Paul by announcing to the assembled Fremen, “Usul has called a big one.” Although he continues on by saying, “Again, it is the legend,” the vernacular of the first line clangs. That’s because neither the line nor any talk of “a big one” appears in Herbert’s novel.
And yet, Villeneuve and his co-screenwriter Jon Spaihts re-use the terminology in their take on the sandworm sequences. Here, Stilgar urges Paul to summon “a big one” for his first ride. But when the worm reveals itself, Stilgar responds, “Not that big!”
While most people prefer Villeneuve’s take to that of Lynch, they also admit that the latter’s wild and exotic vision has more humor than the brutalist grays in the newer movie. It’s unlikely that Villeneuve will switch up his visual style, so it’s good to see that he’s borrowing the old master’s sense of humor, if only for a single gag.
Dune: Part Two rides into theaters on March 1 2024.