Frank Herbert’s 1965 sci-fi classic Dune is an epic far-future tale of feuding space dynasties, secret sisterhoods, and New Age prophets. The book has been made into a movie before by David Lynch – a filmmaker in sync with Herbert’s psychic visions – a memorably grotesque piece of pop art in 1984.
The latest filmmaker to put their hand in the pain box is the Canadian writer-director, Denis Villeneuve. He puts the drama and plot first, avoiding details that could be distractions and appearances that aren’t explained in dialogue or action. The bareness with which he depicts the story doesn’t resemble the shoestring production values of nineteen-fifties sci-fi cheapies, but nevertheless, the movie is beautiful, the CGI is top-notch.
The Sardaukar of Frank Herbert and Denis Villeneuve’s Dune is ruthless and violent. The Sardaukar really is, as one of their officers boasts, “The Emperor’s blades. Those who stand against us fall.”
This gives added creepiness to that brief snapshot we get of their homeward on the Imperial Army planet Salusa Secundus where men look to be “trained” while being crucified upside down. The Harkonnen’s Mentat Piter De Vries (David Dastmalchian) enlists the emperor’s elite soldiers, the Sardaukar, to take part in the baron’s invasion of Arrakis. With the army lined up in the rain getting the blood of their human sacrifices marked on their heads, the audience gets hints of the Sardaukar’s savagery and the threat the heroes will have to face, all to the tune of a guy throat singing in the background – its intense stuff.
If you’ve never read Herbert’s 1965 novel or any of the Dune sequels, trust us, the Sardaukar are so much worse than you realize. They are not from the planet Salusa Secundus, or at least their ancestors weren’t. Many centuries ago, Salusa Secundus was the home of House Corrino, the royal family which has ruled the Known Universe for thousands of years under the crown of the Padishah Empire. From the brutal living conditions of Salusa Secundus, House Corrino consolidated its power as the greatest and most dangerous family in the universe.
After the Corrino House moved to a more glorious planet on Kaitain, they transformed their former homeworld into a prison planet. The Corrinos’ victims were not only sentenced to suffer: convicts, and convicts’ children, and their children’s children, and so on for eternity were sentenced to be assimilated and brainwashed into a warrior culture’s cult. Like the Spartans of the old earth, the weak were filtered out from the strong at birth, and the healthy from the sick.
It is said six out of every 13 children born on Salusa Secundus die before the age of 11 due to the unforgiving and fanatical training regiment of their forefathers, who were in turn raised by their fathers to have religious-like deference toward all members in the House Corrino.
The Sardaukar and their foes all favor blades over projectile weapons. This is due to the invention of the defensive Holtzman shield you see utilized throughout the movie. Thousands of years ago, these personal defense shields were built to protect users from any type of object that could be fired from a weapon like a gun, laser, or presumably a bow and arrow.
This scene does an excellent job of conveying the essence of Sardaukar training, but omits some of the details, probably because they were too wild for Dune to show. For one, the dead men whose blood is used in this scene’s ritual are likely Sardaukar hopefuls who didn’t make it through training.