Dune has everything I could ask for in a movie: spectacle, drama, deafening Hans Zimmer music, stunning images on a massive scale. However, this is not a review of Dune. You can read plenty of those elsewhere. This is a review of one particular creature who appears very briefly, somewhere in the first half of the film, and my review is that I love him and would like him to be my friend.
I’ll set the scene in a spoiler-free way: evil, scary, bald Baron von Harkonnen (played with Mike Myers-levels of abandon by Stellan Skarsgaard) is having a secret meeting with a space witch named Reverend Mother Helen Mohiam (Charlotte Rampling, playing herself). They’re not necessarily plotting universal domination, but they’re not not doing that. So far, we’ve been introduced to the desert planet of Arrakis, to the noble Atreides family that has taken recent stewardship of said planet, and to the shadowy presence of the Baron, who longs for Arrakis’s sweet, lucrative spice. Though there are plenty of awe-inspiring examples of production design — futuristic vehicles, space suits of armor, brutalist architecture — there’s no hint of alien life, beyond the beloved big worms that are native to Arrakis.
This changes during the above-described scene, which starts with a shot of a spider-like creature. It’s the size of a person, with a big spider backside, shiny, oily black skin, and human hands at the ends of its legs. It’s also drinking from a dog bowl? You never see its face, which is both a shame and a blessing because who knows what horrors are happening there. The appearance of this thing was so startling and random, yet oddly intriguing, that when Charlotte Rampling began speaking offscreen, I couldn’t catch what she said. Everyone around me physically recoiled in their seats. The creature doesn’t make any noise, but it’s so shiny and so big and the hands are so insane, why does it have human hands? Immediately, Reverend Mother Helen demands that the Baron remove this thing, which is obviously some sort of pet, out of the room. When he does so, the spider person slowly, silently skitters into the shadows.
I loved the rest of Dune, it’s a great movie, a faithful adaptation, blah, blah, but I spent the remaining runtime hoping the spider guy would return. What originality, what inspiration that Denis Villeneuve and the creative team decided to add this freak, which definitely isn’t in the novel, to the movie for all of ten seconds. Unfortunately, it never comes back. Warner Bros. was unable to provide a still image of this glorious creature, played by an actual person named Milena Sidorova, who is credited as “Human Spider Proxy,” so I drew it from memory.
In case I failed to capture him in all his majesty, I also described this little miracle to Gawker’s art director, as you might to a police sketch artist. Here’s what he came up with.
I don’t currently have any pets, and thinking of a presence so unique and compelling as a mere pet seems disrespectful. But I would like him to live in my house, as a roommate. I know that most viewers of Dune will be all too happy to forget they ever saw such a repulsive, slimy, abominable monster, especially one that, like, serves no narrative purpose. But that’s what makes this thing so cool and frankly, cute. It’s not actively hurting anyone (it definitely, definitely looks like it could though) and I think, if it were real, my family might permanently distance themselves from me but otherwise appreciate how fulfilling my life would be.
Would they grow to love it? Eh. I think my dad could tolerate its very, very distant existence. I will concede, it is large for a pet and probably moves much faster than is shown in the film, which can be frightening to some. I also know from various nature documentaries that spiders are carnivorous, which, scaled-up, could be a bit gross. But the Dune spider was also drinking from a bowl so I feel safe in speculating that, at the very least, I could feed it dead animals or perhaps some sort of Soylent-like concoction, instead of it roaming the streets at night to hunt. With this, we could eke out a good life together, companions across species, equals in stature, if not in intelligence. Love wins.
Nicholas Russell is a writer from Las Vegas. His work has been featured in The Believer, Defector, Reverse Shot, Vulture, The Guardian, NPR Music, and The Point, among other publications.