In this adaptation, Duke Leto wisely puts on his shield before going to check on the injured woman (soon found to be Shadout Mapes) when he senses something wrong in the middle of the night and gets shot in the back by Dr. Yueh. The shield manages to stop the paralytic dart from striking his skin, for a few seconds, leaving him a few extra moments of agony as he tries frantically to grab the dart before it finishes penetrating the shield. The dart's trajectory landed right where he was unable to reach it, leaving him futilely trying to save himself.
The Baron is significantly thinner than how he is described in the novel, but where he lacks in morbid obesity he makes up for in looking absolutely terrifying, resembling a grotesque, hairless mix between Emperor Palpatine and Sydney Greenstreet. His anti-gravity suspensors are no longer strapped to his body, but implanted in his spine, with a distinctive bone cracking sound each time they are activated. His long robes make him appear more like a giant, moving shadow and his voice sounds like Marlon Brando with a throat full of gravel. Darth Vader has nothing on the Baron.
Baron Harkonnen: I said Iwould not harm them and I shall not. But Arrakis is Arrakis and the desert takes the weak. This is my desert. My Arrakis. My Dune.
Rabban's outrage at the forced end to the Harkonnen's occupation of Arrakis is very startling, leaving no mistake that he is a petulant, unstable tyrant.
In the Harkonnen throne room, there's an eight-legged black ... thing which looks like it escaped from one of H. R. Giger's nightmares, which seems to be kept as a pet by the Baron or Piter. The Harkonnen servants—who are all bald and eerily thin, with white skin, no fingernails and solid black eyes — also look distinctly alien. Some wear strange gags over their mouths, and react twitchily and deferentially to the Harkonnens' actions, implying a history of brutal treatment from their superiors.
Speaking of the thing above, its possible that the creature is not an alien, but a mutated human. It has no features (eyes, mouth, nose, etc) but an oddly human-shaped head, and at the end of each limb is a humanoid hand. Considering how depraved the Harkonnen family is, its not too far-fetched to assume that their pet is either: A) A genetically manipulated human clone, or B) A human who was turned into that thing (especially considering it understands human speech enough to be affected by Gaius Helen Mohiam's Compelling Voice).
The depiction of Giedi Prime itself goes beyond stark and straight into terrifying. A completely industrialized world, every scrap of green and life has been chewed up and replaced by stone, concrete, and metal. Smoke and smog hangs over everything and while the palace of Caladan looks regal and stately, the gigantic ziggurats of the Harkonnen look like looming mausoleums.
We get a shot of a Harkonnen agent who was bricked up into a wall, just so that he could release a hunter-seeker drone in an attempt to kill Paul. Claustrophobia (a character states that the agent was cemented into the wall for six weeks) and the Paranoia Fuel of a hidden attacker anywhere within a building, all in one package.
For that matter, the hunter-seeker itself. It looks less like a drone and more like a gigantic mosquito, even more so when it flies right up to Paul's eye, and then it darts extremely quickly straight at Shadout Mapes when she tries to enter the room unaware of its presence. Fortunately, this gives Paul the opening he needs to crush it.
The Sardaukar are pretty unsettling. They're portrayed like a cult of Blood Knights who practice Human Sacrifice (with a shot of the many people who get sacrificed) to mark their foreheads with blood before going to battle. They also have a Black Speech as language, which is made creepier due to the actors actually speaking the lines given in English (read their lips) while being overdubbed, creating an almost Uncanny Valley effect.
The Sardaukar muezzin's chant is not subtitled, but only hearing it sends a chill down the spine. Not only due to the distorted, gastric overtones, or just the question or what might he be saying, but also to the sheer creepiness of the entire ceremony. The only hint the audience is given is that the opening words of the muezzin's chant are the thunderous and guttural first words of the film: "dreams are messages from the deep."
The overdubbing of the Sardaukar might be intentional — Villeneuve wants the Sardaukar to be unnerving and uncanny, as in the book they are described as such even although Herbert never explains why. Here Villeneuve gives a good representation that makes the audience feel unnerved by the Sardaukar. Their Black Speech includes when they signal to each other in the cistern, sounding like insects more than humans.
During the assault on Arrakeen, while the Harkonnen and Atreides forces shout battlecries and yell during the fighting, the Sardaukar have the unsettling habit of silently and slowly descending from unseen perches to sneak up on their prey.
The Harkonnen army utterly demolishes the Atreides forces, with the help of a traitorous Doctor Yueh and three battalions of Sardaukar soldiers.
The depiction of laser weaponry, both during the Harkonnen/Sardaukar assault on Arrakeen, and later on during the attack on Liet-Kynes' ecology station. The beams look thin and not overly powerful, but they rapidly pierce through every substance they face and come very close to bisecting Paul, Jessica and Liet-Kynes when the trio try to elude the Sardaukar and escape the ecology station.
The effects of the Deadly Gas in Duke Leto's fake tooth are portrayed as much more graphic than in earlier adaptations. Not only does the gas suffocate its victims, it also corrodes their skin and eats away their eyeballs (We Hardly Knew Ye, Piter). It's implied that Baron Harkonnen had to go through extensive surgical reconstruction after barely surviving the incident. The imagery of the Baron coughing and wheezing on the ceiling with the corpses of Piter and Duke Leto below is sufficiently unsettling.
The Baron's oil bath, which he uses to heal himself after his botched assassination attempt. The sight of his elephantine body, glistening black from the stuff is particularly unnerving. It is from this bath that he gives Rabban the order for the gloves to come off.
While the Baron and Rabban are speaking, you can hear screams in the backround. Presumably from Atreides personnel being tortured.
Paul's visions, while occasionally helpful and showing Paul's future love Chani, are just as often nightmarish. Special mention goes to his vision of the holy war that will be waged in his name—while nothing too explicitly violent is shown, the fact that it's enough to demolish Paul's otherwise-impenetrable composure and leave him panicked, shaking and crying is certainly unnerving. One vision in particular shows Chani sauntering across the desert with a hand soaked in blood.
Paul: It's coming. I see a holy war spreading across the universe like unquenchable fire. A warrior religion that waves the Atreides banner in my father's name. Fanatical legions worshipping at the shrine of my father's skull. A WAR IN MY NAME!!Everyone shouting my name!!
The makers of the film spent over a year perfecting the design of the Sand Worms to make sure they looked as intimidating and prehistoric as possible. They succeeded. For one, they have large baleen-like structures in their mouths which make it resemble a giant staring eye.
There's also a realistic consequence to the movement of such a large, powerful subterranean creature witnessed in the attack on the spice harvester. Sandworms are so massive that as they approach the surface of the desert, they cause soil liquefaction. Trying to run from a giant underground monster is bad enough, now try doing it when the sand you're standing on starts behaving like water.
After seeing the Sardaukar easily slaughter Atreides soldiers, find themselves narrowly outmatched by the Fremen, and barely defeat Duncan Idaho in a 20-to-1 fight, the remaining Imperial troops are consumed offhandedly by Shai-Hulud almost before they realize they're in danger. Their only warning is when the vibrations of the worm's approach causes their legs to sink into the sand. Arrakis is such an outrageously ruthless Death World that even the Emperor's elite troops are helpless beyond the walls of the cities.
Our first true demonstration of the Bene Gesserit Voice, when the Reverend Mother orders Paul to come to her and kneel. He seems to just appear that way almost instantly, as though dragged on a leash, fully making clear how much it overrides your own will so you're not even aware of time passing until you've complied. Just like this website.