Denis Villeneuve’s newest venture definitely managed to set up the world of Dune and its characters for us in one of the biggest films of the year but also left quite a few questions unanswered.
One of the biggest mysteries of the film is the identity of the Emperor, who seems to be all powerful, and has been pulling the strings from behind the scenes all along. In a way, Villeneuve was true to Frank Herbert’s novel by keeping his identity hidden by not putting a face to the mystery.
The Emperor is mentioned in the film, but his name and face have not been revealed. He leaves it to the audience to assume what his intentions are and to figure out his personality and motives. But the film clearly establishes his importance in the Dune universe.
The Emperor is a title held by the head of the Imperium, an intergalactic colony comprising the various powerful houses of the universe. During the events described in Dune, the title is held by Shaddam IV of House Corrino. His face or name was not revealed in Dune 2021.
If you’ve read the books, you already know everything about the Emperor. But for those of you who have not, I have put together a short guide to understanding the most powerful man of the universe. Here’s everything you need to know about the Emperor in Dune!
What Do We Know about the Emperor so Far?
The Padishah Emperor, named Shaddam IV in the books, is the leader of the universe in Dune. He is the head of the Imperium, which is an intergalactic colony consisting of different houses such as Atreides and the Harkonnens.
The Emperor is the one who had asked House Atreides and Leto to take over the planet Arrakis from the Harkonnen, who were in charge of it before the Atreides take over.
He himself belongs to House Corrino and is the 81st person of his house to sit on the throne. His ancestors from House Corrino have been ruling the Imperium for 10,000 years.
Basically, he is the equivalent of the Ruler of the Seven Kingdoms in the GOT universe. Ring a bell?
The book makes this clear and the film has remained true to the books: the Emperor isn’t exactly the best leader. In fact, he did not ask Leto to take over Arrakis because he believed in him or his merit.
But, he was concerned that Duke Leto would be able to rally the Landsraad (the powerful kingdoms together are referred to using this term) to overthrow him. So, handing over the control of Arrakis to him was only a part of the bigger scheme of things for him.
What are the Emperor’s Motives?
The Emperor wants what every king in the history of the world has wanted: to hold onto his throne. To be more specific, he is insecure that the Landsraad will mobilize against him under the leadership of Duke Leto to overthrow him.
Adding to his worries is his wife, Anirul, who is a member of the Bene Gesserit. The problem is that Anirul has given him only five daughters and no sons. So he does not have a male heir to inherit the throne after his death.
The Bene Gesserit can determine the sex of their children just FYI. They are instructed to give birth to children of either sex based on the breeding program to bring in Kwisatz Haderach or the messiah savior they believe in.
But keeping all that aside, Shaddam IV does not have an heir from his wife.
Since Leto’s growing popularity among the Landsraad is a threat for Shaddam IV, he strikes a deal with the Harkonnen, who are the staunch enemies of the Atreides. His main motive is to wipe out House Atreides and he allies with the Harokonnen to accomplish that.
I can guess the question that is making the rounds in your heads now. If the Emperor hates House Atreides so much, why did he grant the stewardship of Arrakis to Duke Leto?
It is a one-word answer: politics. This is a carefully crafted plan of the Emperor. He wanted to ensure that his hands appear clean in this mess. So, he grants the stewardship of planet Arrakis to House Atreides, which in turn, infuriated the Harkonnen as they had control over the planet previously.
So naturally, the Harkonnen attack House Atreides and Duke Leto is murdered. This is exactly what the Emperor wanted. And guess what? The blame is all on the Harkonnen-Atreides rivalry and it was easy for him to steer clear of it.
But he is the one pulling the strings from his protected throne. That is the tea!
Why Was the Emperor’s Identity Not Revealed in Dune?
By keeping the identity of the Emperor hidden, director Denis Villeneuve has managed to increase the curiosity surrounding the mysterious character.
Though the Emperor is extremely important in the Dune universe, we never see him in the story.
The Emperor being kept hidden is a carefully devised plan, where he wishes to keep his distance from the political happenings of the Landsraad. It is crucial that he is not seen being actively involved in the destruction of a powerful and significant house like Atreides.
Besides, it also helps to garner curiosity about his identity and it is unique how he manages to pull the strings of the events despite not being depicted on screen.
There’s a high chance that we will see Shaddam IV pretty soon in Dune 2, though. There is a lot of speculation as to who should play the Emperor, but there is no official confirmation about its casting.
Since Dune 2 has been greenlit by the studios, we can imagine more news in this department pretty soon. The Emperor is a pretty good player of the game of the universe, and a lot of him has been kept hidden for us to discover in Part 2.
Dune (also known as Dune: Part One) is an American sci-fi film based on Frank Herbert’s novel of the same name, directed by Denis Villeneuve.
Part One introduced the planet of Dune/Arrakis, the only place where the enhancer drug “Melange” is found and sought out by many. The Atreides House is sent to the planet as the ruling Duke, as part of their adversaries’ trap. However, the Atreides are aware of the same and aim to defend Dune and their house.
The ensemble cast is made up of Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Zendaya, David Dastmalchian, Chang Chen, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Charlotte Rampling, Jason Momoa, and Javier Bardem.