Based roughly on the first half of Frank Herbert’s 1965 namesake novel, Denis Villeneuve’s ‘Dune’ is one of the very few movies that accurately depict the sheer immenseness of space. And yet, Villeneuve and his co-writers still manage to fill this mind-bogglingly expansive universe with a relatable group of characters.
Duncan Idaho, portrayed by the ever-dependable Jason Momoa, is one such character. When the audience is introduced to him, Duncan is a warrior and swordmaster serving the House Atreides and one of Leto Atreides’s most trusted advisers, along with Gurney Halleck and Thufir Hawat. If you are wondering whether Duncan survives in ‘Dune’ to fight another day, we got you covered. SPOILERS AHEAD.
Does Duncan Idaho Die in Dune?
Yes, Duncan Idaho dies in ‘Dune.’ He is part of the recurring dreams that Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) has at the beginning of the film. Paul sees Duncan in the desert planet Arrakis, among the native Fremen people. In those dreams, he also sees Duncan in a room, lying dead among others. Along with Gurney Halleck (Josh Brolin), Duncan has been Paul’s weapon instructors, and the two of them share an incredibly close bond. So, a justifiably concerned Paul asks Duncan to take him with him when the latter goes to Arrakis as part of the advanced party. However, Duncan refuses, telling Paul that he would be court-martialled if he did that.
Duncan plays arguably the most crucial role in the initial alliance between House Atreides and Fremen of the Sietch Tabr. After spending considerable time with the Fremen, he wins their trust and brings the settlement’s leader, Stilgar, to Leto. He even plays the role of an interpreter of the Fremen customs and practices for the Duke and his comrades.
When the joint raid of the imperial Sardaukar troops and Harkonnen forces takes place, Duncan demonstrates what an efficient warrior he is by taking on several elite Sardaukar soldiers on his own and defeating them. He, Gurney, and Thufir built an impressive military for House Atreides, unparalleled by any other great house. The only reason that the House Atreides loses the battle is because of Suk doctor Wellington Yueh, who betrays Leto to save his abducted wife from Baron Vladimir Harkonnen.
As Arrakeen — the fort where Leto and his household were residing — burns, Duncan takes an ornithopter and embarks on his search to find Paul and Lady Jessica. He then finds Dr. Liet-Kynes, an ecologist representing the Emperor on Arrakis. When he asks her to testify about what happened, she says that she has been instructed to see nothing and say nothing, making him realize that the Emperor sent House Atreides to the desert planet to die. When he and Liet-Kynes find Paul and his mother, he becomes the first to swear fealty to Paul. After his father’s death, Paul has become the new duke of House Atreides.
Ultimately, Duncan sacrifices his life to save Paul and his mother one last time. He makes his last stand in a room inside an old ecological center, killing several members of the Sardaukars before dying himself. However, he is later brought back several times in the books as a ghola (comparable to a clone with some key differences). Duncan’s first ghola makes his appearance in ‘Dune Messiah’ and marries Paul’s sister, Alia. In later novels, Paul’s son, Leto II, creates several successive gholas of Duncan. So, while the original Duncan is dead, his gholas will probably appear if there are more films beyond the immediate sequel to ‘Dune.’