Spoilers follow for Denis Villeneuve's Dune.
There's a lot to like about the 2021 adaptation of Frank Herbert's classic science fiction novel Dune, from the vast world building and interplanetary political intrigue to its stunning visuals. But for many viewers, one of the highlights is Jason Momoa's incredibly Jason Momoa-like turn as the improbably-named Duncan Idaho.
In the universe of Dune, Idaho is one of the most skilled fighters on the side of House Atreides, as well as a friend and mentor to protagonist Paul (Timothée Chalamet). Momoa himself described Idaho as "a legendary warrior" in a video showcasing his stunt training for the movie, adding: "He is the samurai. He's the front line."
Idaho gets to demonstrate his formidable fighting skills in one critical sequence in the movie, when he engages the Sardaukar soldiers in order to protect Paul and Lady Jessica. In a recent interview with IndieWire, Momoa revealed that this fight scene choreography, which takes some of its cues from the Kali, a martial art from the Philippines, also included a brief, oblique shoutout to his son Nakoa-Wolf: the moment where he appears to salute Paul by raising his blade to his chest and then to his forehead.
"My son does that," he said. “There’s definitely these intimate moments where I’m signalling to my son... That's a Kali move, where you put your hand on your heart and put it on your head. That’s to Timothée in the movie, but that’s to my son in real life."
The salute, which Momoa's character delivers moments before sacrificing himself so that Paul and Jessica can escape, is echoed much later on towards the end of the movie, when Paul finds himself participating in a duel in which he is forced to kill somebody for the first time. Paul makes the same gesture as the fight begins, which fans can interpret as a sign of respect to his opponent, or as Paul imitating and honoring his late friend and mentor.
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