'Dune' Sandworm versus 'Star Wars' Jedi

In the world of Dune, the spice must flow, but in the world of sci-fi franchise smack talk, the spicy disses are coming at lightspeed. Blade Runner 2049 director Denis Villeneuve has implied Star Wars is only for children, and that his Dune reboot will correct that.

On Tuesday, Fandom reported that Villeneuve sees his upcoming take on Dune as a more mature approach to science fiction. He even throws a little shade on Star Wars being a subtle rip-off of Dune. “Most of the main ideas of Star Wars are coming from Dune so it’s going to be a challenge to [tackle] this… The ambition is to do the Star Wars movie I never saw. In a way, it’s Star Wars for adults. We’ll see.”

The idea that Star Wars is a Dune rip-off largely comes from the documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune, which chronicles Alejandro Jodorowsky failed attempt at adapting the influential Frank Herbert novel into an ambitious feature film in the ‘70s. The only problem with this notion is that Jodorowsky never intended for his Dune to be remotely faithful to the Herbert source material, and even says in the documentary “I rape the Dune.” Further, though some production design elements of Dune and Star Wars are similar, this is mostly connected to the superficial observation that the titular planet “Dune” — Arrakis — is a desert planet, kind of like Tatooine or Jakku from Star Wars.

So, in sense, from a visual perspective, Villeneuve has a point. Unless he wants to change Arrakis into a bubble bath planet, the idea of a desert planet isn’t exactly a new idea for a moviegoer since like 1977. But, does that mean Dune is inherently anything like Star Wars, outside of the desert planet aesthetics?

 Kyle Maclachlan in David Lynch's 'Dune'
Not a 'Portlandia' sketch. Kyle Maclachlan in David Lynch's 1984 version of 'Dune'

Well, yes and no. The journey of Paul Atreides is certainly similar some heroic arcs in Star Wars insofar as he is someone who doesn’t have magic powers at the beginning, and gets magic powers by the end. And yes, there’s a kind of oppressive galaxy-controlling regime in the novel, too, but who doesn’t have evil interstellar empires running around these days?

Though the David Lynch-directed 1984 version of Dune remains the most famous adaptation of the famous novel, the 2000 SyFy Channel miniseries is still considered to be more faithful.

In 2017, it was confirmed that Villeneuve was taking on Dune not just as one film, but most likely, several. And if the director is lucky, perhaps he’ll get his wish, and the Dune series will turn into a mature, hardcore space opera in which people have to get hooked on a special space drug called “spice,” just to figure out all their problems.

The Legendary Pictures produced Dune has no release date as of this writing.


Photos via Universal, Tor Books/Lucasfilm