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How Dune 2 Became Gen Z’s Star Wars

Here’s why Dune has replaced Star Wars as the main sci-fi franchise nowadays.

The opening screen from the Dune Part II (2024) Fan-First early IIMAX screening.
Photo by Hailie Gold

Recently, lots of people on the internet have called Dune: Part 2 “this generation’s Star Wars.” Recent reviews have shown that the moniker absolutely fits. Both Dune and Star Wars are monumental sagas. They transcended their mediums and became cultural touchstones, redefining filmmaking by putting in massive amounts of effort into the production process.

But the parallels between these two stories un deeper than mere inspiration. Dune inspired Star Wars, but has come back around to take over as the new epic space opera for Gen Z and beyond.

Frank Herbert’s original Dune novel inspired George Lucas to create Star Wars in 1977. And in modern times, we haven’t seen an epic of this proportion in over a decade.

The sheer scale of Dune: Part 2 and its production

Paul Atreides, both the hero and villain of 'Dune'.
Originally meant to be a messiah, Paul is forced to become a tyrant in Dune: Part 2. Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

The amount of effort put into making this movie is staggering. It will most likely go down in history with the likes of Gladiator and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Those two movies are grand epics, using tons of detailed practical effects, costumes and miniatures to bring the cast and crew’s shared vision to life. Ever since the rise of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, CGI-heavy comic book movies have replaced the swords and sandals genre.

Ever since Avengers: Endgame and the failure of the DC Cinematic Universe, though, the superhero genre has fallen off. Audiences have been waiting for another huge blockbuster franchise as most projects have moved to streaming. The Dune movies have brought back these massive, high-effort projects after years of audiences seeing films that say they’re large in scale but don’t feel like it because of the overuse of green screen.

How Villeneuve’s filmmaking impacts Gen Z

Dune 2's cast
The main characters in Dune: Part 2. Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

As Hollywood continues to grapple with the ever-evolving landscape of blockbuster cinema, Dune stands as a shining example of what can be achieved when filmmakers dare to dream big. Denis Villeneuve’s directorial style embraces the artistry of the past. He’s stated that he has always wanted to adapt Dune, so splitting the book into two films and putting this much effort into it shows how much passion he has for Paul Atriedes’ story.

Gen Z lives in a world where spectacle often takes precedence over substance. This has been seen plenty of times with “superhero fatigue.” CGI has actually gotten worse since the early 2000s. Compare Iron Man’s suits in the original film to those in Infinity War and Endgame. The very first Iron Man movie used practical suits and sets, so the CGI that the team used was refined to an insane degree. When Iron Man moved, there was a sense of tangibility.

Dune is the first movie I’ve seen in a while that genuinely confused my eyes. It blurred the line between CGI and miniatures, especially with the ornithopters. It also helps that the ornithopters were set dressing, so cast members sat inside them for some scenes. It’s a welcome reminder that sometimes the most powerful special effects are the ones created by human hands.

Dune as the inspiration for Star Wars

Mandalorians on Tattooine
Boba Fett and Din Djarin on Tattooine in The Mandalorian. Credit: Disney+

Before Dune came to cinemas, when most people thought of a “sci-fi desert planet,” they thought of Tattooine. And maybe that’s still the first thing to come to mind for a lot of people. Ever since Dune, though, Arrakis has replaced Tattooine as the dry, harsh, home of a young spacefaring protagonist.

George Lucas wanted to make a movie in the style of Flash Gordon, so he came up with Star Wars. He was inspired by sci-fi works of the time, and of course, Dune was a large influence. It’s obvious that Tattooine is a Western-style, more prosperous Arrakis. But it also has its own sandworm equivalent: the Sarlacc. A huge monster with sharp teeth, the Sarlacc also lives under the desert sand. Unlike the sandworms, though, the Sarlacc stays in its pit and doesn’t crawl around much.

Lucas wanted something to differentiate his movie from others of the time, and he thought of the Force. This is another obvious comparison to Dune’s Voice. The Force has many more uses, granting Jedi and Sith supernatural physicality, foresight, and telekinesis. Paul Atreides also has foresight, but that is a separate ability. The Voice by itself is just a Jedi Mind Trick that needs lots of training to use. Unlike the Force, though, the Voice can only be used by specific people and doesn’t bind the universe of Dune together.

How the Dune films conquered Star Wars

A Force hologram of Luke.
Some fans say The Last Jedi destroyed Luke Skywalker’s legacy and ruined the franchise. Credit: Disney+

Disney’s handling of Star Wars split fans up into camps, which basically killed the story’s previously universal appeal. It lost its magic, becoming “just another franchise” and left a gaping hole in the space opera genre. Multiple gaps in the market were just waiting to be filled. Practical filmmaking, sword combat, huge sets and crowds of extras? Villeneuve had it covered.

After the release of Dune: Part 2, Gen Z was screaming out into the void for people to watch it. Some even claimed that it was better than the original Star Wars saga! Definitely a huge statement to make, considering the impact those movies had on the world.

Frank Herbert’s novel was considered impossible to adapt for the longest time properly. But with modern technology, fans have regarded it as a pretty good adaptation. It’s pleased longtime fans and has introduced new people to this world. Worldbuilding is fantastic – it drops viewers into a universe with an existing history and lingo, refusing ever to break immersion.

How moviegoers reacted to Dune: Part 2

Villeneuve’s first Dune movie, released in 2021, was a slow burn. It was all a massive setup for the sequel, where everything comes to a head in a chaotic explosion. But Dune wasn’t very exciting on its own and ended abruptly. It left audiences wanting more, and some of them were dissatisfied after all the hype.

Thankfully, the Internet encouraged audiences to wait for the sequel, and Denis Villeneuve surpassed everyone’s expectations. Marketing was great and kept the plot hidden, which is rare for trailers these days.

The Dune films stand out by being completely unpredictable. Their source material is decades old and went under the radar, especially after Star Wars blew up in popularity. Luckily, Denis Villeneuve has adapted this fantastic space opera at the perfect time. It’s an excellent cinematic experience that has impacted a lot of people, and is a very interesting take on the hero’s journey.

Written By

I'm a University of Southern California alumni. I have a Bachelor of Sciences in Business of Cinematic Arts and a minor in Cultural Diplomacy. I enjoy playing video games, reading comics and manga, and watching anime and movies. I love writing about topics surrounding the film and television industry, and the meanings behind many successful stories.

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