Can Denis Villeneuve Actually Convince Anyone To See His “Dune” Remake?

Matthew Loffhagen
(Photo: Universal)

This week, acclaimed if often undersupported science fiction director Denis Villeneuve has been talking about his upcoming adaptation of the classic science fiction series, “Dune”.

Nobody ever asked for a “Dune” reboot. Nobody ever even wanted a first “Dune” movie back in the Eighties. While the books have their fans, the real appeal for movie studios seems to be that the basic story of sandy sci-fi swashbuckling is vaguely reminiscent of “Star Wars”.

Dune Desert
Source: Universal

“Dune”: kind of like “Star Wars”, but less fun.

Or, as Denis Villeneuve puts it, “Star Wars for adults”.

No, seriously, that’s exactly how he’s described the upcoming movie:

“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.”

We all know that if something is “for adults”, it’s either sexy (unlikely with this particular movie), or boring.

Denis Villeneuve wants everyone to know that his version of “Dune” is just Boring “Star Wars”. Perhaps he shouldn’t be so proud of that.

Ultimately, no matter what he does, Villeneuve has his work cut out for him. The director seems to have a habit of making beautiful, complex science fiction movies that are ultimately ignored while people instead hold out for more “Star Wars”.

“Blade Runner” may enjoy a cult appeal, but last year’s sequel, “Blade Runner 2049”, didn’t manage to actually draw particularly large crowds to the box office – despite the fact that the movie was riding high on the Old Man Harrison Ford goodwill that was earned by “The Force Awakens”.

Blade Runner 2049
Source: Warner Bros

“Dune” seems to be set to become another movie in this same situation: grown up, complex science fiction with elements of “Star Wars”, that ultimately, movie fans don’t care about.

Such was the case the last time we had a “Dune” movie, and as such, Villeneuve may not want to emphasize the fact that the movie is going to be an off-brand “Star Wars” copycat (even if, as he notes, many of the ideas for “Star Wars” actually came from the “Dune” novels).

Maybe Villeneuve can pull this off. Perhaps he’ll make such a compelling, impressive sci-fi western that people will be lining up around the block at every movie theater in the Western hemisphere.

Or, maybe, by borrowing ideas that work in “Star Wars”, Villeneuve will be able to create a version of this mythos that will appeal to the Chinese audience in a way that George Lucas’ saga simply can’t.

What’s more likely, though, is that the acclaimed director will end up with another dud movie on his hands.

Perhaps it’ll be a good film, but it’s almost certainly not going to be a big must-see blockbuster.