After the release of David Lynch’s Dune in 1984, audiences left the theaters confused and downtrodden. One of the best chances to see the epic of Dune on the big screen had ended in a panned flop. Despite a valiant effort, the film crammed the novel into a film shorter than two and a half hours. So, it clumsily portrayed the expansive world-building and political intrigue from the novel. Some fans even began to question if any filmmaker could ever create a satisfying adaption of the novel. However, another movie came out years ago that embodied many of the same elements from Frank Herbert’s epic.
Even though Star Wars invited viewers to join them on an action-filled adventure, rather than a philosophy-driven epic, the influence of Dune shone through. Many aspects in George Lucas’s breakthrough film harkened back to Dune, especially the desert planet of Tatooine. Some fans even refer to the Bene Gesserit as the original Jedi. Years later, Denis Villeneuve had to navigate through the parallels between Dune and Star Wars to avoid comparisons.
So, it is undeniable that Dune influenced Lucas as he designed the Star Wars universe. However, how deep did the connection between these two works go? Join us as we explore the various elements of Star Wars that harkened back to Dune.
Join us as we explore how Star Wars took inspiration from Frank Herbert’s Dune series
The Desert Planets: Arrakis and Tatooine
The most obvious connection between Dune and Star Wars comes in the form of Tatooine. Like Arrakis, Tatooine is a nearly barren planet in the galaxy’s Outer Rim. With the planet’s twin suns, heat scorches the surface of the planet. The people that live on the surface must contend with the harsh environment. While rain is scarce, the residents of the planet have learned to pull water from the air via moisture farms and vaporators.
Despite the harsh environment, the planet is the home world to a few tribes of humanoids. For instance, the Jawas prowled the sands for junk while the Tusken Raiders lived a nomadic life. While the planet became an attractive spot for mining, the planet gained a reputation as a hub for smugglers and villainy. The greedy rule of the Hutt Clan, who often dealt with the underworld, did not help that image.
In another universe, Arrakis also sits at the edge of the Galactic Padishah Empire. Despite the remote location of this desert land, the planet was crucial to the Empire. For, Arrakis was the sole source of the Spice Melange, the foundation for the empire’s entire civilization. Still, anyone who wished to mine the Spice had to contend with not only the Fremen and the Sandworms, but also the unforgiving heat of the planet.
The Spice Trade
Further connecting these two planets was the trade of a mind-altering drug known as the spice. Unlike Dune, Tatooine was not the sole source of the narco-spice. Instead, the main hub for spice mining was Kessel while Tatooine was one of the hub planets that distributed the drug across the galaxy. While the Hutts benefitted from the Spice Trade on the planet, the Pike Syndicate ruled over the operations.
On the other hand, Arrakis was the sole location to harvest Spice, for the drug came from the excrement of the planet’s sandworms. As the substance rose to the planet’s surface, the heat and sands transformed the excrement into the Spice.
Unlike the Spice from Star Wars, Dune’s drug created a vast array of effects that made the substance mystical. Beyond altering the minds of those who partook in the spice, the drug extended their lives. Moreover, heavy use of the Spice allowed certain users to tap into superhuman abilities, with some becoming biological computers. Thus, the universe turned away from “thinking machines”, relying on the Guild Navigators for interstellar transportation instead.
Parallels between the Bene Gesserit
Beyond the two desert planets and their Spice trade, one of the most visible elements of Star Wars also shares several elements with Dune. Standing aside from the political rule of the empire, the Bene Gesserit held an extraordinary amount of power in the universe. While they held no official power over the galaxy, the influence of the Bene Gesserit was everywhere. This group of women secretly conducted genetics experiments and ensured the passing of genetics to ensure the fulfillment of their ultimate goal.
Meanwhile, the Jedi of Star Wars was far from a secret political group. While this organization stood separately from the Republic’s Senate, it held significant political power as well. Meanwhile, both females and males could become members of the Jedi Order, if their birth gave them the right connection to the force. Rather than controlling the politics from the shadows, the Jedi openly guided the Republic, attempting to give sage advice through the force. They also served as the knights that protected the republic from its enemies.
On the other hand, the Sith acted much more like the Bene Gesserit. These dark side users moved in the shadows, aiming to gain more power. While there is no significant proof that the Sith had conducted eugenics breeding, some fans question the birth of Anakin Skywalker through the force. As told by Sheev Palpatine, his former master, Darth Plagueis, had gained enough sway over the force to create life. Thus, some members of the Sith leaned toward using genetic manipulation to gain power as well.
Mind tricks and the Voice: coercing the mind
Beyond the political influence of the Bene Gesserit, this sisterhood held a unique power that allowed them to directly control others, the Voice. By modulating the frequency of their voices, the Bene Gesserit could directly order others to do as they desired. Anyone who heard the voice had no choice but to follow the command. However, the Bene Gesserit could not hope to command an entire population with the voice. Moreover, the human computers, Mentats, could resist the Voice since they understood how it worked.
Elsewhere, the Jedi mastered a very similar skill. Through their connection with the Force, the Jedi could influence others with commands. In general, most Jedi’s waved their hand as they issued the command. While this is a powerful ability, the Jedi looked down on excessive use of the trick. Moreover, the mind trick was completely ineffective on those with a strong will. So, most of the Jedi’s enemies could easily ignore the mind trick.
Despite the Jedi Mind Trick being considerably weaker than the Voice, the two elements once again highlighted the ways that Dune influenced Star Wars.
Enhanced abilities and perception
The final parallel between the force users from Star Wars and the Bene Gesserit from Dune came in their general enhanced perceptions. Thanks to their use of the Spice along with their training, the Bene Gesserit could easily perceive the world around them. For instance, Bene Gesserit sisters could discern when someone was lying to them. They could also break down the composition of food with a single taste.
Their abilities also gave them complete control over their bodies. Not only could the Bene Gesserit control their blood flow, but they also could dictate when they became pregnant. Moreover, their control over their bodies allowed them to have superior hand-to-hand skills, known as the weirding way. Few warriors could contend against those who trained under the Bene Gesserit.
For the Jedi, those who were strong in the force could feel events occurring around the galaxy. While they did not necessarily perceive the world differently, the force granted the Jedi and Sith insight. By placing their faith into the force, a Jedi could aim at objects that not even computers could successfully hit.
Moreover, the force granted the Jedi enhanced reflexes and agility, making them formidable fighters. Like the Bene Gesserit, few fighters could contend against a force-trained warrior. Thus, the Jedi became perfect choices as the knights of the Republic.
Baron Harkonnen and Jabba the Hutt: the rulers over sane planets
When it came to the men who ruled over the arid lands, both Baron Harkonnen and Jabba the Hutt were grotesquely obese men who sadistically ruled over others. Like Baron Harkonnen and his family, the Hutts had ruled over Tatooine through their crime syndicate for generations by the time that the Jedi located Anakin Skywalker on the Outer Rim planet. Under the influence of the mighty crime family, Tatooine became a hotbed for gambling, smuggling, and other forms of villainy. Moreover, the Hutts promoted the use of slavery around the planet.
Meanwhile, the Harkonnen gained power over Arrakis through the blessing of the emperor. As the empire awarded House Harkonnen the siridar fief over Arrakis, they persecuted the native population of the planet, the Fremen. Meanwhile, their own house honored deceit and trickery. It was not uncommon for a Harkonnen to rise in the ranks thanks to an assassination.
The man who embodied the worst of the Harkonnen was the Baron himself. Baron Vladimir Harkonnen’s most distinguishing trait was his his immense girth, which forced him to use an anti-gravity unit to move about. The Baron indulged in his sadistic pleasures as the Fremen suffered under his rule. A spiteful man, he quickly planned a retaliation when he lost his fiefdom to the House of Atreides.
Star Wars remains its own separate entity from Dune
Despite the various parallels between the two science fiction giants, Star Wars differs greatly from the Dune series. George Lucas took the Hero’s Journey to craft the memorable tale of the rise of Luke Skywalker. Meanwhile, Frank Herbert subverted the journey with his messianic figure, Paul Atredies, who proved to be a manufactured hero. Where Paul Atredies lost his father on the sands of Arrakis, Luke Skywalker had to defeat the evil that consumed him. So, both works have become respected works of science fiction.
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