There’s a very specific shot of three ornithopters

Monday, December 27th, 2021

Denis Villeneuve discusses Dune and Avatar with James Cameron and explains his “epic” style:

I would say that the idea was to try to bring back humanity to its right position in the ecosystem, like in the book where the humans are not in control of nature. There’s not a lot of middle ground shots: landscape and faces. I learned about the power of landscape working on documentaries at the National Film Board of Canada when I was an assistant back to Pierre Perrault, a documentary filmmaker. We went nearby the North Pole on Ellesmere Island. We spent several weeks there.


What amazed me is all the emotions that were coming every morning when you were waking up. It felt so cinematic at the time. It was a very important lesson for me, how to listen to nature and the power of nature in order to create cinema. That’s part of my, let’s say, film school.

Villeneuve mentions that he wanted to bring a sensation of realism to Dune, and Cameron notes the same thing that struck me:

If I can use an example of what you’re talking about from within your film, there’s a very specific shot of three ornithopters. You see two initially and they’re stacked on a very long lens shot. Then a third one swoops in across the foreground. You instantly made your exotic aircraft design familiar. We’ve all seen that shot in “Black Hawk Down” or whatever. Right?

Back in 2005, I had a similar thought about Genndy Tartokovsky’s Clone Wars Chapter 21


  1. Wang Wei Lin says:

    ‘…humans are not in control of nature…’

    Really? When have humans ever been in control of nature? Some of the assumptions of the arts/media crowd just reveals their disconnect from reality, science and history.

  2. TRX says:

    “bring back humanity to its right position in the ecosystem,”

    Except Arrakis was an alien planet, and not only were humans not native there, they couldn’t survive without a nontrivial amount of technology. And even then, Arrakis pretty much sucked.

  3. Harry Jones says:

    It’s Lawrence of Arabia in outer space. The only point of the ecology stuff is that the universe can squash careless humans like so many bugs. That’s not the main theme of the books.

    The God Emperor, on the other hand, is a force of nature. Only he got boring, so he had to be killed off.

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