Dune and Spider-Man: No Way Home . The latter, of course, is a Marvel movie—which the dude who directed The Irishman famously compared to “ theme park rides .” In the past two years, Martin Scorsese’s comments have done nothing to slow down the ride. If anything, the MCU has sped up, taking attention away from “smaller” films…like Dune . Denis Villeneuve, whose blockbuster adaptation of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi epic Dune releases this month, recently made headlines for taking a few digs at Marvel movies while his star, Timothée Chalamet, said the best advice he got on navigating Hollywood was “ no hard drugs and no superhero movies .” A big-budget adaptation boasting creative integrity versus another theme park ride. Once again we find ourselves in a Warner Bros. v. Marvel Studios scenario (foreshadowing?). A slew of factors, including marketing (or lack thereof), have set these two up as the most anticipated event films of 2021, but which is the most anticipated?
Cover Photo: Warner Bros./Marvel Studios
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Dune v No Way Home
Trailers tell casual moviegoers what they’re in for. Hopefully, without outlining the entire plot. Since Avengers: Endgame (2019), the MCU has been hyping its multiverse—a magical place that both adheres to and negates canon. The next Spider-Man is about to go full-on Spider-Verse with rumors, reports, and leaks (intentional or otherwise), all pointing to the return of characters from Sony’s past, including Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Men.
More anticipation exists for No Way Home promotional material than entire films. The first teaser trailer didn't even drop until a month ago, breaking the internet with an-all time viewership record of 355.5 million global views in its first 24 hours, eclipsing Endgame ’s 289M views. WB has marketed the absolute crap out of Dune with multiple trailers, clips, featurettes, interviews, etc. While healthy turds indeed, those promotional materials don’t hold a sling ring to No Way Home ’s one little trailer that could.
Winner: No Way Home
Source Material/Established Fan Base
At one point in time, Herbert’s Dune (1965) was the best-selling science fiction novel of all-time—which inspired George Lucas' Star Wars. Herbert wrote five sequels and a bunch of others wrote a bunch more. David Lynch adapted Dune in 1984 and, well, it was the quintessential flop. Forty years later, Dune has a following but they subscribe to channel surfing rather than HBO Max.
After the new trailers for Dune (everywhere), those who aren’t avid readers or middle-aged men, will most likely do a quick Google search: “what is ‘Dune’ about?” Some twisted individuals might end up reading the entire plot on Wikipedia. Others will be satisfied with the synopsis. In short, the internet ravages anticipation associated with adaptations. Yes, filmmakers can pull a fast one on readers but the essence of what happens remains. Comic book movies aren’t “based on,” they’re “inspired by”—audiences have no idea what’s going to happen in No Way Home , and the internet is ripe with theories typed with sweaty palms. And we’re all familiar with Marvel’s already established and formidable fan base.
Winner: No Way Home
No disrespect to No Way Home ’s Jon Watts, but Dune ’s social, political, and scientific concepts require a visionary director and Denis Villeneuve ( Prisoners, Sicario, Arrival , Blade Runner 2049 ) is just that. With Blade Runner 2049 , he did the impossible and gave audiences a satisfying sequel to Ridley Scott’s classic. Unfortunately, no one went to see it because the marketing department hung Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford out to dry. This is why WB has invested so much money in making sure you see Timothée Chalamet everywhere.
As you read this in your solitude, yes, No Way Home could feature Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield, Williem Dafoe, Jamie Foxx, and Tom Hardy in addition to the likes of Tom Holland, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Zendaya. However, the former list is not confirmed. Therefore, there’s no denying the impact of Dune ’s star-studded cast, including Rebbecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Zendaya, David Dastmalchian, Jason Momoa, and Javier Bardem—that’s a mic-drop worthy list lead by the new Johnny Depp, Timothée Chalamet as protagonist Paul Atreides.
Interesting imagery aside, Dune probably has one of the year's most attractive casts—from Chalamet and Zendaya to Ferguson, Momoa, and a handful of old guys still killing it in the swagger department. This smorgasbord of sexy is amplified by some truly stunning cinematography, which has been showcased in its unrelenting promotional campaign. Sex has and always will sell.
Both of these event films will take advantage of their budgets with impressive CGI and fight choreography. No Way Home will be sure to check off the list of Marvel tropes: generic humor, Easter Eggs, post-credits scenes, portals, and giant sky beams. Where Dune ’s budget is $165 million, No Way Home ’s is upwards of $200 million, every penny of which will make sure it looks and feels like the biggest film of the year that potentially changes the way people look at comic book movies.
Winner: No Way Home
Dune will release in theaters and on HBO Max on October 22nd, 2021. No Way Home will release exclusively in theaters on December 17, 2021. It’s not hard to imagine Dune taking a hit once it becomes available to stream while No Way Home will surely break box office records. If the film does indeed bring back characters from past Sony franchises, in particular from Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy, fans will see it over and over again. Never underestimate nostalgia.
As No Way Home leads into Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness , it will set a precedent for the remainder of Marvel Studios’ Phase 4. If it succeeds, there will be no stopping the MCU as it introduces Deadpool, mutants, and the Fantastic Four, enabling superhero addicts everywhere (not to mention the inevitable copy-cat mutliverse-themed movies). Sure, If Dune succeeds, it’ll be a two parter. Then what? A cinematic universe? Good luck.
Overall Winner: Spider-Man: No Way Home