Dune vs. Rebel Moon — What is the Better Sci-Fi Epic?

Rebel Moon‘s 2023 release was sandwiched between either of the recent Dune movies, released in 2021 and 2024, respectively. And, both being largely personal tales about rag-tag resistances against galactic empires, they are similar in quite a few ways. But how do these two rebellious-minded stories compare to each other? And what is there to see in the much-maligned Rebel Moon that Dune might not have?

Those questions and more will be answered in the article below.


Basic Info

Dune

Year: 2021-2024
Runtime: 2hr 35min – 2hr 46min
Size of Series: 2 movies
Rating: R

Rebel Moon

Year: 2023
Runtime: 2h 15m
Size of Series: 1 movie
Rating: PG-13

Similarities

  • Similarity 1 – A Single Planet: Both Dune and Rebel Moon are space-fantasy epics that are primarily (but not entirely) set on a single planet, following a single group of people trying to fend off external threats.
  • Similarity 2 – Visual Flair: The directors of both Dune and Rebel Moon (Denis Villeneuve and Zack Snyder respectives) are known for their visual flair, and both movies were crafted with futuristic special effects and flair in mind. While the style of flair is different, both are full of spectacular visuals and style.
  • Similarity 3 – Political Scheming: Both Dune and Rebel Moon feature numerous characters who use the massive political apparatuses in their respective movies to scheme in order to get the upper hand. While Rebel Moon mostly leaves this to the villains, Dune sees characters on both sides of the conflict constantly scheming.
  • Similarity 4 – Massive, Talented Cast: Dune features Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Rebecca Fergusson, Dave Bautista, Stellan Skarsgård, Austin Butler, Oscar Isaac and many more putting on career-defining performances. Rebel Moon, meanwhile, sees Sofia Boutella, Djimon Hounsou, Ed Skrein, Michiel Huisman, Doona Bae, Ray Fisher and others suitably fill their roles. While the performances in Rebel Moon are not as electric, and the cast not quite as star-studded, both are made through the interactions of their large, talented casts.

Differences

  • Difference 1 – Scale: While both movies are set on a single planet, Dune has a much larger scale than Rebel Moon. Rebel Moon sees a single settlement opt to fight back against an intergalactic empire that controls them, whereas Dune sees gigantic armies form on both sides of a truly galactic conflict, and one which will shape the face of mankind.
  • Difference 2 – Pacing: Rebel Moon is much faster-paced than either Dune movie. Dune, with its emphasis on philosophy, intricate plots, and deep character work, has to take time to elaborate on ideas, and its overall action tends to be slightly slower, with a few moments of bombast in-between. Rebel Moon is much more concerned with being a fun action-filled romp, and (in signature Snyder style) only slows down for the slow-mo camerawork.
  • Difference 3 – Themes: Rebel Moon is a story, primarily, about active rebellion against oppression. Its galaxy-spanning empire is purely evil, and the motivations of the protagonists are purely moral, and so the story is a Star-Wars-esque story of the “little people” fighting back against tyranny. While some ideas are similar, Dune is much murkier, with its main character Paul being famously morally gray, and all sides of the conflict — including the Paul’s — cause pain and suffering. This is done to make larger points about society and the nature of heroes and rulers, and is much less cut-and-dry.

Quality

Dune

Letterboxd: 3.94.5
IMDB: 8.08.8
Rotten Tomatoes (Critic): 83%93%
Rotten Tomatoes (Audience): 90%95%

Rebel Moon

Letterboxd: 2.0
IMDB: 5.6
Rotten Tomatoes (Critic): 21%
Rotten Tomatoes (Audience): 58%

Put simply, both Dune movies are rated significantly higher than Rebel Moon: Part One on all metrics. A critical flop, Rebel Moon is a weaker sci-fi entry on essentially all technical levels, with weaker writing, cinematography, visuals, costuming, and sets. While mileage may very, most people would consider both Dune movies to be of much higher quality than Rebel Moon.

Recommendation

If you are deciding whether you should watch Dune or Rebel Moon, then you should probably watch Dune. The handling of plot, characters, themes, visuals, and worldbuilding demonstrate Dune to be a more well-crafted movie than Rebel Moon and, despite being based on a novel from the 1960’s, feels much more fresh for science-fiction. However, you might want to watch Rebel Moon instead of Dune if you don’t enjoy movies with slower pacing, or if you are in the mood for something light that doesn’t require much thought.

If you liked Dune or Rebel Moon, then you are unlikely to like the other movie. Though both are sci-fi epics featuring a rebellion against a galactic empire, that is where the similarities end. On almost all other levels, they take very different approach to the genre. Dune is slow, methodical, philosophical, and intense. Rebel Moon is quick-paced, smaller in scope, and fairly light on themes, with a focus on fast, fun action scenes. If you are a die-hard fan of all sci-fi, you might like both, but otherwise these movies have little overlap.

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Graves
Graves

Graves is an avid writer, web designer, and gamer, with more ideas than he could hope to achieve in a lifetime. But, armed with a mug of coffee and an overactive imagination, he’ll try. When he isn’t working on a creative project, he is painting miniatures, reading cheesy sci-fi novels, or making music.

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