How Dune’s Paul Atreides Is Similar To Al Pacino’s Godfather Character, According To Denis Villeneuve

Paul Atreides (Timothee Chalamet) wears a long black coat as he walks on a beach in 2020's Dune

The best stories have universal qualities -- themes that can span multiple genres and generations. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that a story like Dune would share some similarities with other classic stories. Now, as we approach the release of this year’s reboot, director Denis Villeneuve has shared some interesting insights as to how Paul Atreides compares with Al Pacino’s legendary character from The Godfather, Michael Corleone.

Movie reboots can be a bit controversial, but one of the cool things about them is that they can introduce new generations to stories that they may not have encountered yet. David Lynch’s original Dune film, released in 1984, was not well received and is still divisive among fans, though it’s become a cult classic. With Denis Villeneuve at the helm of the reboot, fans are eager to see if Frank Herbert’s novel series can get the adaptation it deserves. If nothing else, it looks like the director has thought long and hard about the story’s central character and how audiences can relate to his story:

Paul has been raised in a very strict environment with a lot of training, because he's the son of a Duke and one day... he's training to be the Duke. But as much as he's been prepared and trained for that role, is it really what he dreams to be? That's the contradiction of that character. It's like Michael Corleone in The Godfather – it's someone that has a very tragic fate and he will become something that he was not wishing to become.

Though these two movies definitely aren’t similar on a surface level, Denis Villeneuve brought up a good point to Empire about the similar trajectory that Paul and Michael face. It’s encouraging to see that he seems to have a really good grasp on what makes Paul’s story so uniquely interesting, too:

His survival depends on being able to make the right decisions and adapt to different dangerous situations. It's a very beautiful story about someone that becomes empowered. Like any young adult he is looking for his identity and trying to understand his place in the world, and he will have to do things that none of his ancestors were able to do in order to survive. He has a beautiful quality of being curious about other people, of having empathy, something that will attract him towards other cultures, and that's what will save his life.

In the original Dune film, Kyle McLachlan played Paul Atreides. In Denis Villeneuve’s version, Timothee Chalamet will bring the character and his myriad Corleone-esque challenges to the big screen. We’ll see how it all comes together when Dune hits theaters on December 18, 2020.

Is Denis Villeneuve making a fair comparison? Let us know what you think in the comments!

Katherine Webb