The Dune series has lots of things about it that makes it novel in the world of science fiction, um, novels. There’s a spice-based economy, a near-complete lack of computing devices, and spaceships piloted by gross fishy mutants that live in what looks like paprika farts. Another interesting quirk of the books and movies is the extensive use of ornithopters for travel. You know, flappy-wing aircraft!
The new trailer shows some of these, with a very different look than what we’ve seen in film adaptations of Dune before. Here’s the trailer, so you know the full context:
…and, here’s some screengrabs of the ornithopters themselves:
Wow, they’re very dragonfly-like! It looks like they have four wings, like a dragonfly, and similar overall proportions.
We can see a few more of them here; they’re clearly insect-inspired.
This is a far cry from the ones in David Lynch’s very stylized version of Dune from 1984, which had a very odd, boxy sort of look about them:
I’m sure they had good interior volume but that shape hardly seems particularly aerodynamic, really.
Lynch’s often-maligned take on Dune also had this strange ornithopter used by House Harkonnen, as seen on this model kit:
It’s rare to see aircraft with fuselages wider than long, and while there’s something still insectoid about this, I’m not so sure it’s a flying insect. It’s interesting, at least.
The famously unmade mid 1970s Dune by Chilean-French director Alejandro Jodorowsky had some wildly ornate and exuberant ornithopter designs, fitting the overall extravagant planned look of the production:
The SciFi channel’s 2000 miniseries used a more militaristic-looking ornithopter, and it doesn’t seem to have a flapping-wing sort of propulsion as much as it has semi-stationary wings with inset motors:
Here’s a little tour video of one, if you’re interested:
Denis Velleneuve’s new take on Dune is looks to be bringing an interesting look to everything, and I think I like where it’s going. This behind-the-scenes shot from a very ornithopter-focused YouTube video gives a nice close-up look at the body of the dragonfly-like ‘thopter:
It looks to be made of a dull material, with a long rear extendible ramp; the circular openings are where the wings would be mounted. This image shows it in full:
There seems to be some kind of stealth-like faceting of the fuselage, and those are some generously large windows, too. It’s not clear exactly what powers these ornithopters—some kind of combustion engine, or electrical, or fusion, or something even more exotic, and I don’t think it was ever made clear in the books, either.
I think, though, the weirdest suggestion about how Dune-universe ornithopters worked has to be from the Dune Encyclopedia, a 1984 huge 526-page tome that suggested these aircraft were powered by—ready?—scallops.
Yep, something called a Heart Scallop is used to provide the rhythmic power for the aircraft. I hope Villeneuve’s version brings this back. I’d like to see the ornithopter mechanic roll in with his big bottles of garlic and butter.
While our reality hasn’t really embraced ornithopters, powered and crewed ornithopters have been built, the first of which was Adalbert Schmid’s 1942 flapping-wing plane, which is featured in this interesting video about ornithopters:
The use of both fixed and flapping wings in these ornithopters is interesting, too.
I’m quite curious to see more of these in this new take on Dune, and excited to see more, like Villeneuve’s interpretation of the spacecraft.