When Denis Villeneuve and James Cameron met over international Zoom in November for Variety Directors on Directors presented by MGM Studios and United Artists Releasing, the two sci-fi auteurs didn’t waste much time geeking out over each other’s respective films. Cameron repeatedly praised Villeneuve’s adaptation of Frank Herbert’s seminal sci-fi novel “Dune” — about the rise of Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) — which has been split into two parts (the second is set to debut in October 2023). Villeneuve interrogated Cameron about the four “Avatar” sequels he’s been making for the better part of a decade with a largely new, young cast (the first of which is scheduled to premiere in December 2022).

For his part, Cameron was particularly enamored by the way Villeneuve approached the cosmic scope of Herbert’s mind-bending, messianic story — and compared it to a few of cinema’s most enduring movies.

“The thing that strikes me about ‘Dune’ is that it’s truly epic,” Cameron said. “When I use the word ‘epic,’ I’m using it in a very specific way, meaning like a David Lean film, or to a very large extent like the ‘Lord of the Rings’ films. But when I think of films that have epic events in them, like let’s say a Marvel Universe film where whole cities get destroyed and so on, they don’t feel epic to me. You seem to have the discipline, the vocabulary, of actual epic filmmaking, that kind of grand proscenium frame that’s just presented and takes its time with the music and so on.”

“Is that just innate with you?” Cameron asked Villeneuve. “Were you trying a style on this film that you hadn’t done?”

“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,” Villeneuve replied. “There’s not a lot of middle ground shots: landscape and faces.”

Check out the full conversation between the filmmakers in the video above.