Jodorowsky’s Dune – Movie Review

movie reviewIt’s safe to say that this was probably the most influential movie that was never made. If you are a film fan and remotely interested in filmmaking history then this documentary by Frank Pavich will be right on your alley. It’s about Alejandro Jodorowsky (also called Jodo and now in his 80s) and his attempt to film his version of Frank Herbert’s “Dune” in 1975. I admit I have never seen his movies (like El Topo or The Holy Mountain) or any other of his art projects. From what I knew he is known for his very unique style and abstract imagery in film.

This documentary knows very well that there are more Scifi and Dune fans out there than hardcore movie fans that know the name Jodorowsky. So the trip starts with an introduction to who Jodorowsky is and what he’s mostly known for. It explains his unique approach to art and movie making very well and introduces the viewer to the character that is Jodorowsky. I would say he’s ‘the living passion’. As soon as we see him and hear him, we learn that this man is full of emotion, drive and… passion. Especially of course when it’s about his work.

He says he never read Frank Herbert’s classic and all he knows about it was told to him by friends who loved the book. Immediately a vision began to take shape in Jodorowsky’s head. His friend Michel Seydoux, who previously worked as Producer on projects with Jodorowsky, gave Jodo free hand on what to do next. Jodorowsky just said “Dune!” and Seydoux said “Sure, why not!” and both embarked on the journey to realize the vision.

When you hear Jodorowsky talk about how they started pre-production with writing the screenplay, doing concept art and creating a shot for shot storyboard, you don’t have a choice than just to think that this movie was meant to be. Especially when Jodo is talking about how he met all the people who were involved in the pre-production process or planned to get involved with filming this monster project. It really all sounds like destiny wanted this movie to happen. There are storys about Mick Jagger, Pink Floyd and even Salvador Dali! It’s crazy hearing all this but in context of Jodo’s vision it all makes sense for some strange reason.

Jodo managed to bring together a group of people that were able to artistically bring their absolute best for the project. People like Jean ‘Moebius’ Giraud, Chris Foss and H.R. Giger managed to change the look of how Scifi had to be shown in movies. Their talent defines Scifi even today. And it all started with Jodorowsky trying to realize his vision of Frank Herbert’s Dune. At the time in the early to mid 70s they shared a very special common idea. They wanted to show something completely new. They wanted to break barriers when it came to design, feel and the technical execution of visual effects. All that, of course, comes for a price.

A too high price for the studios. Jodorowsky and his team had a finished and fleshed out idea that they brought from one studio to another. They had this amazing book that contained a scene for scene storyboard, the full script, several pages of concept art and all that on really high quality paper. A true treasure. And still, all of the studios said “thanks for the effort but no”. And it was either because the ideas in the script were to far out there and weird or they wouldn’t simply finance it because the visuals necessary for this movie demanded a really huge budget. No one wanted to risk it. And from my point of view, I couldn’t blame them. Jodo’s vision was weird, brutal and visually strange. Yet… fascinating on so many levels. So ultimately the project failed because no one wanted to finance it. Jodo admits that it was a very hard time for him. His heart was broken.

So the rights for Dune then went to Dino De Lautentis who then produced the David Lynch version of Dune. Jodorowsky’s first thought was very positive. If someone was able to create a similar movie, close to Jodo’s ideas, it was David Lynch. When the movie came out in 1984 Jodo refused to see it. I would have probably reacted the same. Later then he saw it. A funny reaction by Jodo in the documentary because he smiled and was happy because Lynch’s movie was a failure on almost every level. Not just to him but also in the box office, to the critics and fans. And again… it’s a human reaction and I would have probably reacted the same. I personally enjoy Lynch’s Dune and think it definitely has its place. It’s sturcture is completely nuts but it contains enough ideas and weird concepts to stay fresh and interesting.

At the end of this documentary you can come to only one single conclusion. And that would be that Jodorowsky’s Dune is probably the best thing that ‘could have’ happened. By that I mean the fact that this movie was never fully made. Keeping in mind that something like Star Wars most likely never would have happened if Jodorowsky’s Dune were made. And they cover that fact in the documentary. But it also made movies like Alien, Blade Runner and so many other scifi classics possible. I mean, Giger’s design of the Alien alone is a timeless thing, that will look creepy, strange and frightening even to people that aren’t even born yet. And the atmospheric dystopia feel and look of Blade Runner wouldn’t have been possible without Moebius. So we may have lost one crazy Scifi version of Dune but won so many more Scifi movies that contain the ideas of Jodorowsky’s Dune and kinda sorta immortalize his project in a very special way.

Check out this documentary if you’re either a Movie fan, Scifi fan or simply interested in Art. It’s be worth your while!


Jodorowsky’s Dune on IMDb

2 Responses to “Jodorowsky’s Dune – Movie Review”

  1. Picture Frames Says:

    Having seen both Dune and Blade runner, and not having been much impressed with either one, I wonder if they wouldn’t have both benefited by seeing how Jodorowski would have framed the worlds in Dune. David Lynch’s version was a mess, and the special effects (IMHO) frankly sucked, the outfits looking like they were bought at a costume party shop.

    Blade Runner was a lot better, felt like it was pretty true to Dick’s MO, and the artwork was certainly more convincing (though they didn’t have to contend with riding giant sandworms). But it still didn’t grab my attention the way many same-period sci-fi pieces did, and felt like it lacked continuity.

    But I agree with you, the cost in then-dollars to do justice to Herbert’s novel would have been stupendous, and can’t really blame their prospective customers for not buying. Maybe someone will take another pass at it in the future, since the special effects (and one would hope, the costumes!) can be done so much better now.

  2. Tigaer Says:

    Hey, thanks for your feedback. When I saw David Lynch’s Dune from 1984 the first time (I was probably around 13 or 14) I didn’t really get what was going on there. I did like the effects though. And still do. As cheesy and bad they may be by todays standards (and even back then). I dig it.

    I saw Blade Runner around the same time and again I didn’t understand the movie really. Since then I’ve probably seen the movie a dozen times and it grew on me like crazy. Everytime I watch it there are still little details to discover and now of course I also get what’s going on there between the characters and whole message of the movie. The movie actually is very different from Dick’s “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep”. The movie is very reduced to the escence of Dick’s story and from what I know Dick saw and early cut and loved what they did with it. Especially the look of the city. And that look also goes back to the comic artist Moebius who worked with Jodorowsky and his attempt to do Dune in the early 1970s.

    Now Jodorowsky’s Dune would have been a crazy movie in 1975. If you haven’t seen the documentary then risk a look. The ship designs, locations and costumes would have been the weirdest looking stuff ever. Doing a Dune movie now would be useless from my point of view. I think there are plans though. Yes the visuals would be better now but can the story be told right? I never read the book(s) but from what I know it’s so heavy material that I don’t believe a movie could ever do it justice. =) But hey, that’s what they said about Lord Of The Rings too. And Peter Jackson did a fine job with the movies.

Leave a Reply