In 1965, Frank Herbert’s defining work, Dune, was released. Twenty-four years later, in 1989, I was born. Ten years after that I took it upon myself to read my first adult book in the form of Herbert’s novel. I failed. Miserably. But so began a love affair with the greatest work of science fiction of the 20th century. Alejandro Jodorowsky also failed to have that experience, in fact it does not seem as though he ever actually read the entire book. Regardless, he put a ton of work into an adaptation that never saw the light of day. His efforts are depicted in Frank Pavich’s new documentary, appropriately titled Jodorowsky’s Dune.
Most of the film portrays Jodorowsky’s gathering of, what he calls his “spiritual warriors” – the men he entrusted to bring his vision to life. These men include artist extraordinaire Jean “Mœbius” Giraud, special effects guru Dan O’Bannon, giant creep H. R. Giger, the members of Pink Floyd, and “actors” Salvador Dalí, Mick Jagger, and Orson Welles (alright, that last one was legitimate at the time).
The only thing that could bring these crazy people together would be a crazy man like Jodorowsky himself. His stories about drawing these personalities into his web are immensely cinematic, and incredibly lucky. It was as if God herself wanted Jodorowsky to make this movie.
Unfortunately, the Hollywood studio system did not agree with our almighty deity. Jodorowsky, the man that brought all of these amazing artists together, was the very thing that the studios could not support. Jodorowsky’s crazy adaptation – which is completely different from the book that I love so much – was not viewed as attainable (or marketable) by the people who could make it a reality.
This raises the question of whether or not Jodorowsky’s Dune still exists, despite never having been made. The movie died almost immediately after its “getting the team together” phase (which the documentary dedicates most of its runtime to), but it’s legacy lives on.
Jodorowsky’s Dune was never made, but it still managed to influence seemingly every science fiction film that was made in the years following. Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn remarks early in the film that the entire course of blockbuster film would have been changed if Jodorowsky had made his movie. I don’t think that is necessarily true; the movie seems like it would have been lost on most of America. The most impressive part of the entire endeavor is that the movie still had its effect, was still influential. Jodorowsky’s Dune, and the aborted movie that it presents, still exists, in spite of all the hardships it faced.