Review by-Jarrett Leahy
Back in 1984, directing luminary David Lynch attempted to tackle one of the most dense and heralded science fiction novels of the time, Dune. Unfortunately, despite good intentions, Lynch’s Dune was and is still seen by many as an ambitious failure. What many movie fans back then were unaware of was Lynch was not the first director charged with bringing this intricately detailed space universe to the big screen. A decade earlier, Chilean avant-garde filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky discovered the wonders of this singular space epic and, after years of detailed preparation, was poised to make a science fiction film that was so ambitiously ahead of its time, some believed it would have rivaled Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey in terms of seminal science fiction. Jodorowsky’s Dune is a documentary that explores in great detail why this now infamous project never came to be.
The first question I had that I’m sure some of you may be asking is, who the heck is Alejandro Jodorowsky? The history of cinema is so vastly spread throughout the world that historical figures and talents often slip through the cracks and are forgotten over time. Alejandro Jodorowsky was a surrealist artist who began creating experimental movies during the 1960’s and early ’70’s. In 1975, Jodorowsky assembled a team of some of the most talented artists of the time to tackle his most ambitious project yet, Dune. Unfortunately, Jodorowsky ran out of money and was never given the chance to finish what he and his team spent so long working on. Through personal interviews, Jodorowsky and his crew recall many memories of the work they put into this passion project. Now 85-years-old, Jodorowsky’s passion and love for this failed project are still as ardent today as they were back in the mid ’70’s. His ability to describe so accurately his vision for this movie adds a layer of intrigue to what could have been.
One of the most remarkable aspects of the documentary was the phone book sized collection of pre-production notes and illustrations of literally every shot of the film. The intricacy and detail of each scene narrated by Jodorowsky’s lovingly energetic descriptions allows us an intimate glimpse into what this version of Dune just might have been like had this idealistic dreamer been given the chance to create his vision. What may be even more impressive was the list of seminal science fiction films that show direct or indirect influence from these comprehensive Dune storyboards, which were rumored to have been circulated throughout the many film studios since their creation back in the late ’70’s. Imagine a world without Star Wars, Alien, The Terminator, Blade Runner, Contact, or The Matrix just to name a few.
I pride myself in having a pretty good base knowledge for film history, so I’m thankful that director Frank Pavich brought to light this glaring hole in my cinema education. Jodorosky’s Dune offers a very detailed retelling of the years of astonishing pre-production efforts put into this project. I must confess, even being a fellow movie junkie, at times I felt a bit overwhelmed by all the information being shared. However, seeing the reverence many of today’s movie insiders have for this long lost project helped keep me engaged in this compelling story. The title “the greatest movie never made” is a rather dubious distinction to be given. But seeing the vast, outreaching effects and influences Jodorowsky’s work has had on the film industry over the last three decades is a legacy that is worth celebrating, and Jodorowsky’s Dune does exactly that. Filled to the brim with amazing technical details and intimate stories, Jodorowsky’s Dune spins an intriguing tale of what could have been.-JL