Eagerly anticipating the release of Judge Patrick Bromley's Star Trek 3.
The greatest science fiction movie never made.
David Lynch's 1984 adaptation of Frank Herbert's classic sci-fi novel Dune is widely considered a disaster—one of the great missed opportunities of genre cinema and the end of Lynch's career as a big studio director. But years before Dune confused audiences and frustrated fans, there was another version of the novel making its way to the screen?one unlike anything that had ever been attempted, and the impact of which is still being felt today despite the fact that it never got made.
Facts of the Case
In the early 1970s, cult filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky attempted to mount a production of Frank Herbert's Dune, often considered the biggest and best science fiction novel of all time. Jodorowky's adaptation, which never made it past the pre-production planning stages, would have been the same. He enlisted "warriors" to help him make his movie, including Jean Giraud and H.R. Giger for storyboards and set design, Dan O'Bannon for special effects, music from Pink Floyd and Tangerine Dream and a cast that would have included David Carradine, Mick Jagger, Orson Welles and Salvador Dali.
This is the story of the Dune that never was.
Can a film that never happened still change the face of movies?
That's just one of the questions posed by Frank Pavich's very good documentary Jodorowsky's Dune, a 40-years later account of the director's failed attempt to make a movie from Frank Herbert's novel. In the last few minutes of the movie (this is not a spoiler), a series of pundits and film experts point out that the DNA of Jodorowsky's passion project seeped its way into a number of blockbusters that followed, from Star Wars to Alien to Raiders of the Lost Ark. It is, in some ways, the seed of so much of our post-1975 genre cinema that it deserves our attention. This movie would have been something.
Instead it was nothing. Well, not nothing; Jodorowsky is the first to admit that despite the fact that the project never came to be, he doesn't see it as wasted time. It was a period of delirious creativity, and that kind of creativity is the fuel on which Jodorowsky thrives. Though a number of participants in the project are interviewed on camera (including Giger, Gary Kurtz and Jodorowksy's own son Brontis, as well as outside commenters Devin Faraci, Drew McWeeney, Richard Stanley and Nicholas Winding Refn), it's the Spanish filmmaker who is front and center. He speaks with such excitement and passion about even a movie that failed that he energizes even the most cynical viewer. He makes us believe in the power of movies.
Consider this comment he makes about his devotion not just to Dune but to filmmaking as a whole…
"If I need to cut my arms in order to make the picture, I will do it. I will cut my arms. I was believing that to make a picture who will give a mutation to the young minds was sacred. You need to sacrifice yourself."
It may sound extreme. It may sound like the rantings of a madman. Truth be told, Jodorowsky is a madman, but in the best possible way. He's a visionary and a poet—a devotee to the transformative power of movies. He wanted his Dune to give its viewers a transformation; he explains that he wanted the movie to provide the experience of being on acid without having to take any acid. And while Jodorowsky's movies have never been my bag, I couldn't help but fall in love with him during the documentary. His energy and passion speak for themselves. He convinced me that this might have been the greatest sci-fi movie ever made. He also convinced me to give his filmography a second look, but that's another topic altogether.
In the end, I don't believe any movie could actually live up to the promise and potential of the one glimpsed in Jodorowksy's Dune, so perhaps we have to be thankful that it never came to be. At least we have this documentary, which gives us some idea of what the director dreamed of and, more than anything, is a beautiful testament to the power of passion, imagination and creativity.
Jodorowsky's Dune arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Sony. Because of its talking head documentary approach, there's nothing particularly "visual" about the film; still, the 1.78:1-framed 1080p HD transfer looks solid. Skin tones are good, detail is evident and the gorgeous concept sketches and artist renderings pop with brilliant color. The lossless 5.1 audio track is serviceable, delivering the dialogue (much of which is subtitled, as Jodorowsky drops in and out of speaking Spanish) audibly and supporting it with score from time to time. This is not the kind of movie that demands an HD presentation, but it certainly doesn't hurt. The only bonus features included are a couple of deleted interview segments and a standard definition DVD copy of the film.
You don't have to be a fan of Dune or even Jodorowksy to appreciate Jodorowsky's Dune (though I defy anyone to come away from the film without crazy amounts of respect and affection for the director). You need only to love movies. If you're taking the time to read a movie review, chances are you already fit into that category.
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