Jodorowsky’s Dune Review

Within Frank Pavich’s documentary, Jodorowsky’s Dune, director Nicholas Winding Refn entertains a strong idea. How would the modern blockbuster and the Hollywood shape look had Alejandro Jodorowsky’s vision for Dune been a successful creation? Audiences may have seen a completely different pace and style to the big-budget, science-fiction classics shaped by Star Wars just a few years after Jodorowsky’s vision petered out. There were, one of the many talking heads of Jodorowsky’s Dune points out, far too many big ideas within the original Dune vision. Ideas that Star Wars director George Lucas wouldn’t have dreamed of putting in his prequel series, let alone the original outings. But that, like many of the other improvements and interesting facts within this documentary, is one of the many reasons Jodorowsky’s Dune was doomed to failure.

Ambitious and creative that vision may have been, the hindsight of acceptance falls heavy on the shoulders of the great director. Jodorowsky was in pole position for a brilliant, large project. His work on El Topo was the right level of colourful transcendence that could offer the science-fiction genre a new layer of detail or influence. Would Jodorowsky have succeeded in places Lucas failed? Perhaps, but Jodorowsky’s Dune is keen to gloss over not just the failures that were already lingering over his proposed adaptation but the futility of trying to think up a conceivable way of entertaining alternative futures where Jodorowsky had been a large success with an even bigger vision. Pavich has the workings sorted, though, it is at least interesting to see this mindset explore the realms of possibility, comparing what is perceived in cinema now with what, at the time, was an impossibility.

Pavich has an interesting story on his hands, one that the eponymous director is keen to discuss. Surprisingly unphased at times by the death of his dream, Jodorowsky has had time to muse on and understand why his vision was not a success. It was not that he didn’t have a plan, but that he had planned too much. Overambitious, perhaps, for a stage of technology nowhere close to perfecting the littered designs and big-scale ideas Jodorowsky had. If anything, Pavich’s angle that we should be nostalgic for what we never received is rather touching, and it seems that is how Jodorowsky has made his peace. A dream that was crushed and battered, changed and lost to Star Wars and the hell of it all that followed.

Thankfully, the dream lives on. Someone with more money than sense and an ill-placed belief in the wonders of Non-Fungible Tokens has overpaid for a copy of Dune artwork and, thanks to a poor understanding of copyright law, will now undertake an animated adaptation of the Frank Herbert classic. It is dispiriting and saddening to see that two great directors have put together strong casts and written up an adaptation as best they can for Herbert’s science-fiction masterclass, yet neither have successfully captured the scope or range of such a world. It may be that the best adaptation of Dune is the one audiences never saw. But all they can base their visions on are found in the sketches and recollections of old souls that had a love for the book and a keen desire to get it made. That would have been Jodorowsky’s Dune.

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