The Dissolve has an interesting feature called Old News where they go back into trade magazines and look at what people were saying about movies in pre-production ten or twenty years ago. Almost all of them involve giddy reports for movies that didn’t end up getting made at all, or if they did they got made years later with different casts. Now, admittedly the movies they cover are probably being cherry picked, but it is worth nothing that almost none of the movies they cover ended up being something that people were that excited about once it was actually in the world.
This documentary kind of functions as a feature length version of Old News. The topic of Jodorowsky’s Dune is about a Chilean surrealist filmmaker’s quest to make a movie version of Dune in the mid-seventies. He assembled a helluva team (including Salvador Dali, Mick Jagger, David Carradine and most of the graphic design team that would go on to make Alien) before having to abandon the project due to lack of funding. The film makes a plausible claim that this unmade movie went on to inspire parts of Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Alien.
But while the claim that his Dune was inspirational is plausible I’m a little more skeptical of the claim that it would have been good had it been made. It’s not impossible, of course; Jodorowsky has always been full of ideas and a lot of the ideas he had for Dune had potential. However, if there’s one thing that the Old News feature has taught me it’s that having a great game plan doesn’t mean that you make a great movie. The studios didn’t want to invest in a movie that was going to be overlong, and while Jodorowsky claimed that it wouldn’t matter if the movie was 12 hours long, I have to say that I’m not sure I would want to watch a movie that started with it’s protagonists conception (as he proposed to do.) The Dune mythology was already a bit much to keep straight even before Jodorowsky started mixing it with Catholicism, bringing in virgin births and martyrdom.
Still, while I take a lot of what the people in this movie are saying with a grain of salt, I still enjoyed hearing them spin their yarns. The key component that Jodorowsky looked for when he was recruiting his team was that they had to be visionaries and prophets and that inspirational quality is still in a lot of those people decades later. You can see why this movie got so close to being made even though it was obviously an insane proposition: these people are charismatic dreamers and it’s always entertaining to hear about their dreams, even if you can’t buy into their dream yourself.