The Greatest Film Never Made: Jodorowsky’s Dune (Part Four)


Concept poster for Jodorowsky’s Dune created for the 2013 documentary

Part Seven: What Happens Now?

A scene from the upcoming Dune movie directed by Denis Villanueve starring Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Zendaya, Jason Momoa, and Javier Bardem with music by Hans Zimmer

As of now, Dune is getting another chance on the big screen with Denis Villeneuve, director of Arrival and Blade Runner 20149, heading the project. It is slated for release on October 1st, 2021, and I personally am really excited, and a little anxious. The first time I read Dune was about a year ago, and I didn’t like it. The story was incredibly complicated, and you don’t understand what’s happening for at least the first half of the book. But since then, after reading the much more digestible sequel Dune Messiah, I have grown to appreciate and even enjoy the story of Dune. The themes are deep, the story is interesting and complex, and it is easy to get lost in the vast and immensely detailed world. However, the book still seems like one of those “unfilmable books.” There is constant internal dialogue, and descriptions of events taking place that only really work on the page. Jodorowsky himself is skeptical, claiming, “It’s impossible to do.” But, after seeing the trailer, which was completely awesome, I can at least tell that they got the look of the world right. If nothing else, it is sure to be a spectacle.

The gross Harkonnens from Dune 1984, with the Police’s Sting as Feyd Rautha (left)

As for the David Lynch Dune, it’s about as far from a spectacle as you can get. There were some good decisions made, like the music from Brian Eno and Toto, and the model shots which look good most of the time, but for every good decision there were at least three other awful ones made. Everything looks weird, gross, or just flat-out bad. My biggest complaint is with the Harkonnens, the rival family. In the book, they are depicted as these scheming, intimidating, incredibly intelligent characters. In the 1984 film, they are disgusting, disturbing in the worst possible ways, and over-the-top to the point of being comical. The acting overall is stale and uninspired. The casting for the most part was good, but every line is written so poorly that even the best actor couldn’t pull it off. The worst part has to be the visual effects. It’s not just that they are 36 years old, Star Wars and 2001: A Space Odyssey came out years before this did. Every green-screen shot looks like a green-screen shot, and the digital shields are laughably bad. I’ve seen SCNN commercials that have better VFX than this 40 million dollar film. The editing is extremely poor and has the worst pacing I’ve ever had to experience. There are no real setups and no payoffs in the entire film. The first two-thirds of the film drag and are extremely boring, then you get whiplash as you move into the 3rd act, in which a battle sequence takes place that is so bland it is obvious Lynch didn’t care about it at all. Even to those who have read the book it is confusing and incoherent. The studio thought so too, and handed out pamphlets to audiences that explained each character and planet to the baffled viewers. I would not recommend this film to anyone, it’s ugly, boring, incoherent, hasn’t aged well at all, and is extremely disappointing.

Now that I’ve got that out of my system, what to do about Jodorowsky? First of all, I’d highly recommend checking out the 2013 documentary, Jodorowsky’s Dune. If you aren’t sure, watch the trailer and you will be hooked. I covered a lot of the information they have in this article, but there is nothing quite like hearing Jodorowsky explain his vision backed by animations of the original storyboards. After that, I’d recommend reading The Incal, in which Moebius’ art and a wonderful sci-fi story written by Jodorowsky combine to create probably the closest thing we’ll ever have to the experience of watching Jodorowsky’s Dune. I personally would love an official release of either the full “Dune Book,” or just the storyboards and script adapted into a graphic novel format. There are still three copies of the “Dune Book” known to be in existence, but due to Moebius’ death in 2012, an official release is unlikely to happen. However, there is some hope. A website called has compiled a leaked version of the script with all of the released images of the storyboards into the most complete version of Jodorowsky’s Dune that we have ever seen. I highly recommend it, it is truly an experience

As for Jodorowsky’s other films, I cannot recommend any of them, as I have not seen them. As stated above, the films are extremely violent and sexual in ways that even my desensitized brain does not want to experience just yet. If you are interested, however, I have heard that Santa Sangre is the most accessible of his films, but it is also the most violent. Either way, make sure you really want to watch his movies. Jodorowsky has stated that his goal in his films was to make images that the viewer could never unsee, so watch them at your own risk.

The new Dune movie will most likely ruin all chances of a film based on Jodorowsky’s vision for Dune. If it is great, studios and audiences won’t need or want another Dune movie, and there will be sequel after sequel, just like the books. If it is awful, Dune will probably be declared totally unadaptable and won’t be attempted by a major studio again. The technology has finally caught up with the world of the book, the actors hired for the project have proven themselves to be extremely capable, and the general look of the world from the trailers is spot on, so it all comes down to the writing and directing. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. 

There is still so much more in the history of Dune and it’s connection with the film industry. I didn’t even mention the Dune and Children of Dune TV shows from the early 2000s. I’ve heard they are quite good, but this article is long enough, and has taken me around two months to complete. I urge everyone who has stuck with these articles until the end (thank you, by the way) to do your own research, and get lost in this crazy world of unmade films. Maybe even attempt to make one of your own films. If you have the inspiration, go do it. Make it what you want it to be. As Jodorowsky said, “You want to make the most fantastic art of movie? Try. If you fail, is not important. We need to try.”