view | Alejandro Jodorowsky’s ‘Dune’ Was Never Made, But Using AI, We Get A Glimpse Of His ‘Tron’

Written by Frank Pavich

Images created by Midjourney, with Johnny Darrell

Frank Pavic is the manager.Jodorowsky’s Dunea documentary about Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky’s attempt to film a version of “Dune” in the mid-1970s.

I was recently shown some frames from a movie I had never heard of: Alejandro Jodorowsky’s 1976 version of “Tron”. The combos were incredible. The actors, unfamiliar to me, looked great in their roles. The costumes and lighting worked perfectly together. The images shone with an extravagant, psychedelic sensibility that was clearly felt by Jodorovskian.

However, Mr. Jodorowsky, the visionary Chilean filmmaker, never attempted to make Tron. I’m not even sure he knows what a “tron” is. The original Disney movie “Tron” was released in 1982. So what ’70s movie was this great footage from? Who are these neon actors? And how could I — the director of the documentary “Jodorowsky’s Dune,” after spending two and a half years doing interviews and working with Alejandro to tell the story of his famous, unfinished film — not know about this?

The truth is, these weren’t stills from a long lost movie. It wasn’t pictures at all. Well-composed and pure, these evocative images are created in seconds with the magic of artificial intelligence.


While filming my documentary, Alejandro told me about the Greco-Armenian philosopher and mystic George Gurdjieff. He taught that we are born without a soul and that our mission in life is to help our souls grow and develop: souls are not born; They won. Every day, Alejandro creates. He writes, draws and paints. He works on his soul through art. Next month he will be 94, and he is preparing to direct a new movie. He is a man in perpetual creative motion.

I first met Alejandro in 2010, when I approached him about shooting a documentary about his attempt in the mid-1970s to produce a feature film version of Frank Herbert’s science fiction novel “Dune”. My interest was not in the story of the young nobleman Paul Atreides, the desert planet Arrakis or the mind-altering spice called melange. I wanted to know why the enigmatic, guru-like director chose the follow-up to his 1970 acid western “El Topo” ( The first midnight movie) and 1973’s scandalous, hallucinogenic “Sacred Mountain” attempt to make the biggest science fiction movie of all time.


After adapting the novel into a screenplay, he worked for two years with a team of artists – “spiritual warriors”: the British illustrator Chris Vosswho helped him design his planned spaceship; Swiss artist HR Giger, whose dark style will help him create a home planet for the movie’s villains; American special effects innovator Dan O’Bannon; And of course, Jean GeroFrance’s greatest comics artist, who will help Alejandro design the costumes, as well as draw the more than 3,000 storyboard sketches needed to visualize this epic story.

The cast would have included Mick Jagger, Orson Welles, Salvador Dali and Alejandro’s 12-year-old son, Brontes, in the lead role. The soundtrack was composed and recorded by Pink Floyd.

He wanted “Dune” to be more than just a movie. He was supposed to be a prophet! It was to change the world! And it wasn’t to be. You never saw the movie because it was never completed.

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Alejandro Jodorowsky in 1969, during a visit to actor Dennis Hopper’s home in Taos, New Mexico

Lisa Lu / Gallery First Edition

The project ended once Alejandro presented his huge collection of artwork to the Hollywood studios. They rejected it out of fear, shortsightedness, or simply because they couldn’t understand what he was trying to do. Or perhaps it was because he refused to succumb to the practical confines of a two-hour movie, threatening that his “Dune” would be 20 hours long.

She was never given the opportunity to shoot even one frame of “Dune”. There is no unused footage that we can watch and dismiss because of campy acting or bad special effects. It will forever be the greatest movie that was ever made, because it only exists in our imaginations.

Just because you can’t watch Alejandro’s “Dune” doesn’t mean it didn’t change the world. The impact this off-the-cuff film has had on our culture is staggering. Ideas and specific images of Bible art “Dune” have escaped into the world. They can be experienced in movies like “Blade Runner,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Prometheus,” “The Terminator,” and even the original “Star Wars” movie. A “dune” does not exist, yet it is all around us.



It took Alejandro and his team two years of pure analog struggle to create “Dune” – pencil on paper, sketch on canvas, devising the practical effects required to present his scene on screen.

It’s different with artificial intelligence and no struggle was involved in creating these images of “Jodorowsky’s Tron”. It didn’t take any special skills or thorough direction from Johnny Darrell, the Canadian director who created these images using an artificial intelligence program called Medjourney. A simple prompt is all it takes. A few words—in this case, slight variations on “Production still from 1976 Alejandro Jodorowski’s Tron”—followed by less than a minute’s wait, and a computer deep in the shelves of a data center somewhere, examining the numbers encoded in memory banks associated with the words “Tron” and Jodorowsky.


I’m still trying to wrap my mind around it all. There seems to be a relationship between how Alejandro’s work was internalized and referred to by later filmmakers and how his work was internalized and metabolized by computer programming. But these two things are not the same thing. I want to say that the effect is not the same as the algorithm. But looking at these pictures, how can I be sure?

It is difficult to find many shortcomings in the program. Text cannot be submitted. And like many painters and sculptors throughout history, he has a hard time getting the right hands. I deal here. The form contains sums. She has surveyed the collected works of thousands upon thousands of photographers, illustrators, and cinematographers. She has a deep library of patterns and is equipped with all kinds of image-making techniques at her digital fingertips. The technology is amazing. This interests me a lot.


How do artificial intelligence programs create images?





The AI ​​programs that generate the images, such as Midjourney, train on datasets of billions of images with descriptive text comments. They look at each image’s relationship to its caption, as well as the similarities from image to image and description to description, and construct a compact model capable of linking from words to images.

The AI ​​processes the text into concepts it can recognize by training it.

AI starts with random pixels.

Using a text prompt for guidance, it removes noise from the image – in a manner of speaking, trying to find the face in the clouds.

This process is run dozens to hundreds of times, improving the image with each iteration.

In the end, a unique image is left, no matter how many times the same prompt is used.

The AI ​​programs that generate the images, such as Midjourney, train on datasets of billions of images with descriptive text comments. They look at each image’s relationship to its caption, as well as the similarities from image to image and description to description, and construct a compact model capable of linking from words to images.

The AI ​​processes the text into concepts it can recognize by training it.

AI starts with random pixels.

Using a text prompt for guidance, it removes noise from the image – in a manner of speaking, trying to find the face in the clouds.

This process is run dozens to hundreds of times, improving the image with each iteration.

In the end, a unique image is left, no matter how many times the same prompt is used.


Source: David Holes, Medjourney

By Taylor Magiacomo

How creative are these quickly created images? Where does this creativity come from? Was Alejandro robbed? Is training this AI model the greatest art theft in history? How much theft is in the art industry, anyway?

On the one hand, the program gives you a kind of turbo putty. But there is still some new awesomeness in this tradition. It succeeds at one of the main functions of filmmaking: transporting you to another time, to another world. If AI systems were eligible for the Oscars, I’d vote for “Jodorowsky’s Tron” for Best AI Costume Design just for dreaming about those outrageous retro hats and helmets.



If, as Mr. Gurdjieff taught, creation leads to the development of one’s soul, then whose soul is the evolution of one’s soul here?

Nothing in this program seems to be controllable in the way the pixel resolution artists use digital tools like Photoshop. When Mr. Darrell created these pictures, he didn’t choose the colors, the frame, or what the characters would do. Nor did he specify some of the other options the AI ​​program absorbed from 1970s science fiction: the seemingly all-white cast and archaic gender roles. Whatever he might have in his eye was not what he would get. He needed to state quickly and clearly. But creativity came out of the machine.

While exploring more of Mr. Daryl’s AI experiments, I saw some stills he made of a flick of a mysterious motorcycle called “Snakes are the devil. They were unbelievable. Full of mystery and depth. I wanted to see this movie.


Still from the 1969 biker fantasy film Snakes Are the Devil.

Midjourney with Johnny Darrell

I immediately went to IMDb to search for it. But no such luck. Hmmm. I went back to his pictures, and one of them was a lobby card. I noticed the lead actor’s name, Jay Clinan, and went back to IMDb. There is no such representative.

I didn’t find anything because there was no movie. There was no representative. There was none. These images were another AI innovation. And I knew that from the start. However, I hoped it was somehow real. I’m still annoyed with Mr. Darrell for making me want what I can’t have.



That’s how powerful it is to let AI generate images for movies or other artifacts that you wish existed. It’s like watching a magic show. Going in, you know it will all be illusions and sleight of hand. But during the show, your suspension of disbelief begins. Your heart wants you to believe it’s real, and your mind urges you to go on with the journey. Life is more fun this way.

What does it mean that directors, concept artists, and film students can see it with their imaginations, drawing with all the digitally archived visual material of human civilization? When does our culture begin to be affected by scenes, sets, and images from old movies that never existed or were not even imagined yet?

I have a feeling we’re all about to find out.


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