4. Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982)
After completing Alien with a team of creatives who met when working on Jodorowsky’s Dune, in 1979 Ridley Scott was hired by Dino De Laurentiis to take over and complete the doomed project. He was planning to alter the script left behind by Jodorowsky to allow the movie to be shot in two parts, but after seven months he dropped the project due to the illness of his brother. Scott argued that Dune would have been a two and half year project, which was too lengthy considering the circumstances.
This is how he came to do Blade Runner instead, but he did not turn his back on Jodorowsky’s Dune completely. Although Blade Runner is primarily based on Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, it is also influenced by the comic The Long Tomorrow, a story written by Dan O’Bannon and illustrated by Moebius, two key figures of Jodorowsky’s team who worked with Scott on Alien.
As Moebius said in an interview, O’Bannon was hired to work on the visual effects of Dune once the shooting started, hence for the greatest part of the pre-production he did not have much work to do. To kill boredom, he started drawing and eventually came up with the storyboard of The Long Tomorrow.
This noir set in the future attracted the attention of Moebius who also got involved in the side project. Ridley Scott borrowed several visual elements from this graphic novel and used it to create the dark, dishevelled cityscape of Blade Runner.
5. Prometheus (Ridley Scott, 2012)
The prequel of Alien was long awaited by fans of the trilogy and it was expected to reveal the mystery of the ‘Space Jockey’, the skeleton discovered by the crew of Nostromo when they landed on the alien planet following the distress signal of a derelict spacecraft.
The skeleton that briefly appears in the first movie was designed by H.R Giger in 1976, and similarly to the Xenomorph, carries signatures of the concept art produced by Giger for Jodorowsky’s Dune. Prometheus starts by introducing the species that will later be named as ‘Engineers’ since they were responsible for the creation of human kind. It turns out that the ‘Space Jockey’ in the first movie was the skeleton of one of these Engineers.
Even though Giger was not part of the production team of Prometheus, his work continued to inspire Ridley Scott, as evident in both the film’s creature designs and alien architecture. In particular, Scott introduces a pyramid in Prometheus that strongly resembles Giger’s drawing of the Harkonnen Castle and not just the alien crowning its peak.
Whilst clearly homage to Giger’s work, the pyramid also serves as a conciliatory note to Dan O’Bannon, whose original Alien script featured a pyramid shaped building but which, due to time restrictions, had to be left out.
6. The Terminator (James Cameron, 1984)
The Terminator is an example of science fiction action film at its best. The role of the humanoid robot was the best ever played by Arnold Schwarzenegger: it did not require intensive facial expressions, but rather impeccable physical appearance.
Although Cameron initially imagined the humanoid robot as someone who would blend in the crowd, during an interview for the role of Kyle Reese he realized that the Austrian body builder’s exceptional look would be much suitable for the humanoid robot than the human saviour. And hence the movie established both director and actor’s fame in Hollywood.
However, at the beginning The Terminator was not expected to be a big success. Cameron, a fairly unknown director, with only the low-budget horror movie Piranha II on his record, knocked on the door of several studios while eventually he managed to find a producer in the person of Gale Anne Hurd.
Although the story of The Terminator was promising, even the distributing studio, Orion, did not expect a record-breaking return. But Cameron had the key to success: he had a great science fiction story about a big war between humans and robots but in order to make it into a low-budget film he introduced time travel, and created a pure action movie with breathtaking special effects – which were his specialty.
Nonetheless, The Terminator could have never been made without the work of a few others. In terms of the story Cameron admittedly borrowed from Harlan Ellison’s Demon with a Glass Hand and Soldier, but the fact that the writer was uncredited in the film led to a dispute.
Later an out of court agreement resulted in an acknowledgement of Ellison’s work to be added to the film, and an undisclosed sum paid to the author. A less controversial reference is the POV shot of the cyborg that Cameron uses to enhance the artificial nature of the character – this element is very similar to some sequences of Jodorowsky’s Dune storyboard.
7. The Matrix (The Wachowskis, 1999)
At the time The Matrix came out, it was hailed as a unique piece of science fiction with the potential to redesign the profile of the genre. Many of the film’s visual effects were ground breaking but creatively; its successes were founded on the Wachowski’s utilisation of elements borrowed from other films and stories in a way that produced something entirely new and revolutionary.
Bullet-time, the special combat scenes, the cyberpunk universe outside of the matrix and the matrix itself are motifs that can be discovered in other works. Low-budget action movies such as Kill and Kill Again and computer games like Max Payne introduced bullet-time well before The Matrix turned it into a meme, and several elements of the combat scenes were borrowed from martial art films and Hong Kong action movies.
The matrix, a world created by an artificial intelligence, was invented by William Gibson in his 1984 novel, Neuromancer, and last but not least the cyberpunk universe of Zion and the rebels is a legacy of Blade Runner and Jodorowsky’s Dune.
Films like The Matrix prove that Jodorowsky’s Dune, although unmade, was never a doomed project. In fact, Dune was indeed the “Prophet” that Jodorwsky meant it to be. Thanks to the 20 copies of the storyboard that circulated among film professionals it managed to influence some exceptional films, and through these films reinvented the genre of science fiction.
Author Bio: Melinda Gemesi has been a freelance film critic since her second year as a Film Studies Student. She holds an MA in Film Studies and Online Journalism and is currently living in London. In her free time she is working on a literary project about which you can find out more on thestoryhunt.tumblr.com.