Here at 25YLSite, we handle a lot of heavy lifting. Analysis, interpretation, deep discussion, introspective interviews…you name it, we’ve got it. “Favorites” takes a lighter approach to the material we normally cover. Each week, we will take you through a list of favorites—whether it’s moments, scenes, episodes, characters, lines of dialogue, whatever!—in bite-sized articles perfect for your lunch break, a dull commute, or anywhere you need to take a Moment of Zen. So, sit back and enjoy this week’s offering: Matt Armitage’s favorite crazy things David Lynch added to Dune.
Mentats already had a signature identifying mark in the books: that of commonly using Sappho juice to enhance their mentat powers, which stains their mouth and lips. That and, you know, their obvious ability to slip into a mentat trance to act as human computers. Apparently this wasn’t enough for Lynch, who decided they all needed massive eyebrows so the audience could tell at a glance who was a mentat and who wasn’t.
The Pantomime Harkonnens
David Lynch must have a pretty poor opinion of the average sci-fi movie-goer because apparently he thought they would have a hard time comprehending that the Harkonnens were meant to be the bad guys. Black uniforms. Check. Rooms are industrial, cold, and lacking any decoration. Check. Stop at nothing to gain power. Check. Not enough: let’s give the Baron a load of pustules, make the anti-grav harness more of a flying device, and have him swoop around cackling maniacally like the wicked witch. We won’t even go into the whole heart plug nonsense. Just imagine catching yourself on a door handle!
Lynch clearly had a huge amount of fun with these guys, but unfortunately turned them more into pantomime villains, rendering it impossible to take them seriously. Of course, it does mean we get sequences like the one in the clip, which is all kinds of awesome. The baron and his aforementioned swooping and cackling and hamming it up; Rabban, randomly ripping bits off a cow which is hanging there for no apparent reason; Sting popping out of a dry ice machine in spacepants, stretching like a sexy lunatic; all the while good ol’ Pete Martell in a ginger wig plays a cyberpunk bagpipe while grinning like a meth addict. For sheer entertainment it doesn’t get any better than this.
Unlucky old Thufir Hawat is held captive by
Dame Baron Harkonnen, and Lynch follows the book’s story just enough to go with the Baron having poisoned him. But instead of secretly administering an antidote to keep him alive, Lynch has the Baron go all Dick Dastardly and explain his plan, and then for some reason requires Thufir to milk a bald cat every day to get the antidote. Also, there’s a rat taped to the cat’s side that is not addressed at all. Most excellent.
The Atreides soliders look pretty cool in their uniforms. A little old-fashioned, but it gives off that formal yet efficient vibe. The poor old Harkonnen soldiers get what appear to be second-hand hazmat suits. Perhaps Lynch ran out of money in the costume department. These things are neither practical nor fetching. This ties in to the pantomime nature of the Harkonnens generally, both in the ridiculousness and the amateurishness of the costuming. Still awesome though, and they make stormtroopers look like polished wimps.
There were no weirding modules in the book. What the Fremen called the “Weirding Way” was the Bene Gesserit prana-bindu techniques which allowed them to move faster than seemed possible. The fremen were taught this by Paul and Jessica. Reportedly Lynch couldn’t see this working in the movie, and didn’t want “Kung-fu on sand dunes”, so invented the weirding modules. One can’t help thinking they also wanted something to rival lightsaber battles to liven things up a bit. It’s an interesting idea, especially the use of Paul’s name as a trigger word, but it does take away a large chunk of the Bene Gesserit mythology—who were fairly badly represented in the film anyway and turned into bald witches with no real power. Also, where do they get all those weirding modules from in the desert anyway? Watch it enough and it does seem like they just have really powerful sneezes.
For some reason, Lynch decided that despite having a movie so full of detail that it needed to be half exposition, he should add some more stuff too. Like a trophy Atreides pug, who randomly appears throughout: being clutched by Duke Leto, panting away on Paul’s lap as his family glide through hyperspace, and here it is being thoughtlessly carried into battle by Captain Picard. How is that a practical way to leap into armed conflict? It would make a great drinking game though. Pug Shots. You’re welcome.
You can forgive Lynch for not wanting to get into the whole ecological angle of Dune. There is clearly not enough time for that, especially when you have to fit in the Baron’s swooping, Sting’s posturing, and the cat-milking scene which are very important. However, the ending made literally no sense, on all of the levels. Paul has bested Sting and the emperor has given up, and then, it suddenly starts to rain. With no explanation at all. The Fremen have been storing water for years, and in the books, Paul plans to terraform Arrakis gradually. This ending gives Paul godlike powers which he didn’t have and makes no sense when you are planning to make two more movies which also follow the book storyline, however roughly. We do get the wonderfully creepy Alia (played by a very young Alicia Witt), lisping “And how can this be, for he is the Kwisatz Haderach!” which goes a long way towards making it all alright.
If you’d ever wondered what would happen if David Lynch was given a massive budget and very little constraints, well wonder no more. All of this magnificent stuff is what happens, and we’re all the better for it.