12 February 2019

The Weapons of Sci-Fi: The Weirding Modules of DUNE (1984)

On December 14, 1984 one of the most ambitious science fiction films was released: DUNE. This unique science fiction film saw the merging of the young talented director in David Lynch, the experienced hand of the De Laurentiis family, the music of Toto and Brian Eno, a wealth of talent behind the camera that designed the universe of 10,191 AG. All of this was built on the foundation of the legendary 1965 novel of the same name by Frank Herbert that has been praised as the best science fiction book of all time. To breathe life into the pages of the book was one of the best casts were assembled for a sci-fi film ever. What was hoped by fans, backers, and the production was the fulfillment of Herbert's vision in a science fiction epic film similar to the Golden Age Hollywood historical epics. Sadly, that did not happen for Lynch's DUNE. Costing more than $40 million in 1984 ($97 million in 2019's money), DUNE lost a fortune, garnered bad and confused reviews, along nearly bankrupted Dino De Laurentiis and Universal Studios. Decades have passed since then and fans of the book remain divided on the 1984 film, which has not enjoyed the cult status of fellow 1980s sci-fi films like BLADE RUNNER. One of the most controversial elements incorporated by David Lynch not found in the original text was the inclusion of the sonic weapons known as the Weirding Modules. So controversial was the Weirding Modules that few DUNE works have included these weapons. In this latest installment of The Weapons of Sci-Fi, FWS will be shedding light on one of the most controversial weapons in all of science fiction: the Weirding Modules of 1984’s DUNE.

What is the “Weirding Way?”
Before we can discuss the Weirding Modules, we must investigate just the "Weirding Way" mentioned in the original 1965 text. In the DUNE novel by Frank Herbert, one of the oldest mental training school in the known universe that arose after the campaign against the thinking machines, the Bultrian Jihad, is the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood. The goal of the school was to set up and direct a selective breeding program among the interstellar human societies to create the next evolutionary step in humanity's development. To insert themselves into society among the Great Houses to carry on their breeding program, they became royal mates, truthslayers, and advisories, to these important factions of the Imperium. One Bene Gesserit even rose to the position of wife to the Emperor Shaddam IV.
These abilities were due to the women of the Sisterhood were masters at control over their own bodies via Prana (nerve) and Bindu (body) training. This allowed them great abilities that bordered on witchcraft that also included their own martial art: the Weirding Way. The discipline of control via Prana and Bindu allowed a Weirding Way trained fighter to act and move much faster than a normal human. The control allowed for the Weirding warrior to picture something in their minds and having the body control to accomplish that move at the speed that made it appear as near teleportation. Paul Atreides was trained by his Bene Gesserit mother, Lady Jessica, in the way of the Weirding and it reflected in his fighting style.
The Weirding Way saved the lives of Paul and Jessica when they encountered Sietch Tabr and Stilgar after the fall of House Atredies. When Lady Jessica controlled Stilgar, he pledged protection for the two of them if they taught the Fremen their way of battle. This training of the Weirding Way to the Fremen tipped the balance on Arrakis and the known universe. While David Lynch altered and twisted the Weirding Way into a sonic weapon developed by House Atreides for their new army, the original pure idea from the book was resurrected by the 2000 Sci-Fi miniseries and allowed to see what Frank Herbert might have been envisioning.

The Origins of the Weirding Modules in 1984’s DUNE
I can remember reading the DUNE novel the first time in 1992 and being perplexed about the lack of inclusion of the Weirding Modules despite the Weirding Way being mentioned several times. With it being the pre-internet dark ages, I could not easily access the reason why David Lynch invented and then includes these sonic weapons into the 1984 film. But here is what we know about the origins of these devices. The idea of the sonic weapons and their basic operation are first seen in David Lynch’s second script that was dated May 29th, 1982 with the scene of Paul training the Fremen largely intact.
From the near beginning of his movie adaptation of the 1965 novel it seems that Lynch was going to include these Weirding Modules to overcome something he could not envision filming: the hand-to-hand combat of the novel. According to often cited quote, David Lynch did not want “Kung-Fu on sand dunes” and he felt the concept of the hyperspeed moves of the Weirding Way would be unworkable and unfilmable. His solution was to invent a device that harnessed some of the concepts of the Weirding Way and the Voice into a weapon that fired a blast of energy that could visit all manner of violence on the target. It had its own style and allowed Lynch to play within the oddness of his DUNE world. It worked, yet it did not work at the same time. Due to Lynch’s hatred for the film and complete lack of desire to ever discuss the much maligned film, some of the information concerning the genesis of the Weirding Modules has been lost.

How the Weirding Modules Neutered the Fremen (The Weirding Module Controversy)
Hidden in the rocks of the planet of Arrakis is the desert power of the Fremen tribes. Suppressed under the brutal Harkonnens, House Atreides was attempting to tap their desert power via Duncan Idaho’s intelligence/diplomacy mission to form an alliance. In the book, the Fremen were highly skilled desert guerrilla fighters that needed a common leader and some refinement to forge these tribes into a fighting force to rival the Emperor’s legions of Sardaukar terror troops.
When the Shaddam IV was deposed by Paul Muad’Did, the Fremen became the new military force that enacted a Jihad when House Atreides became the center of power for the imperium cross the known universe. While Lady Jessica did teach the Bene Gesserit way of battle to the Fremen, the core of the Fremen fierceness was due to the harshness of Arrakis, which forged them. Any discussion of the Fremen also entails that the type of combat seen in 10,191 AG is not like today given the use of personal shields and the teaching of knife and sword combat that take tactical importance alongside the lasgun. Then came the film and Lynch’s magical sonic weaponry. We see time and time again that the breaking of the Harknonnen and the defeat of the Imperial forces at Arrakeen was not due to the Fremen, but the weapons given to them by outworlders, thus neutering the Fremen. The power of the Fremen was robbed and replaced with screaming into a throat mic. The Fremen got their groove back in the bold-but-misguided Sci-Fi Channel miniseries from 2000.

What do those Weirding Modules Fire?
That is a tough one. According to the speech that Paul made to the gathered Fremen at his demonstration: “some thoughts have a certain sound, that being equivalent to a form. Though sound and motion, you will be able paralyze nerves, shatter bodies, set fires, suffocate an enemy or burst his organs. We will kill until no Harkonnen breathes Arrakeen air!” In the film, the House Atreides developed Weirding Module weapon system came in two pieces: one was the throat microphone and the other is a gun-like handheld device. When the operator chants a certain sound, the throat mic send into the to emitter device and out the "barrel" or "emitter". In the film, the  emitter cluster on the Weirding Modules do emit some sort of beam-like energy that does indeed shatter, send enemies flying, and set fires. The weapon is mentioned to be sonic-based, which makes the Weirding Modules fall into the category of a directed energy weapon (DEW). If we are to examine the actions of the actors when they fire the Weirding Modules, they seem to have a real kick or recoil.
Given the magically nature of some of the elements surrounding the Weirding Modules DEW, I am guessing that they fire a burst of some sort of energy with the flame sound being seen on screen as more of a stream of energy. There is no mention of the maximum range, ideal operational conditions, firing capacity, and endurance of the power source in any official source...if there was one.
       
What does the Weirding Module say about the DUNE Movie Setting?
At the opening of the 1984 film, the normal balance of the known universe under the Padishah Emperors, the great houses of the Landsraad, and the CHOAM Company was influx due to the popularity of Duke Leto Atreides I of planet Caladan. The Emperor felt threatened by his rising popularity and devised a plan to end the threat of the dear Duke by getting their arch-rival, House Harkonnen to attack them while House Atredies occupied Arrakis.
This would crush the Atreides, the Duke, and their new army once and for all. During these tense times, the Duke was betting heavily on a new weapons technology to put his new army on equal footing to the Emperor’s Sardukar Terror Troops: the Weirding Module. The Weirding Module directly speaks to the oddness of the DUNE universe, the power of the Bene Gesserit mental training, the influence of the Lady Jessica on the Duke, and the danger posed by developing an army to challenge the Emperor. Then there is the nature of the actual limited warfare of the universe of 10,191 AG.
With all of the travel of the known universe tightly controlled by the Spacing Guild and their greedy need for spice drug, any destabilizing conflict between the Great Houses was not allowed to happen. It was as simple as that. There was no real way to cross the vast gulfs of intergalactic space for the Great Houses without the Guild. If one of the Great Houses of the Landsraad was going to invade another House, they had to get the blessing and support of the Spacing Guild so that the invasion force could be loaded up and transported by Guild heighliners to the target world or system that could lay millions of lightyears away. Shaddam IV’s grand scheme to rid the Landsraad of Duke Leto and his house had to gain the consent of the Spacing Guild to be put into motion.
Even the Emperor had to ask for a lift from the navigators of the Guild. With this and the Great Convention, the nature of warfare was limited and while some of the Great Houses invested in military organizations to protect their worlds, it was still limited when compared to our modern combined arms centered armed forces. With personal energy shield generators and the sobering risk of rouge Lasgun striking a shield triggering a nuclear explosion, infantry combat was much more personal with blades and projectiles to overcome the shield barrier.
There was the limited use of armed Ornithopters, and artillery, but that was rare and mainly seen in the DUNE novel due to the weather conditions on the sandbox preventing the use of personal shielding in the open air. When the Baron assault Arrakeen, the Atreides were surprised at the use of armed ornithopters and even artillery, speaking to its rarity. War by assassin and raids were much more common and less likely to trigger a major conflict. But, the Guild could shut that down if they wanted and if the Spice bribes were not enough to make them look the other way. In these conditions, the Weirding Module arose in the hands of the Atreides and it is likely that these weapons could be used against shields and throw the nature of warfare in 10,191 AG into chaos.               
The Weirding Module Props

Sci-fi props are almost always a fun mystery to dive into and when it came to the infamous sound weapons of 1984’s DUNE, there were many lingering questions. In order to get them answered, FWS sought out people associated with the 1984 DUNE production or had knowledge of the props, including Ron Miller. I must day that we, as a community, got very lucky that in 2010 when one of the very rare (or only one) “hero” Atreides Weirding Modules props used by actor Kyle MacLauchlan was put up at auction allowing us to have detailed photos and information on this one-of-kind sci-fi prop weapon. According to the auction description the prop body was made from resin and wood with little stylistic elements made from black rubber tubing, machined aluminum with the prop not being black in color as I originally thought, but a maroon.
Internally, there was wiring and switches to control the red activation light. The overall measurements were 8 inches, by 8 inches long and 4 inches wide. Another auction of the only known Fremen hero Weirding Module prop used by Kyle MacLauchlan was conducted in December of 2003. In description it mentions similar materials were used to construct the Fremen Weirding Modules and their overall dimensions are somewhat smaller as well: 7 inches long by 8.5 inches high. As with the Atreides army model, is the only one of this version known to exist. It is likely that while dozens of stunt Freman Weirding Modules were assembled for the shoot, only one or two close-up “hero” props were made for the production. This maybe have been due to money, due was a very expensive production. A fact confirmed by none other than sci-fi design master Ron Miller via a 2018 FWS email interview. While he was involved heavily in designing the world of DUNE, he was not as directly involved with the design of the Weirding Modules that from he told me, were designed to look like animals. The duty of designing these sonic weapons fell, according to Miller, to director Lynch and the late production designer Tony Masters. The other two heavier Weirding Modules that seemed to be based around rotary cannons (which are some sort of weird theme in the DUNE film) are nearly completely unknown and none of them have surfaced online.
When I asked about why the Fremen and Atredis Weirding Modules were different in design, Ron Miller came back with this: “There seem to be alot of pyramids in the production design of DUNE overall. Other than the Emperor's tent, I've never noticed any overabundance of pyramids in the film. What there are is a lot of triangles, because Lynch likes them and a pyramid is just a kind of three-dimensional triangle. There is no other significance. But as to why the Atreides and Fremen modules looked so different is easy to answer. A great deal of very conscious effort was expended in making sure that the props, architecture, technology and costumes of each different planet had a distinctive look, and ideally one that reflected the planet's culture, history and resources. For instance, objects from Caladan were largely made of wood and brass, while Geidi Prime props were more industrial, focusing a lot on ceramics and iron. The goal was to be able to go into the prop shop, pick up anything at random and be able to tell what planet if belonged to simply from the materials it was made from. I think this was, and still is, a pretty unique thing to have done”.

The Killing Sounds/Words of the Weirding Modules
One of the often mocked elements of Lynch’s 1984 DUNE is those special words yelled out by the actors into their throat mics to fire their sonic guns. As we all know, the Weirding Modules and the words were a creation of David Lynch…but there may be one example for the original text. In the “Imperial Terminology” section of the original DUNE novel there is an entry on a weaponized sound used by the Bene Gesserit: “Uroshnor”.
As described, it is one of the sounds that the trained Bene Gesserit can “implant” into the mind of the subject, allowing the Bene Gesserit to control or immobilized the subject. This could a part of the origin of the Weirding Modules and their strange vocal stylings as seen in the movie. According to Ron Miller, these Weirding Words, like “Chak-Sa”, “Ummm-Cha”, “Inyuk-Chuk”, were “entirely an invention of David Lynch: he wanted something that sounded both alien (in the sense of not being any recognizable language) and powerful, since it is the magnified words that the weapons are projecting”. Where the hell did the killing sounds/words come from? There is no clear answer, but I have a theory. While we know all that Lynch is a one odd duck, but he is well-read and pulling inspiration for all sources.
For a while, Yoel and I researched to see if the words spoken by the actors were Arabic in origin...which they were not. To me, the process of sounds associated with the Weirding Way may originate from Buddhist monk chanting or even throat singing, but I think the best is from the Eastern internal energy concept of “Ki” or “Chi” from Martial Arts. Adding evidence to this theory is that actor Kyle MacLachlan is Martial Arts trained and he could have added the concept of the Ki into his performance. This is the best guess I have for the origin of Lynch’s killing words. I do think it was very cool concept to include the term "Maud’Dib" as a killing word. 

The "Sound Square Training" Cut Scene
Due to the incredible work of the Dune Info website, there is the remains of a cut-scene that would have given us more information on the Weirding Modules, especially during their incorporation into the Fremen martial philosophy and tactics. In the book by Ed Naha The Making of DUNE, the author included the picture of this cut-scene and some context to the odd looking device. According to Dune Info, the scene was not included into any of the scripts and was to have Fremen warriors enter into this underground chamber of the Sietch, walk over to the box, plug into the device, and begin to chant. When I learned this from an FaceBook chat with the creator of DuneInfo, it lend more credence to my theory that Buddhist monk chanting was a source of inspiration for the odd world of the DUNE film sonic weaponry. Sadly, there is no more about this scene, nor any footage or the "sonic square" device prop.

 
The Different Versions of the Weirding Modules:

The House Atreides Infantry Army Model
Very early on in the film as the setting and characters are being established, the Weirding Modules are established as well during a training sequence at the Atreides Castle on Caladan. The young Paul Atreides is outfitted with what could be the standard infantry Army Weirding Module of House Atreides. Then again, it could be a prototype or a training variant. Then film never specifies anything about the weapon when Paul was using it against the Fighter robot. The only part of the design that was carried over to the other Weirding Modules seen in the film was the throat microphone portion that seems to be universal for all Weirding Modules. The maroon-colored Atreides Army model was not seen again on-screen, but was seen in promotional material and the LJN Paul figure.
 
The Homebrew Fremen Infantry Model
After the fall of the House Atreides, Paul and Jessica were taken out of Arrakeen to die in the belly of a Sandworm, destroying all evidence. However, using his training, Paul and his mother overcame their Harkonnen guards using the Voice and made their way into the deep desert to find shelter. Inside the Harkonnen ornithopters was a care package left by Dr. Yueh while included the blueprints for the Weirding Modules.
Once the Weirding Way had impressed the Fremen, Paul and Jessica were able to secure safety among the tribe in exchange for teaching the Fremen the Bene Gesserit way of battle. Shortly after this, Paul assembled the finest warriors among Stilgar’s tribe to undergo Weirding Module training and here we get the best explanation of the function and lethality of the sonic weaponry. In this scene as well, we see that Fremen constructed or “homebrew” version of the Weirding Module is very different in appearance than the Atreides army variant. Smaller, more angled, more pyramid in shaped and in a brownish hue over the maroon of the Atreides model. This basic design would be the standard Fremen Weirding Module during their two-year campaign to rid their desert world of the Harkonnen occupation.

The Fremen Heavy Portable Waist-Mounted Weirding Cannon Model  
Not all of the Fremen Weirding Modules were small hand weapons, and these two heavier sonic weapons are puzzle for any researching this topic. For more punch against infantry and vehicle targets, the Fremen are armed with two Weirding Modules. One of these is a waist-mounted portable heavy cannon that was in two scenes in the film: one during the campaign to haul spice production on Arrakis and during the final battle at Arrakeen. Not much is known about this portable sonic cannons save for being a sort of rotary cannon in design and using moving control bars on either side of the rotary-like cannon for adding visual punch.
It looks like these are a collection of sound emitters, instead of barrels, designed to generate a more power blast and these could be culled from the smaller Weirding Module emitters to construct a larger, more powerful weapon. When I inquired to Ron Miller about the waist sonic cannon, he informed that the design was chosen for visual impact and he did a stretch for the weapon. Here what he said to me: “I did design those and (you are probably not going to want to hear this) mainly tried to come up with something that looked cool. There was a rationale behind the design, though, which was inspired in large part by the old childhood trick of making a vortex cannon from an old oatmeal box. In this case, the release of powerful springs, set and triggered much like a crossbow or air hammer, created the energy that generated the lethal sound”. Unlike their smaller brethren, the original props of these waist-mount cannons have never been seen outside of the film itself. Oddly, these were not seen in the Marvel Comic adaptation of the film.

The Mounted Freman Weirding Crew-Served Cannon
The last of the heavier Fremen Weirding Modules is the heavy, crew-served rotary-like cannon seen during the campaign to halt spice production on Arrakis and during the final battle at Arrakeen. Showing blasting Carryalls, Harvesters, and smaller starships into junk; this crew-served sonic weapon was the heaviest in the Fremen armory. There nothing mentioned about this weapon at all in the film or if it is a native Fremen design or an Atreides design. While I asked Ron Miller about these weapons, he knew nothing about them. In the film, the rotary-style weapon is mounted on a swivel base platform with the weapon hooked up to two small boxes with Fremen warriors tending to them. While shown in the storyboards for the film, it does not appear in the Marvel comic adaptation of the film and the prop (likely only a single prop) has never surfaced. 




Where else have we seen the Weirding Modules?
One of the most hatred elements that David Lynch incorporated into his vision of DUNE is the Weirding Modules. Whenever the 1984 sci-fi epic is brought up online, the subject of the Weirding Modules is resurrected and then promptly killed. Given that, any incorporation of the Weirding Modules into a DUNE work of any kind immediately tied it to the 1984 Lynch film…and that wasn’t always a good thing. With the film bombing at the box office and the deep rift the film cause in sci-fi fandom circles, the Lynch concept of the sonic weapons was largely abandoned and rejected by the DUNE community as a whole and even DUNE-related products. This included products released for a tie-in to the film, like the Parker Brothers DUNE boardgame. 

The Paul Atreides LJN 1984 Figure
Several years ago, FWS covered the mystifying 1984 LJN DUNE movie tie-in toyline. Despite the Weirding Modules being a major plot point of the film, only one single figure comes equipped with the sonic weapon: the Paul Atreides figure. To me, who actually owned the figure back in 1984, the Paul Atreides figure was all kinds of wrong. Outfitted in the standard Atreides green military uniform, which he only wore briefly in the film, he is equipped with the assumed soon-to-be standard issue Weirding Module and throat voice device. These were the model seen only during his training fight with the fighter robot.
After this, that Weirding Module model is never seen again. It would have been more correct to outfit him with the Fremen homebrew model and the Stillsuit. The LJN Stilgar figure was oddly omitted from being packaged with a Freman Weirding Module. He was still armed with the just badly designed orange Projectile Tarpel pistol, the same one that was given the light-up toy gun treatment. I actually owned this and it was a totally piece of shit. If the toyline had been a success, we would have seen another line of figures, another vehicle, and a Fremen roleplay set that STILL did not come with toy Weirding Module. It is worth noting that if the other figures had been released, they still would not have come with a Weirding Module based on the prototype photos and modes.                 

The “Scepter” Weirding Module model from the Cryo DUNE RTS (1992)
Some eight years after the release of DUNE into theaters, Cryo and Virgin Interactive released a real-time strategy game with the player taking control of Paul as he seeks to fulfill his destiny via controlling his Fremen allies to change the face of Arrakis. While I was super into DUNE in 1992 due to reading all of the novels and its divine providence that a PC game was released. I played the shit out of this game in 1992 on my Packard Bell PC, feeding my DUNE addiction. This game was developed over the course of years by loyal DUNE fans for DUNE fans that traveled a hard road to be released, but garnered praise and good sales. This is one of the only two video games to feature the Weirding Modules and the ones seen in the 1992 RTS game were an odd design. It is hard to see in the screenshots, but they appear to be similar in shape to a royal scepter. I’ve never been able to dig up much on the design of the gaming elements and all of the major weapons are an odd design like the Lasguns that look more like a microscope. With it being a real-time strategy game from the early 1990’s, these weapons were not seen being used in combat and were just tiny little symbols to be moved into Fremen tribal inventory. These added offensive capability to the assaulting Fremen troops. This is only time this design was seen.         

The 2001 Emperor: Battle for DUNE Fremen Fedaykin Weirding Modules
In the summer of 2001, Westwood Studios that had worked on two previous DUNE video game titles released another RTS based on the House-vs-House warfare seen in the movie and novels that was a direct sequel to DUNE 2000 RTS. While featuring live actor cut scenes, the rest of the game was considered outdated by the time it came out in 2001. Interestingly enough, there is one group within the Fremen faction that uses the Weirding Modules: the elite Fedaykin Death Commandos. These are a powerful weapon systems that allows the Fedaykin to kill infantry and vehicles as well. This is likely the last example of the Lynch Weirding Modules in a DUNE work and could be the last ever. 


The 1984 DUNE Cut-Out Activity Book Paper Fremen Weirding Module
When a film is targeted for the blanket treatment of tie-in merchandise (Thanks Star Wars), it can lead to strange bedfellows and 1984’s DUNE has a whole Roman orgy of bedfellows. One of those tie-in products was a common slight in the 1980’s: the activity book. I had one for TRON as a small kid and I can remember seeing these for DUNE on the shelves. Besides the batshit insane DUNE coloring book, there is the oddball cut-out activity book printed by Grosset & Dunlap with art from Daniel Kirk and the text by Maida Silverman. With the DUNE cut-out Activity Book, you can assembly paper copies of the ornithopter, the sandworm, and even a Fremen Weirding Module! Spread out over seven pages is the heavy paper Fremen Weirding Module and this the only “role-play” Weirding Module product released. Don’t worry! FWS found scans of the pages and they are below for you if you like to make your own paper copy of the Fremen sonic weapon. 


The 1984 DUNE Coloring Book

We all know and love coloring books, they represent an important, but easy tie-in merchandising avenue for many products. Many of us happily colored to our favorite 1980's characters...however, DUNE should not have been one of those 1980's movies that got a coloring book. Seriously. I can remember at the time of DUNE’s release the tie-in products flooding the book stores and toy stores with mostly head scratching results until they were mercilessly removed for the recycling center. While mostly ignored at the time and very poor sellers, the DUNE Coloring Book is now infamous-in-a-WTF-way and clean copies are very expensive (where is my TARDIS?!). When it comes to the discussion of the Weirding Modules, several of the coloring pages indeed have Weirding Modules, including the Atriedes and Fremen models featured. Scenes like Paul challenging the Fighter on Caladan, the fighting in the desert where including for your coloring pleasure.   

The 1984 Marvel Comics DUNE Movie Comic Adaptation 
Prior to home video and the machines to run the tapes, the only way to re-watch and re-enjoy films was either find a theater playing it or find an book or comic adaptation. Long before I could watch DUNE on VHS, I bought and read in the Marvel Comics adaptation with art by Bill Sienkiewicz. The art is otherworldly and as odd as the Lynch movie in its own special way. In the pages are the sections on the Weirding Modules with both designs being represented, but the other two larger Weirding Modules are not seen in the comic pages. While the Weirding Modules look mostly the same, there is something off about them. During the showdown with Paul and the Fighter, it appears on the page like Paul could only use the throat microphone to send out a blast. When Paul is training the Fremen, it appears that when the warrior says “Maud’Dib”, it activates the module and takes out a wall. In the comic, it almost appears the throat portion of the Weirding Module somehow charges the gun-emitter portion to fire. It may be just the art, but it could be this was the original plan for the operation of the Weirding Module.     

The Weirding Modules in Ready Player One (2018)
In an recent interview about the massive amount of easter eggs in Ready Player One, one of the  movie's screenwriters: “Zak [Penn] and I [Ernest Cline] are both big fans of the David Lynch adaptation of Dune and we wanted to have one of the characters, i-R0k (TJ Miller), fire a Weirding Module at one point and we couldn't get that. [...]Still, even though they were unable to include the Weirding Module, Penn assures fans that there is a nod to the film in there for those paying close enough attention. “There is a reference to [Lynch's] version of Dune," he teases. "[Parzival] talks about the Harkonnen Drop-Ship".

The Impact and Legacy of the Weirding Modules 
When DUNE was released on December 14th, 1984, it was met with confusion by the sci-fi audience, terrible critical reviews, but ranked number two at the box office at opening weekend. While a disappoint in the box office due to it failing to make back its money and turn a profit, the 1984 DUNE film as lived on through the decades as a cult classic to some and a warning to others. One of the elements cited by fans at the time and now is the inclusion of the sonic weaponry that was not in the original text. I’ve read that some fans of the book would not see the film due to the Weirding Modules saying that it cheapened the Fremen and reframed the story itself.
For the most part, the impact of the Weirding Modules was negative and that is part of the legacy of these unorthodox sci-fi weapons. For some newly minted fans of DUNE, like myself, their initial experience with the strange universe of 10,191 included the Weirding Modules. I can remember reading DUNE for the first time in 1992 and not understanding why the Weirding Modules were not in the original book and in their place was something called the “Weirding Way”. That is an interesting element of the impact and legacy of the Weirding Modules, for some, they were in the original version of DUNE that they experienced for the first either on the big screen, read in the Marvel comic, or rented on VHS.
With their conversational nature among fans along with the failure of the 1984 film, the legacy of the Weirding Modules was tainted. Any creator that boldly decided to include the Weirding Modules in the DUNE work was linked to the impact and legacy of the Lynch’s DUNE film. This translated to only a few DUNE works featuring the Weirding Modules. Decades after the Lynch film, the challenge of creating another DUNE movie was undertaken by the Sci-Fi Channel in the form of massive mini-series in 2000.
Wisely, the attempt was made to bring the Weirding Way into reality and ditch the Weirding Modules. The Kung-Fu on the sand was back and it reinforced the martial prowess of the Fremen warrior. Since then, the Weirding Module was isolated to the Lynch’s DUNE vision and there is no mention of these sonic weapons being included in the upcoming DUNE movie by Denis Villeneuve. Interestingly enough, there are two prop reproduction companies: Monster in Motion and Panik! Props both makes a Fremen Weirding Module prop sold in two parts: the emitter and the throat microphone. If I had the money to burn, I would buy these and proudly display them next to my Lynch DUNE movie poster in the FWS offices. 

The Paper Fremen Weirding Module from the Activity Book...Happy Folding! 

















7 comments:

  1. Having read the book first, I found the Weirding Modules to be an odd inclusion to the story. I much preferred the Sci-fi channels take on Dune over all. Although the film cinematography was far superior, the story was closer in the miniseries. I wish we could somehow fuse the two!

    ReplyDelete
  2. "hyperspeed moves of the Weirding Way would be unworkable and unfilmable"
    Say what?! If Lynch think that hand-to-hand combat, might alienate the audience what was that damn cat-in-a-box? And that stupid Peg that Leto carry with him to Arakis and reappeared in the film last moment in the hands of Fremen kid?

    I believe that Lynch had to include the Weirding module in his movie to appease the studio how wanted a re-washed Star Wars movie with rayguns, blasters and glowing blobs of energy bouncing from one side of the battlefield to the other side.

    Not many dared to handle that toxic Weirding thing after the movie pulp dust settle. One exception was Westwood in their Dune 2 computer game. The House Atredies sonic tanks were that bleached Weirding module concept without the troubling name attached.

    Yoel

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    1. Those sonic tanks would have been cool to see in action on the big screen!

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  3. Cool post! Love many of your posts! Waiting for more Guns from the Future posts.

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  4. "Say what?! If Lynch think that hand-to-hand combat, might alienate the audience what was that damn cat-in-a-box?"

    It was a different time back then. I remember watching asian Kung-Fu movies on TV (in the 80s) and they were quite trashy. No wonder that a high cost production wanted to avoid looking cheap. They had to compete with some high calibre movies back then. Even the Terminator (which was a B-movie IIRC) was sporting a high tech look.
    Trevor Faith

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  5. Where is the Ken Burnside interview?

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