During the first Dune movie, viewers may quickly notice that Baron Harkonnen — the Harkonnen leader — is quite corpulent and even appears to float. As the movie progresses, you realize this leader is in fact floating and no, you did not imagine it. So why does the Harkonnen leader float? Here’s why.
This article has spoilers for the new Dune movie.
Baron Harkonnen Can’t Stand Under His Own Weight
Baron Harkonnen is a corpulent man who is so overweight that he actually can’t walk under his own weight. Near the beginning of the movie, based on how he is sitting, you might even mistakenly believe that he has a snake body. In a later scene, you’ll confirm that he’s actually floating and you can see his feet through his robes.
The leader of the Harkonnen people has a convoluted physiology. (And yes, in case you’re wondering, he only rules House Harkonnen and their associated people. He’s not the overall Emperor. He’s simply the most powerful leader that we see in Dune Part 1.)
The Baron’s ability to float reflect a key point in the book’s storyline in a more visual way. According to Dune’s wiki, Vladimir Harkonnen’s “most notable feature” as he gets older is his extreme weight, which reflects his hedonism and gluttony. He uses “belt-mounted suspensors” to stand up because his muscles can’t support his extreme weight. These suspensors give him the ability to float mid-air in order to move locations.
The wiki does point out that the suspensors only allowed “some levitation to a certain degree,” so it seems that he may be floating more extensively in the movie than intended in the books.
There’s an interesting thread on Reddit that talks more about his suspensors and asks if they really let him float or simply made him weigh less. People said in the replies that in the books, they simply took off some weight and allowed him to kind of “bounce” when he walked. So it does seem like the movie took some liberties on that concept, allowing him to actually float high in the air rather than simply bounce from having a lighter weight.
Here’s a quote from the book that one reader shared:
(Another person on Reddit pointed out that the soldiers we see slowly falling to the ground in one scene are also using suspensors.)
The Baron also floated in Lynch’s movie, so this is a theme that is being carried forward from the previous work, although not quite true to the book’s telling. Some viewers think that the floating might be Denis Villeneuve paying homage to Lynch and Jodorowsky, who also portrayed him floating.
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Without the flying he ain’t getting away from the poison.