Thursday, September 2, 2010

Buckaroo Banzai

To put it simply, you'll never see a sci-fi film quite like The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai - Across the 8th Dimension. It is full of tongue-in-cheek and off-the-wall humor, yet pretends to be such a serious sci-fi action/drama that it manages to be something totally different than either, and quickly obtained a cult following. When I saw it shortly after release in college, I am embarrassed to say that I took it completely seriously and totally missed a lot of the hilarity that was pointed out to me since. I certainly hope I laughed along with John Lithgow's comical role as the mad scientist. But in general, there were only a few things that I actually remembered about the film afterward. The first was the creepy looking alien costumes, including one who was a rastafarian with dread locks. The second was one of the film's core concepts, which is that there could be other beings and worlds living in the empty space between conventional matter. Banzai gives a speech about how 99% of matter is empty space, which is quite true, and that he had found a way to use that fact to travel through matter. One of the opening scenes is a very cool experiment where Banzai drives a vehicle with a Blue Flame-like engine at high speed through a rock face and out the other side. Other than that, I didn't really give it much attention.

Later on I began to hear about its cult film status and realized that, yes, there is a lot of really off the wall stuff in the film that's both funny and cool. The cast is pretty top notch. Peter Weller is perfect as Banzai, who is at once a neurosurgeon, rock star, physicist, comic book hero, and all around cool guy. No such comic book existed in real life, but issues were shown in the film nonetheless! He travels with his band group called the Hong Kong Cavaliers. The most remembered aspect of the film is its many off the wall quotes and comments that get thown in at seemingly random places. They are easy to miss if you're not paying attention. And I heard at one point the film garnered late night repeated viewings, akin to the Rocky Horror Picture Show phenomenon, with fans who would shout responses to the characters from the audience. From this film came the famous "Remember, wherever you go, there you are", and more amazingly, it wasn't uttered by Jeff Goldblum! For a sampling of some popular quotes, see this link. You'll see a lot of crazy 80's influence in the costumes, etc. Just check out the casting call at the end of the film (shown below) for a sample. I'd recommend it for a popcorn night, but you never know who is actually going to find it funny.