Directed by: W.D Richter
Written by: Earl Mac Rauch
Starring: Peter Weller, Ellen Barkin, John Lithgow, Jeff Goldblum, Clancy Brown, Christopher Lloyd.
Trying to describe The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension (from here on, I’m calling it Buckaroo Banzai) is no easy thing. It’s sort of like being dropped into the middle of a series of films and not having the continuity explained. That is in no way a bad thing.
Peter Weller plays Buckaroo Banzai, a brain surgeon, secret agent, rock star scientist, who leaves the operating theatre to attempt to break some kind of record in rocket car. He then travels into the 8th Dimension, attracting the attention of the evil Red Lectoids. The rest of the movie is largely a B movie style action adventure, but very knowingly so.
Peter Weller plays Banzai as a totally cool, unflappable almost superhero character. Sort of Tony Stark but less of a dick. As well as being a science genius, Banzai is also a badass rock star, playing in a band with his the rest of his crew, called the Hong Kong Cavaliers, who all have rad names like Perfect Tommy, New Jersey and Rawhide. It’s far fetched but good lord is it cool!
I think its fair to say Buckaroo Banzai is sort of a pastiche of and tribute to Flash Gordon and other Sci Fi serials. All of these characters are fully developed before the film starts, as if you’d dropped in on a long running series. The only real origin story is John Lithgow’s villain character, Lord John Whorfin. All of the Alien villains are called John for some reason including Christopher Lloyd’s hilariously named John Bigbooté (IT’S BIG-BOO-TAY)
I instantly fell in love with this movie. It’s daft, it’s quirky and it’s very much of its time, but it is a total blast and sometimes that’s all a movie needs to be. The cast is stocked with fantastic 80’s stars, Peter Weller in his prime, a young Jeff Goldblum and Clancy Brown looking pretty hunky in an overly 80’s way. Added to that, an over the top bad guy played by the eternally brilliant John Lithgow, turns by Christopher Lloyd and Vincent Schiavelli as evil minions and the gorgeous Ellen Barkin as Buckaroo’s potential love interest, mean the acting is nothing less than stellar.
The sad fact, is that Buckaroo Banzai didn’t connect with audiences at the time. It became a VHS cult classic, the story later continued in comic books. Kevin Smith recently tried to launch Buckaroo as a TV series but rights issues put an end to that. After the movie ends, we’re told that Buckaroo and the Hong Kong Cavaliers will return in Buckaroo Banzai vs The World Crime League, in a movie we never got.
Oh, this film has probably the BEST end credits I’ve ever seen too. The music is incredible.
That this film was directed by the writer behind John Carpenter’s classic Big Trouble In Little China gives you enough insight into the vibe the film has. Back when films didn’t treat their audience like idiots, heavy continuity and mythology could be a good thing. Not too many films do this these days, Mad Max Fury Road being a notable exception.
Arrow Video did a great blu ray version of Buckaroo Banzai Across The Eighth Dimension not long ago, so I recommend you check it out!
For Fans Of:
Escape from New York
Big Trouble In Little China