Twitter Plot Summary: Buckaroo Banzai, all round smart guy, has to stop an alien invasion from the 8th dimension.
Five Point Summary:
1. Nice teeth, John Lithgow.
2. Peter Weller rocking a bow tie.
4. They’re not all bad, apparently.
5. Prancing like a boss.
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai is, for all intents and purposes, a modern take (well, modern as of 1984) of the B-movie features of the 1950s, but given a modern edge and a knowing nudge-nudge, wink-wink to its audience. Buckaroo Banzai (Weller) is a man with many talents – physicist, neurosurgeon, test pilot and, of all things, a rock musician. In what is very much a pulp science fiction story, Banzai must stop an alien invasion whilst giving regular knowing nods to its audience and packing in a ridiculous amount of narrative that has the potential to make it nigh-on impossible to explain or possibly even understand. Suffice to say that if Banzai can’t stop the alien invasion World War 3 will break out. No pressure then.
It’s one of those old school adventure stories that you never seem to see anymore – the fabulous hero surrounded by a dedicated posse of supporters and followers (as seen in the end credits), and if it had been around in the 1930s it would surely have been released as a multi part serial with a cliffhanger ending at the end of every 15 minute episode. I doubt very much that a film like this would get made in our current climate, especially one as densely plotted as this. That may very well be the reason it didn’t perform so well at the time of its release, that and the general apathy the public have historically had with the science fiction genre.
The music is typical cheesy synths for the era, yet deceptively the tunes are excellent. Similarly the cast is chock full of big names – although admittedly they may not have been well known at the time. In many cases it’s clear that an association with science fiction is not detrimental to future career plans. It was nice seeing Peter Weller acting without being buried beneath a bulky Robocop suit, and he is a perfect fit for the look of Banzai, just the right amount of smarts mixed with the possibility that there’s much more to him below the surface.
Lithgow meanwhile is superb as the criminally insane Dr Lizardo, an absolutely insane character who’s mind is inhabited by Lord John Whorfin, the leader of the Red Lectroids who were imprisoned in the 8th dimension. After they make their escape into our reality, it’s up to Buckaroo Banzai and his band of assistants known as the Hong Kong Cavaliers – amongst their number are Clancy Brown and Jeff Goldblum, and the cast is rounded off by the likes of Christopher “Great Scott!” Lloyd and Dan Hedaya.
Sadly a proposed sequel never saw the light of day. It would have been fantastic to see a franchise spin out of this, but it was never to be. Perhaps one day somebody will unearth the concept for Buckaroo Banzai and give it the remake treatment. Stranger things have happened, both here and in the 8th dimension – including seeing Jeff Goldblum dressed up as a cowboy.