What led me to watch Buckaroo Banzai was an odd confluence of events. I proclaimed on Facebook that John Lithgow’s greatest role was in ‘Harry and the Hendersons’ (admit it, you cry every time he yells at the Big Foot, Harry, “Can’t you see we don’t want you anymore!”). Almost immediately, my friends responded with this photo from ‘The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension‘.
I had never even heard of the film, but since I’m a big fan of John Lithgow (‘3rd Rock from the Sun‘ anyone?), and I have a crush on 80’s Jeff Goldblum (he’s shirtless in ‘Earth Girls are Easy‘, so… can you blame me?), I watched it. And guess what? I’m a fan, and that’s why it’s the subject of Throwback Thursday, ScienceFiction.com’s ongoing column dedicated to the great science fiction of the past.
Buckaroo Banzai is the unlikely name of an unlikely person. While science fiction in the 80s loved to embrace the over-the-top-ness of the genre, the character of Buckaroo took it to a whole new level. A son of two scientists, he grew up to be a neurosurgeon/particle physicist/race car driver/Presidential advisor/comic book inspiration/rock star. And yes, he does all of these things in equal measure all through out the movie all while being a perfect action star that chases down aliens on motorcycles. He is accompanied by a team of different people who are almost as highly skilled with names like Rawhide, Perfect Tommy, and Reno.
They are basically a comic book, which is evident by the trailer for the movie, which is mostly just a lot of cool people walking to the beat with cuts of witty comments.
Unfortunatley, the trailer gives you very little to go on for plot, so here it is: In 1938, while trying to pass through matter, Dr. Lazardo accidentally gets trapped in the 8th Dimension. When he comes back, his mind is taken over by Whorfin, an alien creature that had been exiled to the dimension by the Planet 10. When Buckaroo attempts to succeed with the same experiment, which gives Whorfin a chance to return and destroy Planet 10. Before letting this happen, Planet 10 threatens to blow up Earth, and Buckaroo Banzai and his team has to stop this from happening.
Everything about this movie sounds campy, and while it is, it doesn’t really come off as something you watch to just marvel at the silliness and mildly bad acting like ‘Evil Dead.’ This is a sort of camp that takes itself seriously because it did it well, and it is enjoyable from the first scenes of brain surgery right up until he tells the President not to blow up Russia. Let’s face it. Even with its 80s special effects, and it’s somewhat out-of-style cinematography, ‘Buckaroo Banzai’ is just freakin’ cool, and it is now one of my biggest regrets that I waited this long to see it.
Along with its interesting cast of characters, a surprisingly complicated plot, and really cool ideas about science fiction (that are way more fiction than science, but who’s paying attention when Perfect Tommy is shirtless?), it has incredible actors.
Not only does it have John Lithgow and Jeff Goldblum, it stars Peter Weller. That’s right. The RoboCop before he was the Robocop. In addition it has Christopher Lloyd (before ‘Back to the Future’ was made), and Clancy Brown, who you may recognize from so many scifi/fantasy shows like ‘The Flash’, ‘Lost’, and ‘Sleepy Hollow’.
Now that is a star-studded cast before anyone knew they were star-studded.
So if you haven’t seen ‘Buckaroo Banzai’, how about you pop some popcorn and have an enjoyable night watching Buckaroo and his team take down inter-dimensional aliens. It’s worth every minute.