The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984)

So, I think that admitting that I have not seen this yet might disturb some of my friends. Particularly some of the guys in my gaming group. I have heard them quote and reference the movie several times and I have been intrigued by it the whole time. I love a lot of cult classic movies whether they are good or bad. I got on The Room bandwagon early, I have seen Rocky Horror several times, I have watched Plan 9 while shaking my head, and my favorite Halloween is the third one. The point is: I do not mind watching something that is not entirely good or accepted into the mainstream if I can get some entertainment value from it. The fact that Jeff Goldblum is in this one is telling because he is that kind of actor to me. Nothing he has made is a masterpiece but he keeps churning out enjoyable movies. Independence Day, The Fly, and Jurassic Park were all chances for him to show that he may not be the greatest actor but he is charismatic. It’s the equivalent of eating at a diner, something I used to all the time. It doesn’t give you everything it should but it makes you happy just the same.

I have read that this movie was also written as a love letter to pulp comics. I was a little young for pulp comics. Superhero comics were really hitting their stride and had long since taken over the market. However, I was young enough to really enjoy some of the stuff inspired by pulp comics. The biggest example I can think of is the Indiana Jones series. Pulp embraced so-called genre fiction which is my favorite. “Genre” includes science fiction, fantasy, superhero, horror, and other less regarded subgenres. For a long time, genre films were seen as lesser mostly because this is where a lot of filmmakers started before moving onto “more serious” films. But sometimes you do not want to watch a really serious film. Sometimes you fire up a movie simply to have fun and learn nothing. Of course, I am of the belief that you can take a lesson away from even the dumbest movie but maybe that is just me.

This movie is definitely kind of punk rock. Not only are a lot of the main characters in a rock band, they all look like they could have frequented CBGB. Of course, this was the eighties when Punk’s powers were at their height. The movie is also extremely offbeat and, like the characters does whatever it wants when it wants to. A lot of the visual style and set decoration is definitely reminiscent of old science fiction. All of the sciency things have plenty of doodads and extra bits hanging off of them. It is far from the slick, shiny science fiction of more recent movies. All of the alien stuff looks appropriately weird and foreign. The aliens themselves utilize fun rubber masks which thankfully allow them to be expressive. The effects are cheap but there is a lot of charm in that. There is also an interesting Japanese influence with the main characters using kanji and there are katanas and other little touches all over. The whole ascetic reminds me of early Doctor Who and other crazy eighties movies like Invaders from Mars and Ghostbusters.

The movie is chock full of names familiar to fans of genre movies. Buckaroo Banzai himself is played by Peter Weller who is, of course, famous for playing Robocop. In this, he plays a highly intelligent neurosurgeon/rockstar/particle physicist/adventurer. He is almost too cool and he exudes both confidence and ability. John Lithgow plays the villain as only Lithgow could. Lithgow is at his best when he is allowed to freak out and chew the scenery in every way possible. He is joined by Christopher Lloyd who is also adept at acting over the top and does it well here. Ellen Barkin plays the token female character and reminds me a lot of roles Lori Petty would later play. Jeff Goldblum plays an everyman scientist character similar to Ian Malcolm or David Levinson. The rest of the movie is full of great character actors like Clancy Brown, Jonathan Banks, Robert Ito, and Lewis Smith. These characters all get to say really cool but really goofy lines which make for a lot of fun.

Overall, I really liked this movie. I had no idea what to expect and even after reading this review, you probably will not either. This is a movie that dares to make a lot of sense while making no sense at all. I am sure that whole essays could be written on why certain decisions were made but I would sooner chalk it up to heavy drugs or just old-fashioned goofiness. As a side note, the movie takes place in New Jersey and one of the early important scenes takes place in the town I went to college in (New Brunswick). The movie has a charm as long as you sit back and let it happen instead of working your brain too hard. I definitely recommend it.

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8 Responses to “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984)”

  1. Liz A. Says:

    I missed this back in the day. Heard of it. Kind of wanted to see it. But never got around to it. Maybe someday…


  2. Birgit Says:

    This is a film I have wanted to see for years. Since it reminds me of a geek movie and I feel I am a geek. This should work for me


  3. Tasha Duncan-Drake (@beren_writes) Says:

    I have to admit, when I finally saw this movie (I too had heard lots about it), I was unimpressed. It had such potential, but missed for me, and it was such a guy flick :)
    Tasha’s Thinkings – Movie Monsters


  4. Silvia Writes Says:

    Taking copious notes. Might need a relaxing time dedicated to movie watching once April is over, and should I survive blogging. :)


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