I don’t remember when I first saw The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension , but I never forgot the movie. Banzai was a larger-than-life hero who modeled the attitude of the eighties at a fairly deep level. Even now, I can’t really put my finger on it. He was every man’s James Bond. He was the captain of his soul. He was a caring leader. And, it didn’t hurt that he was a modern Renaissance man.
The makers of the movie call it a docudrama. I’m not sure what that means. Pretty sure there is no real Banzai Institute and there never was a real Dr. B. Banzai, so where the docu part comes from is a mystery to me.
Thanks to Netflix, I got to see the movie again. It had always surprised me when I mentioned the movie to friends and they had no clue what I was talking about. Having rewatched, I’m even more surprised. I had forgotten that the movie features Peter Weller of RoboCop fame, John Lithgow, Jeff Goldbloom, and Christopher Lloyd who later got his own jet powered Delorian.
My young mind had somehow idolized the movie, and I remembered it for far more than it actually is. There is no deep suspense. There is no twist ending. The plot is not shallow, but perhaps could be called standard. Yet, the movie is anything but standard. It almost defies classification. It is a science fiction movie in the style of Flash Gordon or The Last Starfighter. To watch it, you would expect that it is a comic book movie. But, I can’t find any reference to a comic book that predates the movie. The fourth wall is there, but the comedy causes it to seem very thin. It is an action movie, but the action is not the centerpiece. It has geeky, but very odd technology throughout.
In the end, I suppose it is the attitude of the hero that makes the movie for me. Dr. Banzai is a guy who has all the natural gifts that God has to offer and yet he still cares about people. He respects authority, but doesn’t worship it. He walks with intent and has the capacity to answer distractions while staying focused on his objective.
The movie still appears to have a following. I can see why. I still like it, even after all these years.
Buckaroo Banzai isn’t a very good movie (is killed by Lectroids) but it gets by through the fact it’s so much FUN. The world is happy, comic-booky, joyful, and you could honestly imagine watching a bunch of movies with these guys or reading them in a comic book/science-fiction series. I think part of the appeal is that, thanks to Batman and Superman, this is probably the Best Doc Savage movie ever to be made. I advise people to get the special features and/or the book just for the revelation that the series originally had a Fu Manchu-esque villain and an elaborate backstory that makes sense only to comic book nerds. FUN goes a long way to increase my tolerance.