That's right -- it's the third installment of our "Real Men Love _____" film nostalgia serial, and the first film we've spotlighted whose title doesn't begin with the letter "R." The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension is the quintessential cult classic B-movie: from its mishmashing of dozens of different film genres, to its detailed creation of a fictional world and hero, to its final, inexplicably cool ending credits, Buckaroo Banzai is, to put it bluntly, pure awesome. It failed to reach a real audience at the time of its release, but it now holds up as a test of true grit: only real men love The Adventures of buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension.
It’s a Sci-Fi/Action/Comedy/Horror/Romance/Rock/Western/80’s Movie
When a film contains more different genres than you have fingers on one hand, then you have either (A) suffered through some sort of painful industrial accident, or (B) found a badass, cult classic film that failed financially but has since developed a loyal following. The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension may well be the ultimate cult classic film: it’s corny, hilarious, action-packed, and combines damn near every film genre imaginable into 104 minutes of pure badassery. If you haven’t watched it, then you are seriously missing out on a cinematic gem. It may sound sarcastic or silly to make a statement like that about what essentially boils down to a cheesy B-movie, but it’s true: for all the film’s insanity, it’s fun, clever, and imaginative as all hell.
The “Middle of a Series” Joke
Sort of like Leonard Part 6, but not horrendous, Buckaroo Banzai pretends that our hero’s adventures across the eighth dimension are the middle chapter in a long, imaginary series of films and comic books centering around the character. Like most other things in Buckaroo Banzai, this entire angle is insanely weird to the point of awesomeness: Buckaroo has already created his own institute, the world already idolizes him as a celebrity, and characters will frequently refer back to Banzai’s earlier adventures as if the audience were already aware of Banzai’s past. As a result, it puts a weird obligation on the viewer: if you don’t like the character of Buckaroo Banzai, your opinion runs counter to that of every single other character in the entire Banzai universe. If you don’t think Buckaroo is a badass, the film tells you that you are, for all intents and purposes, an idiot. Which is sort of true in real life, as well.
More C-List Stars Than You Can Shake a Frigging Stick At
Including: Dan “Blood Simple” Hedaya, Vincent “Would you mind if I took Beth out this weekend” Schiavelli, Ellen “I spent years doing crappy B movies and all I got was this stupid Ocean’s Thirteen cameo” Barkin, Christopher “When this baby hits 88 miles per hour you are gonna see some serious shit” Lloyd, Clancy “The bad guy from Highlander” Brown, Pepe “The guy who got cut up by a chainsaw in Scarface” Sema, Carl “Black guy from Alias” Lumbly, John “Bad guy” Lithgow, and, of course, Peter “Robocop” Weller, the king of all C-list stars who never got the amount of exposure they deserved. Incidentally, this is the second Peter Weller film we’ve tackled in the “real men love ___” series: perhaps we should just call these articles “Real Men Love Peter Weller,” and leave it at that.
Look! Vectorized graphics! Sort of! While the dated technology in other films sometimes works to their slight disadvantage (see: the virus simulation program in The Thing), the kooky 80’s technology of Buckaroo Banzai fits perfectly within the tone of the rest of the film. In a film full of Jewish cowboys and pseudo-Italian evil scientists, a few out-of-date computer systems and dorky looking television sets don’t exactly distract, if you know what I mean.
Buckaroo Banzai: Renaissance Man, Badass Extraordinaire
Imagine, if you will, a character born to Japanese and Texan parents, who also happened to be particle physicists. He was named “Buckaroo” because of his father’s love of the American west, and was subsequently taught math, science, martial arts, gunfighting, singing, racing, parachuting…the list goes on. Oh, and he’s also a qualified surgeon. Buckaroo Banzai, as a character, is so over-the-top heroic it’s almost laughable – which is what makes him so awesome. In the first twenty minutes alone, we see Buckaroo:
-Perform brain surgery
-Drive into the 8th dimension and pass out unharmed on the other side
-Play guitar at a concert
Coupled with the extreme 80’s vibe of the film, Banzai is so corny he actually becomes cool – very, very few films have the courage to make their characters so unabashedly talented and heroic, which makes Buckaroo’s multifaceted skills that much more manly.
Jeff Goldblum Dressed as a Cowboy
This shot alone is worth the price of admission.
Buckaroo Banzai Kicks an Alien in the Dick
For all the character’s many talents and his supposed intelligence in getting out of sticky situations, it has to be said: when real men need to get away from a large, ugly alien hellbent on your destruction, they go for the effective, reliable, and endlessly hilarious foot to the balls. All things considered, though, Buckaroo should have thanked his stars that the aliens even have reproductive organs in that area: what if the alien’s wang was actually in its chest? Buckaroo would have kicked him in the groin, nothing would have happened, and the two would have stared at each other for a few seconds before laughing over how silly the whole situation was. Then Buckaroo would get killed.
The Blue Blazer Irregulars!
While there have been many film badasses who can brag about all the women they’ve slept with and the bad guys they’ve killed, but who can say they have an entire fan club devoted to them within the context of the film? When Buckaroo gets in trouble during the second act, Perfect Tommy calls in the help of the Blue Blazer Irregulars, a boy scout/ fan club organization that vows to help Buckaroo Banzai whenever he should need it. Had the movie really taken off, you can be guaranteed that the Blue Blazer Irregulars would have been the name of the official fan club; considering the Irregulars are made up of both small children and grown adults, one can only imagine the horrendously pedophilic undertones that might have permeated regular club meetings.
Buckaroo vs a File Cabinet
Despite the fact that it can most definitely be called an action-adventure sort of film, Buckaroo Banzai actually doesn’t include that much action. There are no huge fight scenes, and only one extended gunfight to speak of. So, how does one still make their hero look like a butt-kicking, name-taking badass? Well, if you’re the director of The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension, you make your hero kick inanimate pieces of office machinery just for the hell of it. As Buckaroo runs through his home/institute looking for some aliens, he comes across an open file cabinet, whose contents have been inexplicably set aflame. Instead of simply leaving it be, Buckaroo decides that he’s taken enough shit from file cabinets over the course of his life before karate-kicking the cabinet shut, effectively putting out the flame. It serves absolutely no narrative or thematic purpose, but it does teach the viewer one very important thing: Buckaroo Banzai doesn’t take shit from office supplies.
Lectroids From Planet Ten, By Way of the Eighth Dimension
Even ignoring the fact that they have a pleasantly long-winded name, the Lectroids From Planet Ten By Way of the Eighth Dimension are decently interesting villains. Not because they’re powerful or particularly frightening (they aren’t), but because they’re just so damn odd. Take, for example, the fact that every single Lectroid, when creating a human identity, chose the first name of “John.” This results in a race whose entirety (even the women) is made up of people named “John Bigbute,” “John Parker,” and – most hilariously – “John Smallberries.” These aliens, like those in the John Carpenter and future Real Men Love article candidate They Live, look totally human to those without the power to see their true form. And if that wasn’t enough, the Lectroids come in two colors: red (bad) and black (good). Is the film saying something about race issues and how the white man’s quest for greed and power will always lose under the strength of proud, moral black people? Probably not, but there’s something to be said that the only “good” alien characters are played by African-Americans.
“Sealed with a curse…”
Allow me to set the scene for you: Buckaroo Banzai has been captured by Doctor Lizardo and is being tortured in an effort to extract information regarding Buckaroo’s oscillation overthruster. Buckaroo, the hero he is, refuses to give up any information. Right after telling Lizardo that he’ll get nothing from him, Lizardo turns around and – for no reason whatsoever – delivers one of my favorite quotes in movie history:
“Sealed vit a curse…as sharp as a knife…doomed is your soul…and DAMNED IS YOUR LIFE!”
The quote means literally nothing and is totally out of place in the context of the scene, but the affect it has on Buckaroo is surprisingly cool: instead of replying in a typical devil-may-care kinda way, Buckaroo is noticeably irked by the line. He stutters, searching for a comeback, but can ultimately only come up with the incredibly weak reply, “Buzz off.” Such is the power of this quote that it even renders the goddamned hero powerless in its wake.
The End Credit Sequence
In roughly the same way that the “sealed with a curse” quote, the Blue Blazer Irregulars, and the musical scenes are totally nonsensical but absolutely awesome in the grand scheme of the film, so too is the end credit sequence: after the actual events of the film are over, we cut to a drained canal where, for no reason whatsoever, we are treated to a long tracking shot of the film’s protagonists as they walk. They don’t say anything. They don’t do anything. They just walk. A lot. And it’s awesome. So awesome, in fact, that Wes Anderson completely ripped it off for the ending of The Life Aquatic. Your opinions on Aquatic will vary, but one has to nonetheless admit the balls of Buckaroo director W.D. Richter for filming a scene that others would deem entirely pointless, just for the sake of making the end credits a bit more interesting.
Promise of a Sequel
Sigh. Just like our last featured film, The Rocketeer, the adventures of Buckaroo Banzai came to a close far too soon. The film goes so far as to outright promise a sequel, and even tells us the name: Buckaroo Banzai Against the World Crime League. Given that the DVD release adds a prologue to the beginning of the film explaining that Buckaroo’s parents are killed by a criminal mastermind named Hanoi Xan, and given that Buckaroo’s ex-wife was assumedly killed by the same guy, Buckaroo Banzai Against the World Crime League could have been one of those few sequels that turns out better than the original: as much as I dig Peter Weller, he does play Buckaroo – and this is putting it lightly – a bit dull. Not that I can blame him: Buckaroo is already hot shit by the time the film starts, so why be worried about some dorky aliens led by the guy from 3rd Rock from the Sun? A sequel would have solved this problem: since Buckaroo would effectively be pursuing the same man who killed his parents and love interest, we’d get to see a much more involved, desperate, and potentially interesting portrayal of Buckaroo. But, alas, this was not meant to be: The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension failed due to audiences who simply didn’t “get” it, thus forever dooming it to cult obscurity.