director W.D. Richter
There are probably a number of films that could vie for the title of “Ultimate 1980’s Movie” and make a good argument of it. I’m willing to say that The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension could be discussed in that way along with bigger, more well-known films. But it was also almost immediately destined for the Cult section of the video store from the day it appeared onscreen.
The film stars Peter Weller as the titular “physicist, neurosurgeon, test pilot, and rock musician,” a character with such an elaborate backstory that the film even features aliens reading comic books about his exploits. His assistants and sidekicks are the “Hong Kong Cavaliers” who comprise his band. He’s such an uber Renaissance man that he solos on guitar, cornet and piano in the one scene in which they belt out a tremendously 1980’s-style of rock.
I was struck how this property could work in the hands of Wes Anderson, he of the overly detailed worlds and elaborated throw-away asides. Anderson’s never done anything very close to genre, but it could be quite amusing.
Featuring a hilarious villain of Dr. Emilio Lizardo (John Lithgow) and a cavalcade of other names and faces, the film runs high on energy and virtual nonsense, throwing in ever-escalating detail and development in lieu of trying to make any sense of any of the details and plot points it has already laid out.
What it lacks in polish, it makes up for in sheer commitment to the zany world of Buckaroo Banzai, even proclaiming an never-realized sequel at the end of the film, Buckaroo Banzai Against the World Crime League.
I watched it with Felix, who developed a migraine and missed the ending. I think it didn’t really make a lot of sense to him. But I would definitely like to suggest that it’s as exemplary a 1980’s film as there is, full of analog effects, goofy nonsense, and silliness.