The entertainment world is rife with reboots, re-imaginings and do-overs. The Battlestar Galactica re-imagining did quite well for itself. And the reboot of Doctor Who, not too shabby. Even Spider-man was given a do-over just a mere 5 years after Tobey Maguire danced for some reason (and it was given a hyphen too). So why, I ask, hasn’t one of the greatest sci-fi movies of all time been given a second chance? Why has no one given new life to Buckaroo Banzai?
To fully understand this travesty let us travel back in time to the month of August in the year 1984. Can you imagine what it must have been like then… then… then…
The Simmer Olympics were held in Los Angeles. During a voice check for a radio broadcast President Ronald Reagan remarks, “My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.” Cuz, you know, nuclear war is funny. John De Lorean is acquitted of all eight charges of possessing and distributing cocaine and the Space Shuttle Discovery takes off on its maiden voyage. It is a time of day-glo clothing and leg warmers, straight ties and Member’s Only jackets. Frankie went to Hollywood to Relax and Cyndi Lauper was considered unusual. Band Aid wondered if They knew it was Christmas. And George Harrison made a rare public appearance, joining Deep Purple on stage in Sydney, Australia for their encore rendition of “Lucille.” Which is actually pretty cool.
And there were synthesizers. Holy Mother of God were there there were synthesizers. And drum machines. Synthesizers and drum machines until your ears bled and you cried out in painful lament, “Make it stop, in the name of everything holy, make it stop!” But I digress.
In film, sure there were other notable things like Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Ghostbusters. But into this strange mish-mash of what in reality was a truly ridiculous year came what is considered one of the greatest pieces of celluloid to be distributed to an adoring public. The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension!
Okay, well, it might not have been met with that much acclaim at the time. It may have been panned a bit and given what might be, at best, “mixed reviews.” But it garnered a fanatically loyal fan-base and a cult following. And I argue, rightfully so.
Yes, it has its flaws. the aforementioned synthesizer on the sound track. The plot is a bit complicated and could have had a bit more of an explanation/backstory. the pacing is a bit slow at time and could have used some more dynamic editing. But these things are superficial in my mind.
You see, into the over-the-top gaudiness that was the 1980s came something innovative and unique which played off that gaudiness, embraced it, and threw it back at you with a smile. And while it is true, so many things are extolled as being ‘ahead of their time’ without really deserving it, in the case of Buckaroo Banzai I believe it is apt. So many things we take for granted now were in play. The silly humor delivered with dead-pan seriousness, the ensemble cast of quirky characters and the exaggerated performances played with the utmost seriousness. But most of all the story was self-aware in a way that most films of that era were not. It understood that it was wacky, that it was slightly insane but, with a nod and a wink, it played it straight. It asked you to join in with the fun, be a part of joke. Yes, the plot was overly complicated, but that was part and parcel of the whole. We were dropped into the middle of a world and asked to catch up. It asked you to run along side or get left behind. Unfortunately in the 1980s not many were willing to put in the effort.
But now audiences are not only willing to join the ride, I think its expected. Picture Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but instead of a tough-as-nails mystically endowed teenager with a band of quirky friends fighting evil you have a neurosurgeon, particle physicist, race car driver, rock star samurai with a band (literally a band) of quirky friends fighting evil. Seriously, how could that fail? Obviously I’m thinking series here, but another film would be nice too.
Basically Buckaroo Banzai is just fun. Simply add some 21st century plot-lines and character development. And viola! years of entertainment and brilliance.
Just think, exploring the life and adventures of Perfect Tommy, Reno Nevada, New Jersey and Rawhide. Wouldn’t you like to learn more about Buckaroo and Penny Priddy? Not to mention John Booty. (Sorry, Boo-Tay!)
The world is ready, we need Buckaroo Banzai. Besides weren’t we promised Buckaroo Banzai Against the World Crime League? I beleive we were.