After the release of Player One, more and more people began searching social media for answers to the question of who the hell is Buckaroo Banzai?

Jarosław Kowal

16 January 2024


In Spielberg’s hit, the main character briefly dons the not-so-original costume of this forgotten character. However, amidst all the Batmans, steel giants, and other mechas, Buckaroo Banzai seems to be a relic of the past known only to the most discerning nerds. Let’s bring Buckaroo Banzai back to life because in the era of the ’80s trend, he should be a crowd-adored trendsetter.

Buckaroo Banzai, the son of an American and a Japanese, began his life as destined… racing in multiple directions at once. He was an excellent neurosurgeon, but he was also a restless spirit, and soon medicine no longer satisfied him. He traveled the world, studying martial arts and particle physics, assembling a team of eccentric friends – rockers and scientists known as the Hong Kong Cavaliers. His jet car is ready to attack the barrier between dimensions, and Buckaroo Banzai faces the toughest trial of his life. Meanwhile, aliens from their ship high above Earth nervously observe every move of Buckaroo Banzai and his team. THE ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO BANZAI ACROSS THE 8TH DIMENSION it is, ladies and gentlemen.

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension

Forgive me for quoting the narration from the beginning of the movie in its entirety, but there’s nothing better to say about it. At the outset, it combines two worlds of the most colorful achievements of pop culture – American and Japanese (which is also emphasized in Player One); shortly thereafter, neurosurgery, martial arts, physics, and a rock band, and then a jet car and aliens… What more could one dream of? With Buckaroo, even Aristotle looks like a man with narrow horizons. However, the consequence of this immense, senses-awakening and hopeful promise is a gradual transition to compromise. Yes, W.D. Richter’s bizarre vision (who directed not much else but wrote or co-wrote excellent scripts for Invasion of the Body Snatchers in 1978, Dracula in 1979, and especially Big Trouble in Little China) can enchant with peculiar ideas, but there aren’t as many as one might expect from the introduction, and viewers accustomed to the dynamism of contemporary cinema may struggle to adapt to the sluggish pace of this 1984-dated production.

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension

Once again, I’ll use a comparison to Player One because in both films, the simple plot serves as a pretext for the celebration of the extravagant, exaggerated, and colorful world of fiction. The qualitative difference – in technical terms – is colossal; after all, one film cost seventeen million dollars, and the other one hundred seventy-five million, so it cannot be hidden on the screen. Nevertheless, Richter managed to achieve something on which Spielberg could only rely – to create a completely unique vision. It’s wonderful to see Goro from Mortal Kombat torn apart from the inside by a tiny xenomorph or King Kong crushing Kaneda’s motorcycle from Akira, but the colorfulness of The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai is free from today’s trend of references; it’s an idea built from scratch, pure, and perhaps that’s why it is now surrounded by a cult.

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension Jeff Goldblum Lewis Smith

For such a niche undertaking, the cast looks impressive. Many of its members have canonical roles for pop culture – whether it’s Peter Weller as Robocop, Christopher Lloyd as Dr. Emmett Brown, or Jeff Goldblum as Seth Brundle. However, all of these roles were realized only a few years later, and in 1984, none of these actors’ names were widely known, as evidenced by the density of their hair. This is one of the few films where I saw John Lithgow with hair, and his almost Carrey-esque character is practically a preview of what he later did as Dick Solomon in 3rd Rock from the Sun. In any case, this is not amateurism. Weller as the ninja Elon Musk is one hundred percent convincing, and when he catches a woman’s cry during a noisy concert and imparts wisdom like a Chinese fortune cookie – Wherever you go, there you are – the last thing that will come to your mind is mockery.

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension John Lithgow Christopher Lloyd Vincent Schiavelli

What role does Smolensk play in all this controlled chaos? Smolensk is an extremely important place here, and it’s hard to believe that a special commission was not appointed in this matter. Only now, watching the film after many years, did the weight of the order issued at one point by the aliens strike me: Launch the nuclear weapon towards Smolensk! Why, out of all places on Earth, this one, so symbolic and provocative to ideological conflicts today? Coincidence? I don’t think so.

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension Peter Weller

The culmination of the film is the famous scene of the march of all the characters, resembling a collective fashion show, and the trailer for the second part that never happened. However, Richter was more amazed that producer David Begelman allowed the character of Buckaroo Banzai to exist at all. In one interview, he recalled: Begelman is the strangest person I’ve ever worked with. He eventually committed suicide, confirming our suspicions that he was crazy. These suspicions were not related to suicidal tendencies but, for example, investing in movies in which the producer did not believe in success or the huge mess in contracts, which still blocks the possibility of creating Buckaroo Banzai against the world criminal league. Attempts were made in 1998 and 2016 to create a television series (the second time with the involvement of pop culture guru Kevin Smith), but each time legal uncertainties stood in the way, and it seems that Parzival in disguise is the only Buckaroo Banzai we’ll see in the near future.