Following suspiciously close on the recent news of the Blu-Ray release of The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension comes news that yet another attempt is being made to bring the cult classic to television, this time by no less than Kevin Smith.
Smith, best known for offbeat comedies such as Clerks and the innumerable Jay and Silent Bob movies, is known to be a longtime fan of the film, even hosting a screening for it in 2011 and calling it one of the most influential movies of his life. But it is his success directing The Flash that has apparently opened the doors at MGM to revive the sci-fi classic.
On a recent podcast, Smith explained that MGM was interested in giving Banzai the Fargo treatment, turning the movie into a more in-depth series: “Basically you just do the entire movie for season one, then season two you finally do the sequel we’ve all dreamed about, Buckaroo Banzai Against the World Crime League.”
The aforementioned sequel, plugged at the end of the original movie, is something of a legend in sci-fi circles. Initially hobbled by disagreements with David Begelman, the executive producer at Sherwood Productions who greenlit the original movie, the sequel lapsed for years into development hell as Sherwood dissolved and the rights bounced from place to place until it became very difficult to say who had what rights at all. Eventually, several elements found their way into Big Trouble in Little China, directed by Banzai director W.D. Richter.
This is far from the first attempt at bringing Banzai et al to TV. An early attempt by ABC got tied up by Begelman’s vendetta against the creators, as he essentially squatted on the property until his death by suicide in 1995. In 1998, work began on Buckaroo Banzai: Ancient Secrets and New Mysteries for the Fox network. Unfortunately, a change of management at Fox killed it, but not before some very intriguing test footage leaked to an astonished fandom. Finally, there was a Frank Darabont project around about 2002, about which very little is known save it didn’t seem to involve Richter or Banzai creator Earl Mac Rauch. About the first news that was publicly released was a brief mention on Ain’t it Cool News noting that it wasn’t happening.
Still, this time around the news has it that a deal has already been struck. Will Kevin Smith’s star power be sufficient to push it over the tipping point and into American living rooms at long last? And if so, will it hold up? Smith has already stated he wishes to bring Rauch in on the project, and also as many of the old cast as possible, albeit playing different characters. But will he get the feel of the story right?
Part of Banzai’s charm to its adherents is the absolutely deadpan presentation: Banzai is real, this is a dramatization of real events. Banzai, the living summation of what every eight-year-old wants to be when they grow up, may find it hard going in the gritty, cynical age of “gritty” heroes. As news of Smith’s announcement washed across the internet, the most popular emotion seemed to be cautious excitement tinged with anxiety as fans asked themselves if it could really happen this time, after so many disappointments, and if so, would it be the same Banzai that captivated them so long ago?
A lot of ifs, ands, and buts so far: but if there is one thing a Blue Blaze Irregular knows, it is patience. Smith has stated that in a month he’ll “take it out and, try to find a home for it.” There’s not much else being said right now, so fans will just have to wait, and hope.
(Kelly Luck is hoping they’ll bring back the Rug Suckers. Her other SciFi4Me work can be read here.)