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In the opening scene of The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension, Team Banzai is testing the Oscillation Overthruster's ability to enable Buckaroo's jet car to move through the empty space between subatomic particles, seemingly traveling through a small mountain unharmed. However, it's clear from the reactions of the press and government representatives in attendance that only Team Banzai knows beforehand about the Overthruster and the real purpose of the test.

The cover story--the supposed purpose of the test--is never made clear in dialog as far as I can tell. From an unofficial screenplay here:

GENERAL CATBURD:
    I'm teeing off in an hour and a half.  What's this jalopy supposed
    to do, anyway?

SENATOR CUNNINGHAM:
    Five hundred miles an hour.

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:
    Oh, Senator, you're so gullible.

So is the cover story merely that Team Banzai is seeing how fast the jet car can go? How would that fool anyone? It's a pretty minor job for a person who is as busy and important as Buckaroo Banzai. Maybe he's trying to break the land speed record for jet-powered wheeled vehicles, but, assuming the events of the film take place in the mid-'80s when it was made, the record in that category at the time was well over 600 mph, so 500 mph is nowhere close.

Is there an in-universe explanation in the novelization, the screenplay, or other supporting material, for a more convincing cover story? What do the government officials and press believe they are watching when the jet car starts off, before Buckaroo swerves away from the "official" course and heads towards the mountain to test the Oscillation Overthruster?

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TL;DR : Officially, the project was either to demo a high-speed military concept or to break the dimensional barrier in a less flashy way.


Although we are never told exactly what the witnesses are there to witness, the event is called a "speed test" in both the script & novelizations, as well as on this FAQ. Based on that and some of the dialogue during the test, we can speculate that the vehicle was a "proof-of-concept" demonstration for some sort of high-speed military vehicle.

GENERAL CATBURD: Too bad war ain't Indianapolis. It's fast, I'll give Banzai that.

SENATOR CUNNINGHAM: Perhaps an idea whose time has come, General? Scoot over.

Catburd moves aside as Senator Cunningham takes her turn with the viewing device.

GENERAL CATBURD: It'll never work. It's too simple.

Then, later we have this snippet:

PROF. HIKITA: Approaching thirty seconds downrange Three zero. Course steady. Speed three one seven nautical-four hundred...

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: He's gonna do it! The man is gonna do it!

GENERAL CATBURD: So what? Big deal. Anybody can drive fast in a straight line.

...as if in response to Catburd's comment, Buckaroo does an amazing thing, NOW FLICKING HIS DIRECTIONAL SIGNAL... LEAVING THE PAVED SURFACE FOR OPEN TERRAIN!

That said, however, it should be noted that Professor Hikita, the official head of the project, was an expert in experimental particle acceleration. Not only that, he had a history of working with the U.S. government on breaking dimensional barriers 30 years earlier. Given that fact, it would be odd for him to head up a project completely un-related. It's entirely possible that the goal of the project was to break the dimensional barrier, but those present did not realize exactly how it would be done or that it would entail "phasing" through a mountain.

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    Good answer. Sensible inferences drawn from a close reading of the script, although the draft you linked to is different in detail in many places from the finished film. If anything, the way the first exchange ended up in the film supports the theory of a high-speed vehicle with military applications even better, though--the General, on seeing the prodigious flames from the exhaust of the jet car, says something along the lines of, "He's fast, I'll give Banzai that. But one heat-seeking missile and he's history." Jun 10 '15 at 21:56

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