Monday, January 21, 2013

REVIEW: Sayonara Jupiter

Sayonara Jupiter
Director: Koji Hashimoto & Sakyo Komatsu
Year 1984

Sayonara Jupiter, AKA Bye Bye Jupiter, is a wildly imaginative science fiction film that centers on an impending disaster which could possibly wipe out the Planet Earth and destroy humanity as we know it. Told in the obscurest of ways, the film is jam-packed with stupendous special effects and consistently outstanding production values, making it one of the most interesting and unusual sci-fi efforts to come out after Toho's hiatus from the space genre with their 1977 film, War in Space. Blessed with an international cast and a believably constructed future world, Sayonara Jupiter is a little known gem that may stumble in its editing, but in the end makes for a highly enjoyable science fiction yarn that has a lot going for it.

The film follows Dr. Eiji Honda as he prepares to set into motion the “Jupiter Solarization Project”, which aims to turn the planet into a new Sun so as to colonize nearby planets and moons. Just as the project is about to come to fruition, a hippy cult known as the “Jupiter Church”, led by a famous singer/songwriter, begin making terrorist attacks against the space station, threatening the success of the “Jupiter Solarization Project” and the advancement of mankind. To make matters worse, a Black Hole has been discovered moving through the galaxy and it is on a collision course with our solar system. Realizing the impending doom at hand, Dr. Honda proposes to blow up the Planet Jupiter just as the Black Hole crosses its path, forcing the Black Hole from its current course towards the Planet Earth and instead sending it out of our solar system. Still even with the existence of mankind in the balance, the “Jupiter Church” cult still pursues to bring down the Jupiter Project by any means necessary. Will humanity survive this cosmic crossroad of fate, or will mankind's personal problems spell our ultimate downfall?

Tomokazu Miura takes on the role of Dr. Eiji Honda, the scientific hero of this interstellar enigma. Miura does an excellent job in this wild effort, and he helps bring all of these fantastic and out of control elements together, allowing the ridiculousness of all that is going on around him seem somewhat plausible and genuine. If there is one thing to be said about Sayonara Jupiter, it's that it is a film that could easily have fallen into spoof territory. With such a large array of wackiness combined with a fantastical premise, you'd think the film would be categorized as a comedy, but thanks to the dead-serious performance of Tomokazu the movie sustains its craziness and revels in it with a straight-laced disposition. The central character of Eiji Honda is essential in keeping all of these elements in check and Miura does a wonderful job in wrangling in all of the galactic mayhem.

Paired up with Tomokazu's Dr. Eiji Honda character, is actress Diane Dangley playing the role of Maria Basehart, a “Jupiter Church” cult member and former lover of the hero scientist. Dangley does a great job as the conflicted terrorist, who's caught between her love for a man from her past and the task of thwarting the exploitation of the Planet Jupiter. Though the fundamentals of her character were questionable at best, you still feel a deal of sympathy for the situation that she finds herself in. The storied relationship that Honda and herself share is an interesting thematic glue that holds this film in place for the most part. The movie enjoys metaphorically showing us the contrast between each faction of this conflict, and both Dr. Eiji Honda and Maria Basehart are basically the spokespersons of their respective group, allowing us to approach this turbulent subject from more of an intimate angle. For that reason alone I would say that Dangley does a respectable job with the material that she is given, and though you may not see eye to eye with her character's motivations in bringing down the “Jupiter Solarization Project”, you still are able to appreciate the internal struggle that she goes through and that's always appreciated.

When it comes to off the wall situations and unpredictable narratives, Sayonara Jupiter stands proud in its obscurity as it throws a ton of information at you that simply comes off as crazy. First of all, the cult terrorist group the “Jupiter Church”, is run by a spaced out guru who sings nonsensical songs about a dolphin named Jupiter in order to inspire his followers. Say what? Not only that, but this peaceful group's main goal is to stop the transition of Jupiter, from a Planet to a Sun, by injuring and killing as many people as they can. Hell, even when they find out that the only way to save mankind from the Black Hole is to destroy Jupiter, they still don't give a shit and basically decide to continue on with the sabotage of the “Jupiter Solarization Project” simply out of spite. Needless to say their motivations are anything but logical, but there in lies the appeal of this off kilter production. In this stellar smorgasbord we get unusually blatant product placement, a ridiculously hilarious and brutal Jaws homage, a mysterious alien race, hints of an ancient civilization on Mars, the already mentioned space hippy terrorists, and a zero gravity space sex scene that is truly out of this world in execution and delivery. With all of this weirdness, how can you really go wrong?

Now let's get down to what this film really excels in, aside from its oddity factor, and that's the effects. With a combination of visually splendid planet-scapes, essentially sublime matte work and wonderfully crafted miniatures, Sayonara Jupiter is a non-stop thrill ride for those of you out there that appreciate the practical art of filmmaking. You could almost say that the movie's effects far surpass the film's other elements, coming off as more of a showcase of the collaborative filmmakers' artistic efforts over the core of the story. Every aspect of the movie's visuals are obsessively constructed in a tangible presentation that fully brings this production to life. You'll find yourself getting caught up in the moment as you witness scene upon scene of atmospheric space anomalies that just exude atmosphere and tone. The presentation is absolutely fantastic, and the unimaginable worlds that Sayonara Jupiter is able to bring to the table is a sure sign that this production is not to be taken lightly. In the end, it's the combination of all of these factors that really give the film its unusual appeal. Be it the outlandish premise, the diverse cast of characters, or the sheer visual beauty that this movie is able to convey, you really can't deny that this is a spectacle that always keeps you guessing, and for that alone it's worth a look.

Sayonara Jupiter is a strange science fiction concoction, featuring a eclectic collection of ideas that literally liter this obscure space story in a half-hazard and chaotic manner. It's a wild production that truly feels untamed thanks to all the diverse elements that inhabit its twisting narrative. The acting portrayals of Tomokazu Miura and Diane Dangely, as the star crossed lovers Dr. Eiji Honda and Maria Basehart, are a nice touch to what could have been a rather disconnected space yarn. Though the strangeness of the film does allow for an extremely detached presentation to unfold, we are still pulled in by both actors commendable approaches to their respective characters and that is quite an accomplishment.

In truly excessive flair, Sayonara Jupiter throws caution to the wind as it bombards its viewers with non-stop information, sometimes large sweeping concepts that have little to nothing to do with the overall story that it is trying to tell. Whether these were intentional red hearings or just weird tidbits of info about the world that these characters inhabit, it's still unknown by this reviewer, but it accomplishes its end goal in keeping us on our toes in expecting the unexpected. Visually this film is in a class of its own and that is really something when you consider the absolute oddness that is at the core of this production. Without a doubt, this film took me for a loop and when I made it to the end of this twisted little sci-fi tale I could truthfully say that I had seen something that I've never seen before. Give this one a try if you're up for something different, refreshing, and wholly unbelievable. Sayonara Jupiter is.....

Let me just get this product placement out of the way.

Stewardess..... Why are we upside down?

Looks like Honda's head is about to blow from the strangeness.

Top notch!

Cut your hair you dirty hippy.

Kiss me you fool!

Hold on to your space-butts!

Oh shit! Here comes another song!

Space sex is AWESOME!

Damn! Did I forget to turn off the space oven?

Get a job you lazy space hippies.

Lets face it..... my place sucks.

You want me to sing you a song? No..... No I don't.

Here comes Mr. Cool.

Smile you son of a bitch!

Who's bad?

Honda is a stone cold killer!

Stop or my Honda will shoot.


  1. I confess to being one of the actors in SAYONARA JUPITER -- as a space pilot in the beginning and end of the movie. In fact, that guy reaching out for a gravitationless hamburger in one of your photos is me.

    Your review is much too kind to the film. It's most distinctive attribute: it was (at that time, at least) the most expensive science fiction movie ever made in Japan.

    Charlie in Washington, DC

  2. Awesome! It must have been an interesting shoot to be on, seeing that the film had a rather diverse cast and was rather ambitious, being the most expensive sci-fi out of Japan. Even though you're only in the film for a brief moment, your scenes still leave an impression, so good job. Love the product placement too in that scene.