Films, Japan, Recommended posts, Reviews, Sci Fi / Fantasy

Sayonara Jupiter

It’s like 2010 but with Zero-G sex. Don’t say you weren’t warned…

Yes, you read that rating right. Five stars out of five. I find that films that get this kind of rating are the top in their genres or fields. If that’s the measurement, then Sayonara Jupiter is a clear winner because it’s in a genre of its own. Quite what genre that is is anyone’s guess. I’ll do my best to describe this film to you but it does get a bit abstract. Here goes.

In 2240, the people of Earth decide to turn Jupiter into a sun. This will allow the human race to expand and explore more of the solar system and open up the opportunities for the whole race and take the pressure off the need for more energy as we move further out. While working out the final details for this enormous project, it is discovered that there may be lifeforms in the atmosphere of Jupiter. How do we know this? Because someone helpfully carved the details onto the surface of Mars for us to read! So, while our heroes are digesting this information, a space probe with some of the cast onboard is destroyed by a rogue black hole. This black hole is on a collision course with our sun which will most likely destroy the inner solar system and us along with it. Faced with this bleak future, the human race decides to push Jupiter into the path of the black hole by detonating the gas giant and hopefully change the black hole’s course.

Now, just read that last paragraph back to yourself. Because when I read that I thought “Hot damn! This is the movie for me!” But nothing could prepare me for this nor will it prepare you for it either. The film swings on angles from melodrama to crazy logic street in the blink of an eye. First of all, who the hell would bother blowing up Jupiter? The logic presented is that we need the extra solar energy. But as a reservoir of raw materials to build and power humanity’s journey to the outer solar system, Jupiter makes more sense as a gas giant. Europa and Io, with their supplies of water and molten rock and ore, would be destroyed in the event so there’s more material gone. Next, there’s the problem of the lifeforms in the atmosphere of Jupiter. Would they really kill all that life for more energy? In any event, it doesn’t matter because once the world is threatened with black hole suckage (is that even a word?), the Earth Federation gleefully throws the Jovians under a bus. Finally, the whole idea of a black hole travelling through the solar system and not hitting anything important until it smacks into the sun is such an insane idea, it beggars belief. Did nobody read a book on quantum physics or mechanics back in the 70’s or 80’s? I understand not a lot was known about black holes back then but we knew enough that nothing escaped its grip. The mere distance of Earth to a local black hole would be enough to draw us into its grip. Look at it another way: if tomorrow the Sun became a black hole, how long would it take before it sucked us in? Yeah, there’s your answer.

Once you get past all that implausibility, there’s the actual plot. And what a plot it is! Dr. Eiji Honda is a scientist working on the solarization project when he is asked to investigate whether or not there are lifeforms on Jupiter because if there are, that’s the project up the swanny. Once he does, he comes into contact with his former flame, Maria Basehart. Maria is, of course, happy to see him but it turns out she’s working for and with a group who want humanity to leave Jupiter alone. They’re called the Jupiter Church and they are serious, folks. At first, they just want to sabotage the project but this is before the black hole turns up. Once that happens, they decide to wait until the final countdown to stop the project for good. Now, consider that for a moment: a group who just wants the Jovians and humans to live in peace have decided that the best plan is to doom a plan to save humanity from certain oblivion and only sacrifice one race which would surely die if the black hole destroys the sun. It also involves new age island hippies that swim with dolphins but at that point, I wasn’t really taking it in anymore for obvious reasons, folks. None of this bothers Dr. Honda. He’s really kind of depressed that he has to blow up a planet. That’s his cross to carry in this film. But it doesn’t bother him enough to not have a bit of sexual intercourse with Maria. Zero-G intercourse. In a way that only the Japanese filmmaking industry could depict it, zero-g sex is a lot of weird music, getting naked, actors suspended from wires, pubic hair galore and talking without moving your lips. Plus floating, lots of floating. I’m not really spoiling anything by describing this because I’m not doing it enough justice. If it is possible, someone found a way of making sexual intercourse look and sound boring without needing to set it in a kitchen sink drama. The stuff of nightmare fuel, it has to be seen to be believed.

On the other hand, the film depicts a side of the future that I have always said is plausible: everyone speaks their native language and everybody understands them. There are extended sequences where the cast talk to each other in their own languages and the replies are in the opposite language. It’s a hard thing to pull off but the production pulls it off. Another thing that I must praise beyond all recognition is the level of special effects on display. This film was commissioned in the shadow of the announcement of MGM’s production of 2010: The Year We Make Contact. This was the sequel to Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke’s seminal motion picture, 2001: A Space Odyssey and it was going to be an anticipated film. Toho decided to rush Sayonara into production and spared no expense in making it to the finish line first. The shots of Jupiter were done with absolutely all the visual and scientific data from the Voyager missions. It’s so lovingly designed and filmed that it makes me sad that it was wasted on the film it was used in. Plus all the spacecraft and solar system work are so detailed and painstakingly made, it is a level of world building that sadly doesn’t happen anymore. 2010 would have a similar budget and approach to depicting space and the Jovian system but for my money I chose 2010 because it has a better plot and cleaner delivery. Sayonara Jupiter came out in Japan in March of 1984 and 2010 came out in the US in December of ‘84. What nobody knew is that 2010 would hit the ground walking and wouldn’t set either the critics nor the box office on fire. So the Japanese film stands alone with a similar plot but radically different in execution and delivery. But when you have a film in which the ending resembles the end of the James Bond film Moonraker complete with pew-pew lasers and has a pre-teenager called Carlos half in charge of a gas giant ignition project, it doesn’t matter if your film came out first. The ending is absolutely the most crazy, risible and frankly bizarre denouements in my living memory of watching films and I’ve seen Phase 4 and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Wrapping it up is a score from Kentaro Haneda (Macross: Do You Remember Love?, Space Battleship Yamato) that is full orchestra and is a wonder to listen to as you try and distract your eyes from looking at the screen. A composer of his calibre, the man must have seen something in this film that we simply cannot. I’m not saying a word about the vocal songs in the film. Just don’t go there.

What reason would you want to watch this? Well, it IS the most batshit insane film I’ve ever watched. It has the filmic effect of a telex machine, just punching line after line and character after character at you. Relentlessly bashing you with solemn senior citizens and brooding heroes with nothing to really brood about, the film moves from Earth to space to Jupiter to Mars to Island Hippieland and back to Jupiter without a care in the world. It’s got the most cheerful theme song to listen to as Jupiter goes up faster than you can set your hair on fire in a Pepsi commercial. It has a dogged persistence in staging its setups and characters in a wonderfully designed universe while giving the script equivalent of a slinky to play with. Despite everything I saw, I’m proud it’s in my collection because my world is better having seen it rather than having only heard about it. Buy it online or wherever you find it and stick into your collection to impress your friends at parties that you have a crazier film than House of 1,000 Corpses. Otherwise, if it turns up on TV (God forbid) or at a film festival, then get whiskey-blind drunk (and I mean that) and enjoy.

Sayonara Jupiter is available on DVD from Discotek Media in the US.

Home media details

Distributor: Discotek Media (US)

Edition: DVD (2007)

Discotek do their best and present a cleaned up, remastered picture. The film holds up well and looks great on a big HDTV. Audio wise, we get the original Japanese audio with clean subtitles and an English dub. The dub is the icing on the cake in terms of having a last laugh with the film. Enjoy it because the alternative is start questioning things about your sanity that you hadn’t before. We get a decent making of and a text essay from one of the films creators. Trailers for the film and fine Discotek products wrap up this cinematic masterpiece.

About the author

Phillip O'ConnorPhillip O'Connor Phillip O'Connor
A fan of anime, it helped me to find Hong Kong Action films and later Japanese and Korean cinema. Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Chow Yun Fat, Michelle Yeoh, Maggie Chung, they all became my guides to Asian cinema. At the same time, HKL reawakened in me the desire to watch films again... More »
Read all posts by Phillip O'Connor

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