Review: Galaxy Turnpike (2015)Review:
Galaxy Turnpike (2015)
Nicholas Driscoll
November 12th, 2016
Note: review may contain spoilers

argument in Galaxy TurnpikeLast year I kept seeing advertisements—flyers, trailers, posters—for a truly bizarre-looking sci-fi comedy called Galaxy Turnpike. I couldn’t tell much about the plot from the ads, but my curiosity was piqued given my love for sci-fi… Yet at the same time I would be lying if I said the advertisements made the film look particularly good. Weird, yes. Good? Like, 1800 yen’s worth of good? Nah, man, nah. The movie came and went from the theaters, and I was okay with that. Just recently, though, on a flight back from America to Japan, I got a chance to finally see Galaxy Turnpike with English subs. I watched it. It was not good—easily the worst movie from the director, Koki Mitani, that I have seen yet.

Quickly, the plot, such as it is: Noa (played by a surprisingly lethargic Shingo Katori) and Noe (Haruka Ayase) are a married couple who own a hamburger stand floating in outer space—the Sandsand Burger, on Route 246666—a route which has largely been abandoned in favor of some space superhighway. Customers are dwindling fast, and Sandsand Burger is on the verge of closing. The love between Noa and Noe is also strained, especially when Noa’s old flame (played by Yuka), an alien with a massive floral arrangement growing out of her skull, arrives at the burger joint with her low-rent Spock-wannabe husband. Noe, meanwhile, is secretly (and unwillingly) being courted by a sort of hermaphrodite alien in leather. There is also a doctor being conned into purchasing time with an alien prostitute, an inspector looking to close the burger joint who is pestered by cartoon animals and a mime, and an intergalactic cop explaining to his boss that he has to quit because he is actually Captain Socks, a weak Ultraman parody. There are several other plot threads going hither and thither as well, but that’s most of it. So the plot hinges on whether Sandsand Burger is about to close, and whether our heroes can maintain their embattled marriage despite troubles financial and relational abounding. What do you think, sound like fun?

dance in Galaxy Turnpike

Longtime readers may remember I have reviewed three of Mitani’s other films—Welcome Back, Mr. McDonald (1997), All About Our House (2001), and Suite Dreams (2006). I didn’t realize Galaxy Turnpike was a Mitani film when I watched it, but in retrospect, despite being Mitani’s first sci-fi movie, his fingerprints are all over the picture. Just like in the other films I have seen of his, there are seemingly endless silly subplots overlapping which converge into chaotic silliness at the end. Galaxy Turnpike also covers familial and relational difficulties ala All About Our House (1997), and Mitani’s penchant for absurdity is also very much on display. Shingo Katori appears again (he was also in All About Our House and Suite Dreams), and the lively music seems like it would fit in many of Mitani’s other films as well. Perhaps the inclusion of an Ultraman parody is not entirely surprising, either, given that Godzilla and Megaguirus appeared in All About Our House.

The problem is that almost nothing in the entire film is funny. I never laughed, snorted, chuckled, or giggled. The jokes are usually just not very clever, and the characters just aren’t even likable. Usually I love Shingo, but here he seemed as depressed to be in this bomb as I was to watch it. His character, Noa, is equally unlikable, chasing after an old flame, mistrusting his wife, wanting to give up. I never felt invested in his plight. Tokusatsu fans might be interested in Captain Socks, but we just end up with dumb stuff like a penis joke about Captain Socks changing size and, when Captain Socks finally transforms near the end, he is so inept as to be incapable of catching a lost egg that is spinning through space, and he makes an X with his arms to show he is giving up. I remember thinking, “Huh, that’s kind of a clever Ultraman reference… Why isn’t it funny?” (Err, spoilers I guess…) More disturbing, a big plot element of the story involves the aforementioned hermaphrodite character tricking Noe into having sex with him/her/it. She didn’t realize they were having sex, you see. Don’t ask. Oh, you really want to know? Well, you see, the hermaphrodite aliens have sex by putting their foreheads together, see, and she didn’t know that, so she has sex with him without knowing it. Funny, right? And she isn’t really upset, nor is she interested in the resulting children, and the whole ordeal just comes across as a steaming pile of pathetic. (End spoilers.)

screaming in agonyThe movie kind of reminded me of an equally dumb sci-fi TV show from Japan called Uchuu Inu Sakusen (Space Dog Strategy宇宙犬作戦), which is a play on the title of the classic Star Trek series in Japan, which is called Uchuu Daisakusen (Space Big Strategy 宇宙大作戦). See how the kanji for dog (犬) and the kanji for big (大) are similar? That same kind of desperate, idiotic humor is found in Galaxy Turnpike as well.

Sure, maybe there is a smidgeon of a smile to be found in random animated animals harassing a government official, or a doctor paying to have sex with an alien only to find out that the alien mates by touching fingertips (possibly a Star Trek reference as well), but who spends hundreds of thousands of dollars to put this kind of soulless humor on the big screen? For me, the best part of the film was the credits, not only because the credits signaled that the film was over, but also because the alien designs created for the film were shown along the side. I love looking at character design work because it shows creativity at work. It’s really too bad that Galaxy Turnpike, despite being on the surface a wild and crazy sci-fi comedy, is mostly, for me anyway, a long empty drive through space.