Bye-Bye Jupiter (1984)

Class: User
Author: DaikaijuSokogeki!
Score: (4/5)
May 6, 2010 [Review May Contain Spoilers]

The year is 1977, and Toho producer Tomoyuki Tanaka had recently seen Star Wars. He contacted director/writer Sakyo Komatsu and asked him to also watch Star Wars. Meaning Tanaka wanted Komatsu to make a Star Wars-esque film. However, Komatsu decided to do his own thing and instead borrowed influence from Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey and a recent essay detailing plans to solarize Jupiter. The film would be co-directed by Koji Hashimoto, whose second and last directorial film would be The Return of Godzilla (1984) that same year. Special effects were directed by Koichi Kawakita for the first time, the beginning of a SPFX directorial career that would last until 1997. After several years of planning and production; the end result was Sayonara Jupiter, without a doubt one of the trippiest yet most visually impressive films out of Toho's entire library.

It's the 22nd Century, and mankind's population has exponentially expanded beyond Earth's handling. Therefore, humans now live throughout the Solar System and the total population has gone well over 18 billion. As a result, there's a severe energy crisis for planets further out from the sun and plans to turn Jupiter into a second sun have been set into motion. However, markings are found on Mars that indicates that alien life lives in Jupiter and the J.S. Project (Jupiter Solarization Project) is put on hold.

Meanwhile, rogue members of the radical environmentalist group Jupiter Church attempt to sabotage the J.S. Project. In an ironic twist of fate, the head engineer of the J.S. Project, Eiji Honda, discovers that his ex-lover Maria is one of the radicals planning on sabotaging the project. At the same time, a satellite carrying two crew members is destroyed by a black hole heading straight to the center of the Solar System. This black hole could destroy humanity in one fell swoop once it collides into the sun. However, Jupiter is near the black hole's path. The engineers of the J.S. Project decide to change their plan and shoot Jupiter into the black hole, thereby altering the hole's path and potentially save the galaxy's inhabitants. However, time is short....

Of course, I gotta start out by mentioning the special effects first. In one word: fantastic. This is what happens when Toho decides to actually give their movies time and money and the result is simply wonderful. Kawakita's first effort as head of effects is an impressive feat full of exquisitely detailed miniatures, solid CG for its time, and fantastic sets. Simply put, the only reason one needs to watch the film is for its special effects.

The music score here sounds great as well. Kentaro Haneda gives us a strange but effective mix of chilling synthesizer and soaring orchestral work. Seeing as this is the first time I've heard his work, it's understandable to see why he's considered one of the most accomplished composers of the late '70s to late '80s. The insert songs for the most part are extremely hokey but the ending credits theme, "Voyager" is instantly memorable and has a wonderfully distinct '80s sound that I've always loved from Japanese music in this time period.

The acting here is, unfortunately, a mixed bag. Tomokazu Murita's portrayal as Eiji Honda is well-done and he sells his emotions well. Akihiko Hirata also does a good job in what was sadly his final role, although he's not given much screen-time. However, most of the largely foreign cast is absolutely dreadful, reading off many of their English and Japanese-speaking lines with strange awkwardness. The only commendable performances among the foreigners are Rachel Huggett (billed here as Rachael Huggert) as Dr. Millicent Willem, and Marc Panthona as Carlos Angeles. Everyone else ranges from forgettable to simply embarrassing.

Pacing here is also a big issue. On several occasions, the film drags itself to a halt with Peter (Jupiter Church's leader)'s songs, or scenes that never want to end. For instance, the entire sequence where Eiji visits the home of the Jupiter Church goes on far longer than necessary. All we get out of the sequence is a heavy-handed environmentalist message and a ridiculous shark-attack that belonged in another film altogether.

That said, some of the trippy nature of the film works. The zero-G sex scene, while oddly out of place, works in a strange way. It's hard to explain, and simply has to be seen to be believed. It makes me think that Komatsu and Hashimoto simply wanted to go all out and make a trippy space exploration movie. Just in case if 2001 wasn't psychedelic enough. Still, it definitely adds a unique atmosphere to the series of events occurring through the film, especially in the scene where Jupiter meets its fate.

All said, Sayonara Jupiter is a flawed but certainly memorable sci-fi epic. Not for those with low patience, however. Seek it out if you're a fan of psychedelic sci-fi flicks, and if you want a taste of what I consider to be one of the last times Toho truly experimented with the genre.