REMEDIAL SF 101: Sayanora, Jupiter

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Sayanora, Jupiter is another one of those films whose reach exceeds its grasp.  It could have been a really good film, because its overall production values are quite high, but for a space adventure film, the action drags so badly that by the time the tragic climax arrived, I found myself screaming at the TV "ALRIGHT, DIE ALREADY!!!"

This film is not without its merits.  It sports a multinational cast, and the special effects are fairly good, which they should be, since this film was made by Toho Studios in 1984.  Godzilla even gets a small cameo appearance as the subject of a movie being viewed by one of the characters. Which kind of gives a hint as to what manner of bizarre juxtapositions occur in this movie.

When I learned via the liner notes that the film was adapted from a novel, things began to make a little more sense--there was obviously a lot of expository material that didn't make it into the screenplay, or too much stuff from the book that really should have been cut out.  Kinda like what happened to Frank Herbert's "Dune."  The entire sub-plot with the alien culture leaving Nazca lines on Mars could have been eliminated, as it went no where.  And then there was that anime-style wire-fu sex sequence which lasted...ooh, about a half an hour or so...that really wasn't necessary.  I'm not even sure how you can attach wires to naked people, and I don't think I really want to know.


Okay, so here we go...fasten your seatbelts...


In the 22nd century, the Earth has a serious overpopulation problem (although you'd never think this from the idyllic nature shots that get utilized during the song breaks.)  Mankind has colonized the Moon and some asteroids and is in the process of terraforming Mars by melting its polar ice caps, but even this is not enough--they want to push colonies further out into the solar system. 

However, the space stations don't seem to be adequate for the job, since they need to create their own source of energy.  Nuclear fission being ine-fission-t, some fifteen year old computer genius named Carlos Angeles (go ahead, groan, I sure did), who lives in a cardboard box on board the Jovian command space station Minerva,  devised a means of sparking Jupiter to begin burning itself up to provide light and heat to the outer planets. 

Several eco-terrorists from the Earth-based Church of Jupiter sneak aboard the Minerva space station and, in the guise of reporters, attempt to sabotauge the machinery destined to turn Jupiter into a second sun.  They start out by asking innocent questions about why anybody would want to hurt such a beautiful planet, then conclude by grabbing tools, ripping off their shirts to expose anti-scientific slogans, and start whanging away at the machinery.

The project's leader, Eiji Honda, gives the captured terrorists (or protesters, if you prefer) a stern dressing-down and orders them deported back to Earth on the next ship (which takes 85 days to make the transit, so you wonder what these guys were doing on the ride out.)  Then he notices the Mysterious Woman In The Black Picture Hat, and grabs her by the hand for "further interrogation."

This involves that extended surrealistic sex scene I referred to earlier, as it turns out that Maria is Eiji's former lover.  We are told in a flashback that they were both born on Mars, but Maria's parents were killed in a starship accident, so she grew to hate everything about space, and went back to Earth.  She explains to him that the Church of Jupiter wants to preserve Nature and stop Mankind from exploiting the other planets, and begs Eiji to stop the project and come back to Earth with her.  He refuses, and Maria gets deported with her cohorts.

Back on Earth, we learn that the Church of Jupiter is a hippie-style commune on some Hawaiian-type island, run by a Jerry Garcia look-alike singer named Peter, who has adopted a dolphin his acolytes have named Jupiter.  The dress code is beach wear, if anything.  There's no Paul in the story (that I can remember,) but there is a Moody Woman In An Orange Sarong named Anita who turns out later to be a far more radical member of the cult, who wants to instigate more violent sorts of protests.

Okay, that takes care of that plot line.  Let's move to the next one, keeping in mind they're all sort of braiding together throughout the film.

When the polar ice cap on Mars is caused to melt, the runoff reveals Nazca lines carved into the bedrock, which are presumed to have been left by some ancient spacefaring civilization.  The lines are interpreted to be allegorical references to things like a gravitational slingshot (a spider) and the formation of a starship fleet (the hummingbird.) 

A crisp and efficient linguist with a very 1980's hairdo, Dr. Willem (I think that was her name, I forgot to jot it down in my notes), arrives on the Minerva space station and pulls some strings to get Dr. Honda to help her investigate strange radio emanations from Jupiter's Great Red Spot.  Her grandfather, whose beard is probably the worst special effect in the film, is some sort of science chancellor with the Jupiter project and he does his granddaughter a favor by insisting Honda drop everything and go fly Willem into the Spot.

There they find an enormous alien starship...but then the storms force them to leave the Spot and return to Minerva.  Like I said, this plot thread really goes nowhere.  We are told that years ago, explorers came across some mysterious entity which they called Jupiter's Ghost, and apparently this massive space vessel parked in the eye of the storm is it.

Okay, that's that plot line.  Next...

Before the Kuiper Belt got named "Kuiper Belt,"--or at least in this version of reality in the 22nd century--the area of space beyond Pluto was called "The Comet Nest."  About three or four comets a year get flung out of this area, but recently the comets have stopped, and two unmanned probes sent to investigate disappeared without a trace.

So what do they do?  They send two scientists out to see what's going on--okay, one guy's a scientist, a Dr. Inoue, who we discover later was a former lover of the linguist, Dr. Willem (which is about all the character development he gets), and the other is a pilot who's a brawling buddy of Dr. Honda.  As I said, it's needlessly complicated.

Anyway, these two sacrificial...I mean, investigators, will fly out to the Comet's Nest in coldsleep to check out what's going on, but en route the ship encounters some disturbance that makes it try to wake them, to no good effect.  In fact, the ship is sort of screaming "Wake up!  Wake up!" like B-9 from Lost In Space. In spite of this, their ship gets swallowed by a black hole.  Rather graphically chewed up and swallowed by a black hole, in fact.


This anomaly turns out to be on a collision course with Earth--was there ever any doubt?--and it's realized that, like Titanic, there just won't be enough "life boats" for everybody to evacuate the planet.

So while spaceship-building ramps up (they have two years before impact), Eiji Honda comes up with a daring plan--if they can cause Jupiter not to ignite, but to explode, just as the black hole is passing it, they could divert the black hole and save Earth.  It would mean the end of the solarization project, but it would save the lives of billions.

The President of the Earth Federation--a Japanese gentleman made up to look like Uncle Sam, I lie to you not, he's even wearing a black cutaway coat in the 22nd century--gives the unilateral go-ahead to explode Jupiter.


The Church of Jupiter saboteurs ramp up their efforts to damage or derail the project on Minerva Station.  This story clearly takes place in a parallel universe where 9/11 never happened and security checks at the spaceport never occur, because a variety of smelly hippies keep getting caught skulking about the station and as fast as they're deported, more arrive.


Eiji finally decides to go talk to Peter himself to demand he cool it for the sake of all humanity.  It turns out Peter just wants to sing songs about birds and flowers and nature and stuff, and kinda sounds like the late Hawaiian singer Iz Kamakawiwo'ole.  He's no terrorist cult leader--people hang around him because they like his music, apparently.  Living indolently on a beach is another perk, I guess.  He tells Eiji that he loves Earth and intends to stay when the end comes, singing his songs.

Suddenly these tie-dyed Eloi begin screaming in panic, because their beloved dolphin, Jupiter, is in a fight with a shark, trying to save a young boy from the great white.  While the Rainbow Children stand helplessly crying on the beach, Eiji jumps into a boat and rides out to the scene of the battle, where he chucks several gas canisters at the shark, then uses a flare gun to blow it up (thank you, Steven Spielberg!)

He helps bring the mortally injured animatronic--erp, dolphin back to the beach, where the hippies beg it to live, then weep when it's clear that the dolphin has died.  This is where the film's title comes from as they bid "Sayanora Jupiter" in a song, and Eiji walks away up the beach, ignored.

This is also, hello hello, an allegory for what's happening out in space--the shark is the black hole, the boy is Earth, and the heroic self-sacrificing dolphin is--well, Jupiter, yeah.

So where are we now?  Okay, so Anita--the Moody Woman In The Orange Sarong--decides it's time to ramp things up.  She and several other radical eco-terrorists are going to get aboard Minerva on an unmanned cargo ship, then plant bombs in the reactor room to destroy the station before it can command the ignition drones to fire on Jupiter.  Among the saboteurs are Maria (who seems to be under some sort of drug-induced hypnosis) and a baby-faced hippie who shows shock and horror when he realizes that shooting a guy with a laser rifle will actually kill him.  (Not really--the guy is playing dead until he can jump up and overpower Babyface.)

As the saboteurs work their way to the reactor room, everyone else aboard Minerva is evacuated except for the Red Team, who are in charge of the final preparations.  Why no one ever designed computers to do this sort of work remotely is beyond the scope of this review.  Anyway, Eiji and Carlos (the teenaged brainiac) are on the Red Team.  Carlos has been crippled in an off-camera accident earlier in the film, and now kind of resembles Stephen Hawking.  He insists on running one last computer adjustment which will take forty minutes.

This is, like, the LONGEST forty minutes in the history of film.  Suffice it to say that the saboteurs get caught before they can plant all their bombs, Carlos gets badly hurt in the ensuing firefight (although none of the thousands of computer consoles get hit, miraculously) and Maria can't fire on Eiji, but instead shoots Anita, then begs her forgiveness--but Anita is too busy being dead to hear her.

During this, Eiji gets Carlos into a shuttle, sets it to auto-pilot, and sends him off to the waiting rendezvous ship, then returns to the control room to finalize the sequence and find the last terrorist.

Eiji then orders the unrecognized, helmeted Maria to drop her weapon "or I'll blow your brains out" and then proceeds to make good on his threat.  However, the director must have decided that killing Maria at this moment wasn't good theatre, because she miraculously recovers from what looks like a clear brow-shot so that she can tell Eiji about the bombs.  He goes off to find them and throw them out of the airlock, but he misses one, which goes off just as he's walking past it.  This mortally wounds Eiji and triggers chain explosions on Minerva (unless the explosions were part of the ignition process, not sure) and we get to watch the dying Eiji rambling half-incoherently to the dying Maria as lots of explosions, sparks, and other stuff goes on around them.

Meanwhile, the radio signals of whale songs from Jupiter's Great Red Spot start up, and the alien space craft apparently decides it's time to decamp, and sails off, singing a song that probably translates to "So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish!"

Aboard Minerva, the artificial gravity stops, Eiji and Maria float off in each other's arms, Jupiter explodes, the black hole is diverted, and when a tech in the mission command center on Earth jumps up and screams "We did it!" he is met with stunned, eerie silence from the others in the room, who understand that Honda sacrificed himself to save the Earth.  Oh, and that Jupiter is gone, pfft, finito.  Now that is how you make a planet into an ex-planet, Dr. de Grasse-Tyson!

In the end, Dr. Willem and her grandfather, along with the recovered (but still crippled) Carlos, set up two memorial headstones on an asteroid, dedicated to Eiji and Maria.  I'm not sure why they decided Maria was worthy, unless they just didn't realize she was among the terrorists, or just because it's one of those cockeyed starcrossed-lover-type stories.  Now I'm wondering if Maria and Dr. Willem were sisters...but it's not worth going through it to check. Maybe. If they were, it would explain a lot.  Anyway, when Carlos asks Willem to bury him there beside the lovers, if he should die, Willem snarles that Carlos will NOT die, because SHE has already lost too many people she loves!  Exeunt and credits.

As I started out saying, it's not a bad film--to look at.  The spaceship models are really cool.  The special effects, on the whole, are well done.  The music kinda sucks.  The plot almost makes sense, but there's just way too much of it. 

There are some amusing bits, like the aforementioned Godzilla cameo, and some extremely blatant product placement.  Eiji seems to have attended the William Shatner School of Elocution, because he delivers his dialog in fits and starts.  But there are many, many, many totally useless bits in here that would have been better left on the cutting-room floor.

It's a watchable film, just don't be in a hurry when you do.  You're going to want to stop from time to time and go readjust your brain cells.  There are some neat ideas, like the logo for the Jupiter solarization project--it's the symbol for Jupiter linked to the symbol for the Sun, which also incorporates the number 2140, which is the year in which the project is expected to be completed.  There are some nice images.  There's just way too much plot.

Will Conservatives like this film?  Hmm...I kept thinking R3 would like it, since it was about the heroic desire to explore and conquer space in order to provide more and better homes for humanity, and that the antagonists were a bunch of half-assed hippie eco-nuts.  Contrariwise, The President of Earth suggests that while praying is good, he also chooses to put his faith in the abilities of humans to solve a crisis.  If you watch it with kids, be advised that the zero-G sex scene, and some of the scenes on Peter's beach, prominently feature Nekkid Peeple.

And I apologise for the lateness of this review, but it was nearly midnight when I finished watching the film and I just couldn't get my thoughts organized.