Sunday, April 18, 2010
Ah, Michael Jackson. He was my favorite music artist in 1983. I remember saving up with my sister so we could buy a Tiger Beat magazine with an MJ poster in it, and I remember being furious when Annie Lennox's Sweet Dreams nicked Casey Kasem's Billboard 1983 song of the year countdown ahead of Billie Jean. When his Thriller music video debuted, I knew he had changed music videos forever. He was really something, and now that he's gone I like to think of him as was in those days, young and strong and alive and on top of the world.
So when I heard that his 3D Disney film, Captain EO, had reopened (in February 2010) after a 13-year hiatus, for a limited (and unknown) length of time, I knew I had to try and see it when we were at Disneyland over Spring Break. They've improved the sound and the film quality, and it's now called "Captain EO Tribute", but it's basically the same film that wowed audiences in the 80's and 90's.
Captain EO is 17 minutes long and runs continuously at the Tomorrowland theater it originally showed in. While you're waiting for the previous showing to finish and the next one to start, you get to stand around in a waiting room that has video screens showing some "Behind the Scenes" / "The Making Of" footage, which in my opinion is just as interesting as the film itself. You get to see Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas (the director and co-writer) do their thing, and you get to see the dancers rehearsing their parts and getting makeup and costumes put on. The whole thing looked like a scene from Flashdance, complete with the sweatbands and shiny lycra tights and leg warmers. Oh, the memories! I was almost sorry when the doors opened and we were let into the theater.
The film itself is a combination of short Star Wars film and extended Michael Jackson music video, on steroids. I say "on steroids" because of the 3D effects and the laser lights and smoke, and although it isn't mentioned in the official Disney description of the Captain EO revival , I could swear all the seats in the theater were thumping and vibrating to the music, like a simulator ride.
In the film, Michael Jackson is the captain of a ship of misfits -- they look kind of like a galactic Neverland menagerie of shaggy fraggle-rock-like creatures and robots -- assigned to find the evil Supreme Leader (played by Angelica Huston, but she doesn't look like herself until the very end) and give her a very special gift. She sends her minions to attack, but Captain EO wins over everyone's minds and hearts with his amazing music and dancing. The action sequences really look like Star Wars battle scenes (what else would expect, with George Lucas!) but the music and dancing are Michael Jackson all the way, complete with moonwalking and high-pitched "Eeee-heeee!".
The special effects were almost certainly cutting edge when they debuted in 1986, but they're quite run-of-the-mill nowadays, which is probably why Alfie and The Pea weren't overly impressed. 3Po and Jammy, though, were wide-eyed the whole time, and flinched each time something exploded or a laser light flashed, which says something about the timelessness of Captain EO. My favorite parts were all the dance sequences, and it was wonderful to see Michael Jackson in his element, just the way I want to remember him. When you're at Disneyland for only a day, you have to make choices -- and I'm so glad that we made the choice to see Captain EO.
Disclosure: I received 4 complimentary media passes to Disneyland, but I was not compensated or required to post this review. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.