(Thai poster of Moonwalker)
When it comes to good bad flicks (pun intended), there are many films that have terrible quality in terms of art form or filmmaker’s standard, but they are awesome! For instance, Troll 2, The Room, Freddy Got Fingered, Cool as Ice, and the one I’m going to review today…Moonwalker.
Believe it or not, this movie has a special place for me since it played a pretty huge part during my young adult period. Back in 2008, I had friend who were really into 70’s-80’s music including the king of pop and he usually brought me interesting albums. One day, he gave me a copy of Moonwalker. It was a big deal at the time because the film wasn’t available in any format except original VHS and Laserdisc from 1988, so it was kinda interesting to watch this from bootlegged DVD. I was 15, but I felt like I was in the land of adventure and fun again although this is just a 90-minute commercial for his Bad album*, which I also have as cassette tape as well.
Fast forward to 2009, our king of pop passed away. In my country, there was a massive craze in MJ again, which is unbelievable considering that Korean pop culture was really big here and many Thai people considered him as some sort of joke at that time. I remember there was a huge (I mean, HUGE) flash mob at the biggest shopping mall in Bangkok, his Bucharest concert was shown on national television again (and there was a time when it’s shown on jumbotron in the shopping mall. To my surprise, there are enormous number of people, including restaurant’s greeters, standing in the mall and watching him doing moonwalk), and every albums of MJ became available again in record store. Apparently, it brought back the proper DVD release of Moonwalker as well, which is stunning because around that time only handful of countries had DVD release of it.
So, anyway, let’s take a look at this memorable flick from the king of pop himself.
What’s this film all about?
As I said, this is a 90-minute commercial for his Bad album. But there’s one thing I didn’t mention: this is another ego-driven film. It few moments of “Hey, look at me! I’m really famous!” attitude. I’ll focus more about this soon. Nonetheless, this is an anthology film in which it separates into 8 segments and each segment is connect to another one through either storyline or editing. It means that the only way I can review it properly is to tell you what’s each segment is all about and whether I like it or not.
So here they are: 8 segments of the film…
1) Man in the Mirror
What is it?: It’s an intercut of Man In The Mirror music video (which features montage of historical figures such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Mother Teresa) and his performance on stage. Also, it has a lot of footage of fans crying and fainting audience being carried out of concert venue. And in the end, MJ softly says “Make a change’.
Do I like it?: Yeah, but not that much. As I said, this is another “Look at me!” moment in this film. I have no problem showing how great an artist is, but since I saw the Bucharest concert, which has lots of crying/fainting fans footage, it gets old pretty fast.
2) Retrospective (a.k.a. Music & Me)
What is it?: It’s a montage of his songs, from Jackson 5 era to the new Bad album, which features short music video clips and/or cool motion graphics and editing.
Do I like it?: Yes. I think this is a good summary of his career up to 1988 and it has an interesting way to make us entertain and learn about his famous songs through stop-motion and weird effects. If I knew anyone who hasn’t heard of MJ before, I’d show him/her this cool segment because of nice editing and fantastic songs that featured here.
What is it?: A parody of Bad music video, featuring cast consists of young kids.
Do I like it?: No. Well, I know what you guys are thinking of right now, but this segment is not funny at all. It’s a shot-for-shot remake of Bad music video, but with 5-8 years old kids instead. There’s no humor or funny moments in this segment at all. If you want hilarious spoof of Bad video, check out Weird Al’s Fat.
4) Speed Demon
What is it?: A claymotion adventure of MJ and paparazzis that keep chasing him.
Do I like it?: This is a dumb fun segment that I enjoy. Although it has another “Look at me!” moment (at the beginning, our MJ is being chased by many people. Then he runs into a wardrobe and decides to dress as a rabbit, which turns him into claymotion figure) and hilarious ending (which features dance battle between MJ and the rabbit itself), it feels like I become a kid again for some reason. Maybe because it has anti-realistic attitude.
5) Leave Me Alone
What is it?: A music video of the song. That’s it.
Do I like it?: Although it’s kinda cheating to put a whole music video in a film just to fill the runtime, there are interesting aspects about it. First of, this is shown in widescreen version! Many version that you’ve seen before on TV is the cropped 4:3 version and has pretty bad film-to-video transfer compared to this one. Second, this is a really cool music video which also serves as a time machine to his heyday because it reflects his gossip story he had to face at the time: Elizabeth Taylor affair, his own monkey, his “hyperbaric chamber”, etc. It shows us how many scandals happened at the time. Although some people say “You tell us to leave alone, but why did you create controversy in its first place?”, I think this is one of his “F-you” songs about the media and scandals in general. There are truckload of songs like this in his next albums (the famous one is probably Scream, which has lavish music video and becomes one of the most expensive music videos of all time).
6) Smooth Criminal
What is it?: This is the only part of the film that feels like an actual “movie”, not just a sketch. It’s about MJ and a gang consists of three kids (Kids…again?) who accidentally an evil organization led by Mr. Big (played by Joe Pesci) and the gang has to escape him. Through the escape, MJ uses his magical power to do things here: from turning an abandoned nightclub to a kickass dance floor to turning himself into Mecha-Jackson robot. There’s no logic involves in this segment at all. Oh, one of the kids is played by Sean Lennon, son of John Lennon.
Do I like it?: Unfortunately, yes. Although most of modern audience may think exactly the same while they are watching MJ playing in the fields with kids and MJ always gets away from bad guy no matter what happens, you can’t deny that his nightclub dancing scene is fantastic. Sure, it’s not as mind-blowing as Thriller video, but it has fantastic setting and dancing sequences. Seriously, who can forget the famous his anti-gravity lean?
7) Come Together
What is it?: A “concert” performance of MJ’s cover version of Beatles hit song.
Do I like it?: Definitely NO. Not only his cover version is pretty bad (no pun intended), it also reflects a conflict between him and Paul McCartney about owning Beatles catalog. For those that don’t know, in 1985, MJ bought ATV music publishing, a company that owned rights of many bands’ lyrics including the fab four and it destroyed a friendship between king of pop and one of the best pop song writers of all time. It’s a segment that I always skip when I watch it.
8) End credits
What is it?: End credits. DUH. Just kidding. First, it has an acappella version of the song called “The Moon is Walking” and later on it has music video of Smooth Criminal.
Do I like it?: Yes. Only for the SC music video. I like it because it has a nice stuttering effects which somehow makes the video cooler, well at least to me.
Overall, no matter how much you guys want to insert out-of-context pedophilia jokes while watching Moonwalker, you have to admit that this is an interesting movie. Of course, it’s a commercial for his new album at the time, but there’s difference between bad commercial and good commercial. This is the later one.
*Fun fact: If you have ORIGINAL print of this album on CD, LP, or cassette, don’t throw them away! To this day, the original mix never surfaces again in any shape or form. The version used in Bad: Special Edition and Bad 25 is slightly different from original one. For instance, in the song Bad, the original mix has more horn sound than the newer one. Also, in Smooth Criminal the original mix has louder hand-clap sound and quieter bass than the newer one.
Check out next page for the review of Moonwalker video game!