on 13 August 2008
If I were to take a trip back to my childhood, the aptly-named "Moonwalker", the brainchild of Michael Jackson, would be one of the prominent stops. Even back when I wasn't necessarily an MJ fan (I am now), this movie captured my imagination. Rather than a whole, cohesive movie, it's a collection of mini-films, for the most part well-woven together. The first part is a performance of "Man in the Mirror". The second is a retrospective on Michael Jackson's career, with clips from his music videos and performances from his early career to his "Bad" days (which is the era when the movie was made, and it shows). The third is a re-enactment of the "Bad" video by a younger counterpart of the cast. The fourth part is a mini-movie which features Michael Jackson escaping from maniacal fans and press by racing a motorcycle as a rabbit-man and eventually doing a dance duel with him (you really need to see it to believe it). The fifth is a video for "Leave Me Alone", and the sixth and final part is a noir/sci-fi film where Michael and three young kids on the streets who have befriended him try to escape a drug lord (Joe Pesci) who wants Michael's head after the latter discovers his plans to get all kids addicted to drugs.
"Moonwalker" never made it to theatres in the US (it did, however, in Europe and South America), but that didn't stop the VHS release to be sold in over 800,000 copies within a year of the movie's release. It is a truly engrossing trip through the imagination of the legendary musician/entertainer. While many musicians have tried their hands at filmmaking and only succeeded at showing that they have no talent at it, Michael Jackson surprises. Not only does he show that he has as much feel for staging and visual storytelling as he has for music, he manages to make this movie his own, weaving into both the collage and story some truly imaginative moments.
Take the second part of the movie, where we sort of hit the "present". The "Bad" video is reenacted by younger actors, in a truly hilarious but nonetheless competent spectacle. After that, Michael Jackson emerges onto the 'streets' of Hollywood and is hounded by an assortment of stark-raving-mad, claymated fans and press. An attempt by a humoured Michael to escape his chasers ensues, but as he finds out, trying to hide out in Hollywood studios (especially when you're Michael Jackson) is about as easy as hiding the punch at a banquet.
But his way out of this situation is possibly my favourite part of the movie. Disguising himself as a leather-clad rabbit man, he manages to escape the studios on a bicycle, which transforms into a motorcycle. At this point "Speed Demon" kicks in as the rabbit-man drives at breakneck speed down the highway, ocean and sky. And still the relentless fans and media are hot on Michael's tail, his disguise not fooling them. This all makes up a truly stunning piece of claymation, both excellently-paced and delicious to behold. Driving out into the desert, Michael takes off his disguise only to have the rabbit disguise reanimate itself, and the two do the best dance duel I've ever seen. It's especially stunning to see the claymated rabbit dance like MJ, and Will Vinton and co (who were responsible for the claymation segment, while Michael himself is live-action) truly deserve an applause for this as well as Michael.
Following is the video for "Leave Me Alone", a truly imaginative, satirical portrait of the mass hysteria the media attribute to Michael. Michael humorously visualises this as an amusement park constructed on top of him, while a miniature version of him goes through a has-to-be-seen-to-be-believed tour, frequented by lots of dogs in suits. This video may feel like a filler but its imagination and vision more than make up for it.
This is when the 'movie' itself begins. My favourite part is when Michael steps into a 30s-style club and "Smooth Criminal" kicks in, resulting in a truly artistic music-video sequence, climaxing in the middle, when the music dies and the club-goers chant, for almost a minute, before the music kicks back in. I won't spoil the rest of the movie for you, but these are my favourite parts.
If you are a Michael Jackson fan then this belongs in your collection for sure. Whether or not you are a fan, if you want to see a really imaginative, creative journey through Michael Jackons's musical mindscape, I can also recommend this. One thing is for sure; the tag couldn't be more correct. This truly IS a movie like no other.