Today would’ve been Michael Jackson‘s 56th birthday. To commemorate the event, I decided to watch Captain EO, which I haven’t seen in a few years. For those who don’t know, Captain EO was originally a part of a Disneyland 3D ride held in the Epcot center. After his death, Disney made the smart move of opening it yet again for longtime fans to re-experience and for the younger generation to see it for the first time. The movie/ride was a big deal at the time because it featured the talent of George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola. It’s both whimsical and weird, much like Jackson himself.
The plot of the movie is simple and a bit vague. The King of Pop is the captain of a rowdy bunch of misfits who are on a mission to deliver a special gift to an evil queen. The crew doesn’t have a great reputation as EO himself mentions and it’s not hard to see why. They’re clumsy, slow, and kind of stupid, but still charming all the same. They reach the queen, she tries to destroy them, Jackson does some dancing and wins everyone over with a little bit of magic. By the end, the queen changes her ways. That’s pretty much the gist of the short film. It’s not really clear why they’re delivering a gift to the queen or why it’s so important they transform her. But it’s a film meant for a ride, what do you expect?
There’s no doubt the movie is a little weird. Jackson’s crew consists of some robots, a two headed alien, an adorable little fuzzy thing, and Hooter, an elephant that eats everything. Captain EO must really suck if he can’t even recruit at least one other human to help him out. They may be dumb, but they’re pretty charming just because of the way they look. Compared with the CGI filled entertainment of today, the use of costumes, puppets and claymation is awe inspiring. Some of it looks a little dated, but most of it held up well over the years. Even the evil witch queen looks really cool. As a kid, I was both intrigued and frightened by her appearance. She’s kept up by several tentacles and has menacing claws that clack whenever she moves. Even her whip lashing minions look scary. Covered in wires and metal, they come after the captain whips swinging. Even EO is scared. There’s one point when he tries to run away, leaving the crew behind. It’s funny that no one acknowledges this once the mission is complete. Eventually, he wins the scary guys over too.
For some reason whenever Jackson is saving someone, it involves a lot of magic and dancing (see Moonwalker game). It’s no different here. Once the music gets going, it turns out EO has powers in the form of color beams shooting from his fingers. This turns the evil minions into back up dancers. Yes, the whole thing is a little silly, but EO is all about the dancing and since it’s Jackson the moves are nothing less than stellar. What’s interesting is the look and feel of the choreography incorporates some “Thriller” moves along with moves Jackson would use later on in “Bad.” He also sings to the queen in the form of “We Are Here to Change the World.” It’s not the best Jackson song, but the heavy synth and bass inspired music is catchy. In the midst of all the dancing and singing the queen becomes dizzy. EO takes the opportunity to hover up to her, he apparently flies, and shoots beams in her face. This scene gets a little awkward because she starts moaning and you think “what is really going on here?” These beams turns her into a beautiful queen leaving EO and his crew dancing their way out to the tune of “Another Part of Me.” Everything is right in space once again.
Overall, the short film gets 8/10. Okay, so the plot isn’t entirely believable, but it’s still entertaining. The special effects and complex costumes still look good today and there are even some funny moments thanks to Hooter. The whole thing comes together when Jackson starts dancing and singing, what he does best after all. The music is catchy, Jackson looks great, and pulls off some impressive moves he would incorporate into his later routines. If anything, it’s a short film that’ll make you smile and thank Jackson for the wonderful music.