Moonwalker (Jerry Kramer, Colin Chilvers, 1988)

“I’ll never finish this movie! Who let him in? Isn’t anybody in charge?”

Introduction

Now I am a huge Michael Jackson fan, and this is his only ‘feature length’ movie (I am not gonna count films like Men In Black 2 because that was just a cameo) so it is inevitable that I bought, watched and, consequently, review this title. I will come back to the music-video reviews I explained I would do … but this does not fall in the three, lesser known, music-videos I said I would discuss. Nevertheless, Moonwalker does have some stunning sequences in and so it is worth a once-over at the very least.

What I reckon …

Okay. There are two ways to describe this film: “Influenced by directors as diverse as Paul Verhoevan, Carol Reed and Robert Zemeckis – alongside Pop Art influences – comes Moonwalker” or I could describe it as “a mish-mash of incoherant stories that have no background, connection or depth to even qualify as a feature-legth film – it might as well come free with the Bad music album”. The ‘story’ – if you could call it that – was by Michael Jackson. You can imagine it: “then spiders and then, then, then I turn into a car … and then I turn into a robot and shoot him away… and, and, and the bad guy is a Joe Pesci-like drug lord… etc”. Any sense is not applied – you coould call it ‘surreal’. I’d call it random. “From the imagination of Michael Jackson, comes a movie like no other” – indeed.

Interestingly, there are some great influences – mainly taken from 80’s movies – that may have played a part. The whole robot-thing seems very Robocop-esque (1987 was its release date … so, it might be too close to call…), while the Michael-Jackson-car speeds off leaving a trail of fire akin to the Delorean in Back to the Future (1985…) and – to top it off – the colours, music and general sense of wonder we are expected to have when the Michael-Jackson-spaceship flies off into the night recall E.T. (one of MJ’s favourite films apparently), when E.T. goes back home. I think, because it is so obvious, it takes the edge off of any credability that could be given. Nevertheless, the whole Smooth Criminal story is very separate to the rest of the film – bookended by live performances of Man in the Mirror and Come Together, and music videos of Leave me Alone and Speed Demon (Directed by Will Vinton, it is a very strange Roger Rabbit inspired sequence whereby live-action mixes with stop-go-motion creatures). That is not to say some inspirations go unfounded -its clear the film-noir style of the Smooth Criminal and the tilted cameras come from Carol Reed’s The Third Man and – lets be honest – the dancing sequence inside Club 30 is up there as one of the top Michael Jackson dance sequences and that gives the entire movie a higher-quality – the fact that the sequence is preceded by what must be ten minutes of ‘chasing’, torches and shooting, for no clear reason does hamper the film.

To close, it is worth noting how impressive the music-video for Leave Me Alone is. It is directed by Jim Blashfield (not Jerry Kramer or Colin Chilvers interestingly enough…) and shows Michael trying to escape dog-press people on a fairground ride. He rides through all the gossip, rumours and newspaper articles that spiralled out of control after Thriller so it features references to the Elephant Man, Elizabeth Taylor (footage from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof) and the cryogenic-freezing chamber. The whole thing reminded me of Richard Hamiltons Pop Art pieces – using collage to make up an entire image – or in this case – a video. The video ends with Jackson emerging from the theme park – and akin to Gulliver in Gullivers Travels he breaks free from the ‘chains’ of entertainment that restricted him before. The i-hate-the-press song has been done by Michael Jackson on his Invincible album, with the song Privacy. Even Britney Spears has her own i-hate-the-press song on the album released post-baldness. Something about ‘You want a piece of me’, etc. But, thi video shows Michael completely mocking them and their goals – he laughs and dances in what he believes is complete fun and games. he doesn’t take them seriously and, it is clear, that as much as he hates them, at this point in his career he gt frustrated but understood their neccessity. But he still wants them to go: Leave Me Alone, he cries … and, they never did.

Interestingly, the video to Leave Me Alone was the only video from Bad that got a Grammy award. In fact it was the only Grammy Award given for the Bad album.

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