Monday, January 16, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Captain EO (1986) *½

NR, 17 min.
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Writers: George Lucas, Rusty Lemorande, Francis Ford Coppola
Starring: Michael Jackson, Anjelica Huston

Upon seeing the one time Disney World 3D phenomenon “Captain EO”, starring pop star Michael Jackson as a dancing, singing, bad guy-zapping space cowboy, my youngest boy had one pressing question on his mind, “Was Captain EO a boy or a girl?” I don’t mean any offense to Michael Jackson fans and certainly not to transgenders or men with effeminate qualities, but it’s a fair question.

Although, I feel that little anecdote could stand as a perfectly passable Penny Thoughts review of what is really a very short and hard to see movie, I’ll try and give my readers a little more to go on. “Captain EO” is one of the Jackson’s many long form videos, which the late performer started to great success with “Thriller”. He made several other long form videos throughout his career, but “Captain EO” was really meant to be something special. It was made specifically for Disney’s theme parks with not only 3D screen effects, but also in theater effects, like an in theater lightshow, moving seats, and water and air effects. It is thought of as the first 4D movie.

The film played in Disney parks from 1986 through the late 90s, finally closing after diminishing interest. The attraction re-opened in 2010 after regaining its popularity on YouTube following Jackson’s death.

As a movie, “Captain EO” is really rather pathetic. It’s a bad 80’s sci-fi rip-off of all the elements that people who saw dollar signs in their eyes thought were what made “Star Wars” successful. It should be no surprise that one of those people was “Star Wars” creator himself, George Lucas. More surprising is the fact that Francis Ford Coppola of “Godfather” and “Apocalypse Now” fame directed this lump of coal. Like most of Jackson’s long form videos, the plot is just a flimsy excuse upon which to hang a couple of new songs and dance routines.

In terms of its place in 3D history, “Captain EO” is slightly more impressive. While antiquated by today’s standards, the 3D effects are actually pretty good for what was being produced at the time, which was very little. The other elements implemented in theater are also pretty good at enhancing the experience beyond the typical movie going event. It’s good enough for the kids that are attracted to such amusement park rides, but it ain’t exactly a cinematic masterpiece.

You can watch the first of a two part YouTube presentation of the full movie below.

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