I was 10 in 1988 and at that time to me the coolest, toughest and most awesome guy on the planet was Michael Jackson. He was bad, a speed demon and a smooth criminal. His music videos were awesome and he was portrayed as the epitome of cool. Anyone who has ever seen the clips for Beat it, Bad or Smooth Criminal knows exactly what I’m talking about. Moonwalker is based upon the Bad album and the track Smooth Criminal is the center piece of the film. The rest of the movie consists of music videos, concert footage and a look at the history of Michaels career. This is a bit of a letdown as I was to believed at the time that this was just one big movie starring Michael Jackson.
Moonwalker is the ultimate ego trip of Michael Jackson. Starting of with a concert version of Man In The Mirror we see images of Michael intercut with footage of people like Ronald Reagan, Ghandi, John Lennon, Gorbatsjov and other icons from that time. So you see, within a couple of minutes you are aware of this being a vanity piece. After this segment we get an overview of Michaels career showing us clips from his hit songs with the Jackson 5 and tracks from Off The Wall and Thriller. None of this is narrated of some sort, it’s just 15-20 minutes of clips followed by and all kids version of Bad called Badder. With all we know now with MJ’s obsession with kids this segment does have a weird vibe to it nowadays seeing little kids grabbing their crotch and all… Oh and if you look very carefully you can spot a young Nikki Cox as one of the dancers.
Next up is the music video of Speed Demon complete with an elaborate intro featuring real people and claymation characters. This intro shows once more that Michael can’t act a dime’s worth. He can just smile all the time and looking astonished as if he was a kid in a toy store. If we only knew than what we know now, it would’ve explained a lot. This video hasn’t aged very well and the claymation looks awfully cheap. Also the whole bunny thing really was over the top, even by 80’s standards. Maybe I liked it when I was 10, but damn, that Bunny is corny.
Speed Demon is followed by another music video. The more artsy Leave Me Alone. This clip is more abstract and still holds up pretty well. After these two videos it’s finally time for the main event. The parts the movie was advertised with; the segment which is actually nothing more than one big music video for Smooth Criminal and shows us how a dressed-in-30’s-gangster-clothing Michael Jackson is constantly chased by an overacting Joe Pesci who has a dildo on the back of his head. This entire segment not only shows us Michael playing with kids (oh boy), but also establishes him as some sort of an angelic character who has the ability to turn into a car, robot or space ship. What’s that again about an ego trip?
In the middle of the proceedings (which is one long chase sequence) we get to so famous music video for Smooth Criminal. This is an extended version we get here including a lengthy break in the middle. I’m sure most of you are familiar with this legendary piece of music video as this track and bad were the highlights of the album back in 1987/1988. This video still holds up pretty well and the choreography is simply astonishing. Once again it’s a bit weird to see Jackson act so tough, he even pulverizes a pool ball with his bare hand, when we know how soft he actually is.
This whole sequence is concluded with Michael taking on Joe Pesci by turning into a robot and a spaceship. They actually used CGI for some of the shoots which was very impressive for the time.
Moonwalker is more of a curiosity item than a movie everybody should watch because it’s so good because it isn’t. Sure, the soundtrack is brilliant and most music videos featured in the movie will generate a feeling of nostalgia but on a whole it isn’t a coherent film. Michael Jackson might be the King Of Pop, he isn’t the King Of Celluloid.