Justin does Captain EO

“Not only see, your highness… but hear.”

The Scoop: 1986 NR, directed by Francis Ford Coppola and starring Michael Jackson, Anjelica Huston and Dick Shawn

Tagline: We Are Here To Change The World

Summary Capsule: Michael Jackson unveils his alter-ego: a space-traveling superhero who sparks revolutions with the power of song and choreography

Justin’s Rating: “Captain EO” is one of the most fun names you could ever say.  EOOOOOOO!

Justin’s Review: Most guys I know had a particular favorite superhero growing up.  Superman, blah choice, but yeah, it was there.  Batman?  About 75% of men idolized the Dark Knight.  There was Spider-Man, Thor, the Flash, and the entire X-Men roster.  One particularly wimpy kid who was masochistic made it well-known that Aquaman’s principles guided his life.

Me?  I had a hero to top them all.  I had Captain EO.

You know he was automatically awesome, because he was, like, a captain and stuff!  And he looked JUST LIKE Michael Jackson, which was a weird coincidence in the 80’s, considering just how popular Jackson was before he moved into his full-fledged weirdo phase.

Captain EO might well be one of the most famous short movies that was ever made.  Filmed for Disney’s EPCOT amusement park, it was directed by Francis Ford Coppola (who called it “the Godfather of his generation”), scored by James Horner (who phoned in his Star Trek II theme), and written/produced by George Lucas (who called it “the Howard the Duck of his generation”).  And, of course, it starred a little up-and-coming musical star informally called “MJ”.

I saw Captain EO at EPCOT as a kid, and while it wasn’t exactly the coolest thing ever, it was definitely the highlight of that park at the time.  It was the first of Disney’s “4D” attractions, where you’d watch a movie with 3D glasses on, and they’d also throw some physical stuff out at the audience — smoke, lasers, stuff like that.  The idea was to make the audience feel as if the movie was happening all around them, instead of just up on the screen.  The attraction ran from 1986 to 1994 before being shuttered, but has since seen a revival at EPCOT since Jackson’s death, and reopened in February 2010 with some adjustments (such as hydraulic lifts for the audience seats).

So what about the movie itself?  Honestly, it’s a pure, unadulterated cheeseball.  Sure, we could go into the vast background mythos of this science fiction universe that has such complex characters as the “Supreme Leader”, but that would take us days if not weeks to cover in appropriate depth.

Instead, let it be suffice to say that the 17-minute running time covers the heights of comedy, action, and things whizzing at the camera in 3D.  Forget the pathetic attempts of later 3D movies such as Avatar, Captain EO had realistic aliens and eye-popping effects down flat in the middle of the 80’s.

Captain EO is on a mission of utmost importance, which is pretty much how Michael Jackson treated every task he ever had.  The galaxy, cowed into submission under the iron thumb of the Supreme Leader, is calling out for a hero to get her to loosen up a tad and let them start back up fast food franchises and soap opera cable networks.  Thus, EO gets the assignment of slapping her around a bit — with the power of music, of course.  I don’t think Jackson could ever slap anything physically without it shattering everything below his elbow.

He is hobbled/assisted by his alien crew, which the narrator describes as “ragtag” but I shall label as “kindergarten” instead.  There was a certain school of thought in the 80’s that said that every alien with comedic potential had to be wacky and crazy and absolutely spastic, so enjoy the deep workings of George Lucas here.  It’s like an entire spaceship crewed by Ewoks and Jabba’s little cackling sidekick.

Captain EO crashlands on the planet, coincidentally in the EXACT spot he was trying to get to — the inner sanctum of the Supreme Leader, large fries, diet Coke.   The Supreme Leader is played by Anjelica Huston in full Borg Queen mode, hissing all evil-like and spending her day trying to extricate herself from the 114 wires and cables surrounding her so that she can go take a shower and a power nap.

Before the S.L. can throw EO to her torturers for “100 years” of pain (how long does EO live?  EOns, obviously!), the good Captain breaks out into song with the help of his crew, who double as the band.  Always good to have a backup career.  Cue lots of music, snappy dancing, more 3D effects just for the sake of 3D effects, and two wholly forgettable Jackson numbers.  Amazingly for everyone except the King of Pop, EO’s tunes begin to transform the really cool industrial-looking planet into the cover of a Trapper Keeper, complete with rainbows and unicorns and giant poofy hairdos.

It’s quite possibly the best 17 minutes of your existence.

It’s also quite possibly what will run through your head on the day you die as your last thought.  Not your loved ones or that time you went to Bermuda — nope, Captain EO, baby.  You’ll die gasping his name.

No matter where Michael Jackson went, 30 mimes followed and mimicked his every move

Intermission!

  • “EO” is Greek for “dawn”
  • It cost $30 million to produce, which averaged out to $1.76 million a minute.
  • Hooter now enters the pantheon of annoying sidekicks you’d like to drop-kick into oblivion
  • It has 150 special effects, which is more per minute than any of the original Star Wars films.

Groovy Quotes

Narrator: The Cosmos, a Universe of good and evil, where a small group struggles to bring freedom to the countless worlds of despair. A rag-tag band lead by the infamous Captain EO.

Captain EO: We have come here uninvited more or less.
The Supreme Leader: So… then we both admit to your… stupidity! Why have you come?
Captain EO: To bring a gift, your highness. To someone as beautiful as you.
The Supreme Leader: You?… Think me beautiful?
Captain EO: Very beautiful within, your highness, but without a key to unlock it, and that is my gift to you.
The Supreme Leader: So… let me see this gift!
Captain EO: Not only see, your highness… but hear.

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5 Comments

  1. I remember seeing this at Epcot too, and like you said, it was one of the most exciting things there at the time. Epcot was all about multiculturalism and education, and therefore boring as all hell for a twerp.

    I watched it again recently on youtube.

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