After I was unable to join the crew down in Walt Disney World a few weeks ago, I was asked by our lovely producer, Cheryl, to view Captain EO and write about it. When Cheryl gives you an assignment, you do it, so today at lunch I pulled up the ole YouTube and gave Captain EO a second look. I have to say, it’s a tough one to evaluate.
After all, Captain EO contains some of my favorite things from the world of film. First of all, George Lucas. I mean…stop right there, right? Star Wars?
Indiana Jones? Come on!
But then there’s Francis Ford Coppola.
Heard of him. Not a hack. Did a few great Mafia movies I hear. Putting those two together should be the
recipe for a cinematic masterpiece, right? Then comes Michael Jackson.
I loved Michael as a kid. Thought his music was fun, he did some great videos, and was the consummate entertainer. Watching Captain EO is watching him in his prime. This is the same Michael who moonwalked across the stage or made the Thriller video. The two songs in Captain EO – “We Are Here To Change the World” and “Another Part of Me” – are among my favorites in his catalog. It’s hard to walk out of the Imagination pavilion not singing those songs if you go to see this 3D show.
However, the film itself is a bit silly. Okay, it’s a lot silly. Captain EO, who is part of some unnamed galactic army type thing, crash lands on a planet of junk with his less than helpful friends and uses his music to transform the evil denizens to life affirming citizens. If you think I’m making that up, just go watch it. When I watched this as a kid, in the Imagination pavilion, I thought it was funny. And this is someone who liked Michael. As an adult, I find it incredibly silly.
There is absolutely a difference, however, between watching it on YouTube and watching it in EPCOT. The last time I watched it on property, last fall, I really enjoyed it. Part of it was the nostalgia of seeing this on the big screen again, and the fact that I could walk out of the theater and buy Michael’s rainbow t-shirt. I didn’t, just for the record. But there was a huge rush associated with watching the film in its original location, brought back to life by Disney.
As I reflected on it, though, I realized how flat out lame some of it actually was. Obviously you can’t expect special effects from the 80s to match today’s, but the special effects in this film are, shall we say, Dr. Who-esque. And not today’s Doctor, either. I’m talking Tom Baker, Scarf wearing Doctor. While the music is fantastic, the paper thin plot is just awful. I get the idea, letting Michael be Michael but finding a way to wrap it in some sort of adventure. But the execution is pretty terrible.
That said, I have to give credit to Angelica Huston as the villain of the piece. She could have mailed this one in. Instead, she went the other way and went over the top with it, chewing up the scenery and hissing and clawing her way through the 3D. If this were a period drama, you’d have room to criticize her performance. In this very wacky environment, her performance is pitch perfect.
All told, Captain EO is a memorable part of my youth, but it’s just not something I particularly enjoy. It’s worth watching, no doubt about it, but don’t just seek it out on YouTube. If you are going to watch it, head down to EPCOT and enjoy the Imagination pavilion while you’re at it.
Captain EO – 2/5
“Show me this gift!”