Monday, June 29, 2009

Michael Jackson

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What will I remember most about Michael Jackson? It won't be moonwalks, his partial plunder of the Beatles' catalog, increasingly eccentric behavior, a sequined silver glove or messy legal proceedings. No, for me it will be Captain EO, the Coppola-directed and Lucas-produced 3-D film shown at Walt Disney's money-sucking theme parks from the mid 1980s to the mid 1990s. For a kid like myself in that Reagan/Bush decade, it was perhaps the first mindfuck I'd experienced, and in 3-D no less. Set in a futuristic industrial world of metal and decay, the story revolved around Jackson as Captain EO, a smooth-dancin' spaceman, and his ragtag bunch of circus freaks (a flying partner, a two-headed pilot and an elephantine helper who warped my dreams for many a night) who are delivering a gift to a wicked queen played by Angelica Huston (not a joke). Eventually, after many special effects that likely made parents feel the price of the park's admission was at least somewhat palatable, the crew escapes a lifetime of torture as EO sings the song "We Are Here To Change The World" to queen. After a bit more brou-ha-ha, magic spells, and Jackson fighting soldiers armed with whips, the queen is transformed into a hot babe, her planet morphs into a lush wonderland and the sniveling kids in the audience like myself immediately begged our parents to stand in the hours-long line again for another viewing of it.

Captain EO was the first 3-D film I can remember seeing, and though the specifics of it are hazy, I can still remember how bizarre and fascinating it was, even if I didn't quite get the story. Which seems an apt, if somewhat cynical, summation of Jackson's life. Michael Jackson entered the public consciousness in many different ways. I'm not ashamed to say that it took a theme park attraction in my case.

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