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Moonwalker is a 1988 film starring Michael Jackson, and both his only major film appearance after The Wiz in 1978 and his only film as the star, not counting the posthumous documentary Michael Jackson's This Is It. It's best described as a Music Video anthology, with music mostly drawn from his 1987 album Bad. The eight segments are:
- "Man in the Mirror" -- Clips of Jackson performing this song on the Bad tour are combined with clips from the original video taking a look at world movers and shakers over the 20th century.
- "Retrospective" -- A mixed-media montage of Jackson's career from his Jackson 5 days to what was then the present.
- "Badder" -- The "Bad" video remade with an all-kiddie cast.
- "Speed Demon" -- Michael is pursued around a movie studio by Claymation critters; he escapes by disguising himself as one (a rabbit).
- "Leave Me Alone" -- A song about a romantic relationship ending is visually presented as Jackson's commentary on the media picking on him for his eccentricities (both real and rumored).
- "Smooth Criminal" -- The centerpiece segment, taking up about half the film total, has Michael battling a drug-peddling supervillain (Joe Pesci) and his goons for the sake of his kid friends and children the world over. By the end, Michael has turned himself into a spaceship to achieve this goal. (Would it surprise you to learn that Michael himself came up with this storyline?) Note to fans of film music: the David Newman credited as the screenwriter is not the composer.
- "Come Together" -- Really the closing scene of "Smooth Criminal", The Beatles are covered by Michael in a nightclub performance.
- "The Moon is Walking" -- This Ladysmith Black Mambazo tune shot on one of the "Smooth Criminal" sets leads us into the end credits.
The movie has frequently surreal visuals -- glittery special effects, split screens, colorful animation, etc. -- and the stories in some of the individual segments (especially "Speed Demon" and "Smooth Criminal") more than live up to them. But for all its silliness, there's awesomeness to be found in it too. In addition, the film was made for theaters, though it went direct-to-video and cable in the U.S., and as such has high production values throughout.
This film, specifically the "Smooth Criminal" sequence, was adapted into two different video games, for arcades and the Sega Genesis respectively.
This film contains examples of:
- The Aggressive Drug Dealer -- It doesn't get more aggressive than trying to inject a little girl personally! Even better, no reason is given for why he wants to get everybody (especially children) addicted to drugs. He just wants to.
- All There in the Script -- Joe Pesci's character is named "Mr. Big" in the credits, but is not referred to as such via dialogue. The villain reveals his name is "Frankie Lideo" early on (an in-joke; Jackson's manager at the time was Frank DiLeo...who later played a character nicknamed Mr. Big in the first Wayne's World movie), but no one else refers to him by name.
- BFG -- Being a drug dealer, it makes sense that Frankie has a Wave Motion Gun the size of a building, hidden behind a retractable mountainside. Which is controlled using hand cranks. Yes.
- Broken Aesop -- Two:
- The first half of the movie is mostly a celebration of how great and successful Michael is, but then we have "Leave Me Alone", which asks us to stop paying attention to him. It's specifically referring to the tabloid press, but it's just strange to draw so much attention to yourself -- often through bizarre activities -- and then complain about being paid attention to just because it isn't all positive press.
- "Man on the Mirror" is about making the world a better place, with visuals focusing on peacemaking and charity. It's harder to take that seriously when "Smooth Criminal" has Michael shooting off a machine gun during the sequence in Club 30s and blowing up all the villains in the climax.
- But Not Too Evil -- The Blu-Ray version has been cut; we no longer see Mr. Big attempt to inject Katie, nor do we see Michael [try to] threaten Mr. Big.
- But Now I Must Go -- Averted: Michael turns into a space ship and flies away after saving the day while his young playmates say "He's leaving"...but he doesn't actually go anywhere.
- Claymation -- "Speed Demon" of course, but check out the "ABC" clip in the earlier montage too.
- Cool Car -- Michael transforms into one.
- Cool Guns --Most obviously the tommygun Jackson apparently pulls out of trouser space during the "Smooth Criminal" sequence, but also the Mook weapons are modded HK94 carbines, the civilian version of the MP5.
- Cool Ship -- Michael's third form.
- Deus Ex Machina -- It's not like we ever find out why Michael has the ability to turn into a superfast car, shielded robot with energy cannons, or a giant spaceship. It would seem to be the result of his wishing upon a shooting "lucky star", but why does it conveniently appear every time the chips are down?
- Direct to Video: Bizarrely, in its home country - Lorimar Motion Pictures had planned to give it a North American theatrical release, but Michael's manager (and along with MJ the film's executive producer) Frank DiLeo wanted such a high percentage of the box office returns that it was cancelled.
- Everything's Better with Sparkles -- Especially in montages.
- Everything's Better with Spinning -- Several times, most prominently when the dance-off between Michael and the rabbit in "Speed Demon" comes down to who can execute the most impressive spin.
- Faceless Goons: Mr. Big's men.
- For the Evulz -- Mr. Big in the movie wants to get all the children of the world high on drugs...why? Because he wants to be famous...apparently.
- Friend to All Children -- Michael in "Smooth Criminal".
- Groin Attack -- The kid standing in for Michael in "Badder" clearly hurts himself when he grabs his crotch.
- In Medias Res -- "Smooth Criminal" opens in the city with Mr. Big's goons gunning Michael down (or so they think); we then Flash Back to how Michael and Katie discovered his scheme.
- Large Ham -- Joe Pesci as Mr. Big.
- Makes Just as Much Sense in Context -- Now that one comes to think of it, ...*Beat*... no, it makes even less sense in context.
- Mind Screw -- The page description is just the beginning.
- Music Video Overshadowing -- "Leave Me Alone" is actually about a romantic breakup.
- No Problem With Licensed Games -- Sega made a game based on Moonwalker which actually isn't that bad. Unfortunately it's rather easy, so it won't take you very long to beat it. You probably will stop before you get enough, but until then it's a real thriller.
- That just rocked my world.
- Random Events Plot -- "Smooth Criminal".
- Roger Rabbit Effect -- "Speed Demon".
- Rule of Cool: Aside from activating some background objects, the moonwalk in the Genesis game has no real function. It just looks awesome.
- Say My Name -- Katie does this a lot with regards to Michael.
- Shout-Out -- Frankie's men have guns with cool LED ammo counters obviously inspired by the then-recent Aliens.
- The logo also looks to have been very much influenced by the font used for the title of Tron.
- Spell My Name with an "S" -- Frankie apparently has this problem, given Michael comes across him complaining about it.
"I want everyone in this world to take drugs because of me (...) It's gonna be in the history books." <paces> "They'd better spell my name right. L-I-D-E-O! It's so simple! Frankie LIDEO!"
- Stuff Blowing Up -- All over the place in the climax of "Smooth Criminal".
- Talky Bookends -- This is what the stories in "Speed Demon" and "Smooth Criminal" come down to -- they just go on a lot longer than music video channels would allow.
- Technology Porn -- The extended-and-then-some robot transformation sequence.
- Transforming Mecha -- Michael himself. Somehow.
- Would Hurt a Child -- Mr. Big.