Moonwalker is a strange creation, partly because its difficult to define exactly what it is. Essentially its just a succession of things happening, linked by the music and mind of Michael Jackson. The first half is pretty much a series of music videos, opening with some concert footage and a 10-minute montage taking us through Michaels career from little kid up to the release of the Bad album, largely set to Man In The Mirror. Theres also a new version of the Bad video, featuring kids instead of grown-ups, Michael dancing with a clay-mation rabbit for Speed Demon, as well as an excellent video for Leave Me Alone, which takes a tongue in cheek look at the endless rumours about Michael that filled newspapers in the 80s (e.g. that he slept in an oxygen tent, his love for his chimp, Bubbles).
The second half is, depending on how you look at it, either a mini-movie in its own right, or an extremely extended music video for Smooth Criminal. The plot is basically that there are three urchin kids who are friends with Michael Jackson. They discover an evil plot by Mr Big to do nefarious things, such as selling drugs to kids. Mr Big (Joe Pesci) doesnt like the fact Michael and the kids know this, so sends his henchman after them.
Luckily Michaels magic and can turn abandoned buildings into 1930s nightclubs (so he can sing Smooth Criminal inside) as well being able to randomly turn himself into a giant robot and a spaceship, before taking everybody to his concert. Its all incredibly peculiar, dumb and pretty nonsensical, but nevertheless takes up around half of Moonwalker.
Its difficult to know what to say about Moonwalker as it is a very unusual film. In essence its a giant vanity project, almost as if Michael wrote a list of things he wanted to do turn into a robot, dance with a rabbit, etc. and then it was the producers job to make that happen, no matter how little sense it makes, or whether anyone might actually want to watch it.
When its just a succession of interlinked music videos its actually pretty entertaining, if a little bizarre, and seems pretty self aware about just how strange the cult of Michael Jackson and his level of fame was at the time. However the Smooth Criminal short film is pretty awful. Its like a story by a six-year old brought to big-budget life. It largely seems to be about showing that Michael Jackson isnt just a singer and dancer, but some kind of super-human god. For no apparent he can turn into a spaceship if he needs to, while small children cry if he isnt around. It highlights how whole of Moonwalker is really Michaels own tribute to his enormous ego. Its also difficult to know who it was actually made for, as theres a sense it was more for Michael to prove to himself how great he was, rather than for anyone else.
All that said, it is oddly entertaining, largely because of the music, and a curious reminder of what a huge star Jackson was in the 1980s. Fans will no doubt enjoy it, because if it was made for anyone other than Michael, it was for fans to homage to his greatness, particularly as Moonwalker isnt shy about presenting the singer as if he was pretty much the second coming of Jesus.
The picture quality of the Blu-ray, like many 80s films, isnt perfect but its certainly not bad. Theres a bit of grain, but largely its clean and crisp, with the only issue being that the colours are perhaps a little more muted than you might hope. Its also true that the concert footage that bookends the film isnt up to the quality of the rest of the movie, with more grain and a difficulty handling how the night-time darkness contrasts sharply with the bright stage lighting.
However theres little doubt it sounds great. With a DTS HD Master Audio surround sound mix, the songs, largely taken from the Bad album, sounds superb and will really rock your set-up.
In the end though, while its a shame the only feature is the trailer, your reaction to the Moonwalker Blu-ray will depend on who you are. For most, it is an unusual curio from a man whose reputation has been rehabilitated by his death an ego-centric vanity project that nevertheless captures a moment in time when Jackson was just about the most famous person of the planet. Its worth a look for those who are curious, but unlikely to become a favourite. However for true fans it is an essential selection of music videos, which invites you to pay homage to your idol and wallow in his musical legacy.
NOTE: Moonwalker on Blu-ray is currently available exclusively from HMV, but will be available in other stores on June 3rd.
Overall Verdict: Half music video collection, half nonsensical movie, Moonwalker is a weird film thats really only for true fans. However it looks pretty good and sounds fantastic on Blu-ray.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac