Caity Weaver and Rich Juzwiak, Gawker’s chief restaurant critics, recently ate, drank, and gasped their way through every international pavilion and theme park attraction at Walt Disney World’s Epcot. This is their review.
Rich: Little known fact: In addition to being FOODIES, we are also cinephiles, so immediately after exiting the fake Lion King movie, we filed into another cinema to watch yet another film exclusive to Epcot: the Michael Jackson-starring, 20-minute sci-fi epicella, Captain EO.
Caity: Rich first experienced this ride as a youth, in its 1980s heyday. I had never seen it, because Disney shut it down in 1994—right around the time of my first trip to the park. They re-opened it in 2010, after Jackson’s death. Rich, do you feel like that was a good call?
Rich: Oh yes. I think everyone should squeeze whatever kind of profit they can out of corpses. They’re just lying there doing nothing anyway.
Caity: Although I, like all residents of Orlando—permanent and temporary—enjoy the music of Michael Jackson, I can’t say I was “excited” to see Captain EO. What I felt was more like reserved anticipation—the feeling you get when taking a school field trip to a boring place.
Before we could watch the movie, though, we had to stand around inside the theater for 15 minutes while we waited for the next show to start. And I mean that literally: Even if you were willing to debase yourself and sit on the floor like a dog, this was not permitted. It was presented as a safety issue, because the theatre was...dark inside. What if everyone started running around all of a sudden and someone tripped over you, I guess? My take: The rule should be “Remain absolutely still in the position of your choice.”
Rich: I found the intro video we watched in the lobby to be extremely informative. This shit was shot in 70 mm! George Lucas produced it and Francis Ford Coppola directed it! Despite the having the makings of a masterpiece, Captain EO is more La Toya than MJ. The puppets look like little people stuffed in rubber. One’s name is Hooter. The sound seems to have been recorded one booth over, giving virtually all dialogue a muffled texture. Michael “acts” “tough.” (I cackled at his first line: a determined “We’re going in.”) Whatever, I loved it anyway.
Caity: Despite my initial low expectations, Captain EO was perhaps the only attraction in Epcot that contained what you might call “genuine surprises.” I was surprised by the number of human beings in the audience who were born after Michael Jackson’s death (very high). I was surprised that a plastic tentacle reached out from under my seat and poked my legs during a fight scene. (It really did terrify me. I thought a snake had gotten into the theater.) The biggest surprise of all was that the evil alien queen Michael Jackson traveled thousands of lightyears to dance with was ultimately revealed to be...THE LOVELY ANJELICA HUSTON!
Rich: Despite having seen Captain EO at Epcot and on YouTube before AND watching the making-of special when it aired around the attraction’s opening, I too had forgotten that under that Giger-esque makeup was the statuesque Ms. Huston. I gasped along with all of the toddlers who were delighted at the reveal.
Caity: My hands flew to my mouth in shock. I could not believe it.
Rich: Similarly, I had forgotten that “Another Part of Me,” which plays Captain EO out, is my favorite song from Bad, which I think is overrated entirely (though I love Spike Lee’s two-and-a-half-hour doc about it). Captain EO also contains a scene in which MJ is suddenly surrounded by alien soldiers, much like he was surrounded by zombies multiple times in “Thriller.” Michael Jackson spent a lot of time in the ‘80s being this close to getting gang banged.
Ride Report Card
Rich: Though it shows all the signs of age that Michael Jackson’s face never did when he was with us (alternate title: The Picture of Dorian EO), I loved this experience so much, and I give Captain EO an A for Anjelica Huston alone.
Caity: I give it a D+. It was great to see our friend Michael again, but it took way too long to sit down, way too long to watch the intro video, and way too long to finish the film itself. I couldn’t hear or understand any of the dialogue and I thought there was a snake! No, no, no. Bad for babies and bad for me. (However, if you must see Captain EO, the only way to do it is accompanied by someone as enthusiastic as Rich.)
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Images via Rich Juzwiak and Caity Weaver.