Michael Jackson's Journey from Motown to Off the Wall

In 2012, filmmaker Spike Lee examined Bad, Michael Jackson’s third album as a solo artist after his early career at Motown records. The years since the iconic singer’s death had been plagued with rumors and controversies about his demise, and Bad 25 represented a refreshing shift back to the talking about the star’s musical contributions to the world.

With Michael Jackson’s Journey from Motown to Off the Wall, Lee is attempting to do the same with Jackson’s years at Motown Records and his eventual transition to a fully-fledged solo artist. The documentary, which is premiering at the Sundance Film Festival before a debut on Showtime on Feb. 5, works almost as a superhero origin story, showing how Jackson grew as a performer and picked up the signatures that would come to define him as a global phenomenon.

“I just wanted to concentrate on the music, his musicianship, his genius, the humanity,” Lee told EW prior to leaving for Park City, Utah. “We don’t deal with that noise, all of the other stuff. It’s unfortunate that the later years dominated the conversation — not even the conversation, the narrative about Michael Joseph Jackson. Hopefully these two documentaries make people reexamine Michael, the ones who need the reminder.”

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In the actual film, that sentiment is represented in the documentary’s focus, which is held tight on Jackson’s musical influences, a track-by-track analysis of Off the Wall, and interviews with people like Kobe Bryant and Misty Copeland, who were indelibly affected by the song.

Lee’s hope is that this film will allow him to complete a trilogy of docs, the final installment centering around Thriller. “We miss Michael,” he said. “Thank God we have his music, but we miss him.”

Michael Jackson's Journey from Motown to Off the Wall
  • Movie
  • 93 minutes