No doubt about it, when I saw the announcement that Columbia and Sony Pictures were going to release a movie based on out-takes and rehearsals of Michael Jackson’s much anticipated London tour, I figured it was nothing more than a money grab to profit on the singer’s untimely death. Since seeing it, I am positive it was indeed a savvy profiteer’s wet dream. I am also more convinced than ever that Michael Jackson was a brilliant performer and This Is It manages to capture his imagination, his attention to detail and his overwhelming desire to please.
Too bad this documentary had to be made though. I couldn’t help but feel sad over the circumstances surrounding Michael Jackson’s death. It was something I couldn’t shake, even though This Is It tries to be a celebration of his life and work.
Anyways, if you’re an average guy (or gal) and didn’t know what goes into a monstrous stage production, prepare to be bewildered. It is a complex creature with hundreds of tendrils and if one is out of synch then they may as well all be screwed up. Each of these segments, time and time again, are dissected and analyzed for mistakes. Each is honed to perfection — it would be a crime for the audience to see something subpar. Michael himself oversees the entire production.
This is not the frail man we were led to believe he became needing his frightening drug mixtures to stay alive. Not by a long shot. Instead we’re given glimpses of him explaining the feeling behind the beats to one of the musicians. Instead we see him going through full dance routines with his ensemble dancers, working out any timing mistakes or correcting any bad form that catches his eyes. All the while he does it with an even hand, like a mother to her child — never once raising his voice or losing his patience.
Director, Kenny Ortega deserves a lot of credit too. The setups for This Is It are magnificent. In one, a cemetery is recreated on stage with a mass of zombies rising from their graves to the sound of Thriller. Pyrotechnics are everywhere and in everything. Michael is infused into celluloid for Smooth Criminal while he and dancers onstage follow along. The completed light show would have been a sight to see.
Hell, the entire production would have been a sight to see — even if just to prove to the world Michael still had what it takes.
Of course, knowing that This Is It is comprised of a month or so of rehearsals (Michael can be seen wearing many different outfits for a single song), there is a damn good chance anything that put Michael into a bad light was left on the cutting room floor. Would I have liked to see a more “real” person than the one who says, “I love you” and “Do it for the music” to everyone involved with the show ad nauseam, perhaps. That, however, doesn’t take away from this production. Whether you’re a fan or not of Michael Jackson’s, This Is It belongs in your DVD collection. Make some space for it now.