Watching Michael Jackson’s This Is It was a bittersweet experience. On one hand the film gives a glimpse into what surely would have been one of the biggest concert spectacles in music history and it is one of the best concert films I have seen. On the other I found it difficult to watch rehearsals for what would have been such a spectacular concert knowing that no one will ever see the finished versions of this grand performance.
Culled from 100 hours of rehearsal footage for Jackson’s planned 50-night stand at London’s O2 Arena, This Is It shows MJ primed and ready to “take people places they’ve never been before,” as he states at one point during the film. The concerts were going to serve as both his triumphant comeback and his farewell to performing, and if he was going to end his days on the stage after the 50th night he would have gone out on top. The moment he starts singing “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” during the movie’s opening minutes it is clear his voice was in top shape and he could still execute his dynamite dance moves up until his dying day, which would have made the This Is It concerts well worth every penny paid for admission.
Concertgoers were going to be given 3-D glasses for “Thriller,” which was also set to include a giant mechanical spider that housed a zombified Jackson. During “Billie Jean” MJ was going to swoop over the crowd on a cherry-picker lift. More than 1,000 computer-generated soldiers would have marched along to “They Don’t Care About Us.” The production even included a short intro film for “Smooth Criminal,” where Jackson shoots a Tommy gun at Humphrey Bogart. Every song was going to be its own mini-epic with lavish production, amazing choreography and Jackson at its center. Unfortunately, you’re out of luck if you want to know the stories behind the concepts or learn more about Jackson’s music. You don’t get to hear MJ talk much during the film. His speaking roles are mostly relegated to his singing, although there are some parts of the movie when he talks with his band and dancers. This is the one major blemish on what is otherwise a fitting celluloid eulogy to one of the greatest pop stars of all time, who died June 25 at 50.
Overall, on a scale of Captain Eo to Moonwalker, MJ’s curtain call from the grave falls somewhere between the videos for “Remember The Time” and “Scream.” What does that mean? It means like the two aforementioned videos, This Is It isn’t a forgetful affair but it definitely won’t be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Michael. There are no iconic moments and you get no insight into Michael Jackson as a person. Instead you get a good feel for Michael Jackson the performer, and millions of adoring fans across the world are left with a good idea of what might have been had The King of Pop been able to end his career with one final moonwalk into the sunset.
Here's the film's official trailer.
Michael Jackson's This Is It opened Wednesday for a two-week run. It is showing at many theaters in the Seattle area.
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