What was once planned to be one of the greatest concert shows of all time, This Is It was turned into a concert movie slash documentary slash inside look at a Michael Jackson’s last days.
I had a bittersweet feeling going into the movie because I knew that for an hour and a half it would feel like he was still alive but when it was over, the reality would set in again. But as a Michael Jackson fan, I had to be there.
There are several reasons why This Is It delivers and it will deliver in different ways for the different types of fans. For the hardcore fans, you get an inside look at what it takes to put together a Michael Jackson concert. You get to see Michael take control, not raising his voice once. Michael commands immediate attention and when he re-directs someone’s idea, he makes sure they understand he’s doing it to make the show better, and also out of love.
For the new fans, Michael shows them a glimpse of his greatness. He goes through the motions of his entire concert and even at half speed, he shows off immense talent. There’s a great segment where he and one of his back-up singers walk through I Just Can’t Stop Loving You and at the end of the song, they go back and forth singing the last line to each other. Michael sees his back-up dancers and musicians watching him in awe and he gives them a bit more than just a walk through and for a few seconds, you see him as he would have done it for real.For people who might not be big MJ fans but want to see this movie because of the hype, there’s not as much to love, though there are still some interesting aspects. You get to see how creative directors put a show together, though it’s not the focus of the movie. There are bits and pieces of the movie which focus on how Kenny Ortega and his team put sets together, try out dancers and musicians, and go through awesome choreography.
But the biggest reason to see this movie is simply to hear Michael’s music in surround sound with other Michael Jackson fans. The music is blended in with the film perfectly and you can see how they visually wanted to represent it through elaborate sets and video.
Because of the actual subject matter and footage used, in no way can this movie be must see or brilliant in the usual ways that movies can be. It would be better served as a DVD extra than a full length feature film, but because of the timing of Jackson’s death, it’s timely, and thus can work in a theater element when nothing else made in this same manner could. It’s also longer than you’d expect it to be since they go through all the songs that he was expected to perform in the actual concert starting with Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ and ending with Man In The Mirror.
They had some really great ideas for Smooth Criminal, which included putting Michael into an old black and white film, They Don’t Care About Us, which featured all of his dancers multiplied by CGI into what looked like an infinite amount of marching soldiers, a new Thriller routine, and a great rendition of Earth Song. He kept favorites like Billie Jean and Beat It similar to how you remember them in their epic videos.
Right before the end of his rendition of Man In The Mirror, Michael and Kenny Ortega get the entire group together for a huge group hug with words of affirmation and inspiration from MJ. He told them to give him their everything because they were going to give fans feelings that they’d never felt before. He closed it by saying that everyone was family.
For nearly two hours, I was able to see a very alive Michael Jackson. I was able to escape the disturbing details of his death and just focus on the music and the performer, even though he was only going half speed.
In the ending credits, the song This Is It plays and my thought was that this was truly it.