Michael Jackson’s ‘This Is It’ is a testament to the King of Pop’s enduring legacy as a genius and stage performer. The movie - part concert film, part documentary - takes viewers through the final phases of Jackson’s massive ‘This Is It’ comeback tour.
During the massive media coverage following Jackson’s untimely death earlier this year, many reporters incessantly questioned Jackson’s ability to return to the stage. Would he still be able to move like the ‘Thriller’ days? Could he still hit the high notes? Did he have the stamina? Thanks to ‘This Is It,’ fans and critics alike now know the answer to all three questions is an easy “yes.”
Perhaps Jackson’s supreme appearance in ‘This Is It’ is what makes the film so bittersweet. The music is undeniable. Songs like “Billie Jean,” “Thriller” and “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” are memorable points in Jackson’s career as well as the ‘This Is It’ soundtrack. During the film, Jackson coaxes and coaches his backup dancers and band. Director Kenny Ortega is there to get the best from Jackson, and he succeeds. Over and over, Jackson demands perfection – he knows what he wants, even if he can’t always perfectly articulate his artistic visions. Of course, viewers are observing a man at work, excelling in a craft he’s perfected for more than four decades.
Even non-Jackson fanatics will both enjoy and learn from ‘This Is It.’ Clearly, planning a massive concert production is a supreme undertaking on a normal day. As with anything Jackson related, nothing is normal and ‘This Is It’ provides a glimpse at what obviously would have been one of the most spectacular – and expensive – tours of all time. Ortega folds in video clips that were originally filmed for the O2 Arena jumbotron: a new 3-D scene for “Thriller,” an old-Hollywood vignette for “Smooth Criminal” in which Jackson wields a Tommy gun and on and on. For “Earth Song,” a bull dozer was supposed to roll onto the stage. Such effects are out of reach for most artists, but for Jackson, anything was possible – and available. It’s that massive production and sense of fantasy that helps sell ‘This Is It.’
Already through its first weekend run, ‘This Is It’ has set film records, becoming the world’s highest grossing concert film in history. Veteran Oscar watchers predict ‘This Is It’ will be nominated for best picture. If this prediction comes true, ‘This Is It’ would become the first documentary in history to be nominated for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ top prize.
‘This Is It’ runs in theaters for one more week. A DVD release is planned for January.