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Michael Jackson's This Is It
Do you wanna be startin' somethin’?

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An assemblage of footage documenting Michael Jackson’s rehearsal period for the This Is It concert tour scheduled for summer 2009 before Jackson’s untimely death on June 25th.

Michael Jackson's This Is It
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Pieced together out of rehearsal footage shot for Michael Jackson’s private collection, This Is It is a halfway house. Neither an in-concert film showing Jackson in all his glory or a behind-the-scenes expose of the creation of an entertainment event, it is in essence a two-hour work in progress that Jackson — revealed here to be a perfectionist — would probably rather you never see. The result is in no way a stand-in for the live shows but still boasts moments that fascinate and impress.

Let’s get the ghoulish stuff out the way first. He may resemble Skeletor in sequins, but at no point does MJ (as his close collaborators call him) look even a little bit peaky. Instead, the film reveals a steely side to the fiftysomething, both in his vigorous dance moves and the chiding of his collaborators, correcting timings, cues and arrangements (“I want it like I wrote it.”) with a sharp tongue of a micro manager. The only other figure to emerge in the film is director Ortega who is The King Of Sucking Up to Jackson’s King Of Pop.

Off-screen, Ortega, choreographer of Dirty Dancing and director of High School Musical, clearly knows how to mount exciting musical sequences on film but with what feels like only two cameras to play with, his options are limited, despite jazzing things up by stitching together different performances and split-screens. While this gives you ample chance to study Jackson’s moves, the filmmaking doesn’t do justice to the energy and vitality of the music, meaning the songs often feel inert when they should zing.

Which is a shame as This Is It is strong reminder of how good Jackson’s music —check out the blistering opening to Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ or the sweetness of Human Nature — and stagecraft is. Smooth Criminal gets a short film that deftly interpolates Jackson into ‘40s flicks ranging from Gilda to In A Lonely Place; Thriller gets an updated graveyard makeover with the addition of animatronic ghosts swooping through what would have been the 02 aisles (the rehearsals took place at the Staples Centre in LA). Earth Song provides the inevitable sentimental guff — a cute little kid wanders through an enchanted forest — that for the most part Ortega avoids.

But in the end, this is a rehearsal — not even a dress rehearsal — so there is a strong sense of Jackson holding himself back, both physically and vocally. After a blistering solo dance on Billie Jean, he mutters “At least we get a feel for it.” It’s a good summation of the film itself, strong hints of a potentially barnstorming show, interesting glimpses into his working process but nothing that completely satisfies.

This Is It delivers neither the full-on Jackson stage experience or a revealing portrait of his complex mindset. Yet it does not dishonour his memory and you can’t deny the power of the music.

Reviewed by Ian Freer

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Average user rating for Michael Jackson's This Is It
Empire Star Rating

Michael Jackson's This Is It: WOW!

Well I didn't think that I would enjoy this film/documentary but it was really good! After watching it I wish that I had seen the finished show. It was very well edited considering it was not meant to be released as a film and the soundtrack was not as great but hey what is live? Overall I was very impressed with the film and the special effects used were mind-blowing for a concert. I hate to think how much it cost. A fine tribute to the late great king of pop. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by LUCASLITTLEWOOD at 19:17, 08 July 2010 | Report This Post

RE: Michael Jackson's This Is It

"This is it" The most extraordinary experience in a movie theater the last years. Well, it is watching Michael Jackson the King of music last performance on the big screen. The feeling was quite close to a live concert. The show he could never do, and thats sad, becoz it would have been extraordinary. Of course, I am a fan since Thriller, so I know what is this. The best movie of 2009 all the way But so so so sad the last greatest artist is gone, and It final curtain..... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Crinblanca at 20:16, 15 November 2009 | Report This Post

RE: Michael Jackson's This Is It

Some would say This Is It is just a cash in movie and to a certain extent their right as the concert organisers are probably losers of alot of money as the show never obviously happened when MJ died. Sure their probably was insurance to cover all the refunds but it probably was a welcome and needed financial boost to have all those hours of video footage of rehersals that MJ had filmned orgionally for his private collection. No doubt they would have been used anyway for extra features on the in... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Cruisecontroller at 20:28, 14 November 2009 | Report This Post

Michael Jackson's This Is It

I've edited it out in my reply here, but it may be worth removing the topic sub heading on the last two posts, mods   I would like to see this, even though I was never a huge fan... I've sort of been caught up in the hype, and would like to see him perform ... More

Posted by Drone at 11:22, 09 November 2009 | Report This Post

RE: It's like bumping into an old friend you never thought you'd see again

Personally, I would add a star to Empire's review. I was never particularly a fan of MJ's music, but like Empire writes, there's no denying the quality of his music, and I think the film delivers as a celebration of those hit songs. I was reminded of some songs that I had all but forgotten, and as such I think it is a quite fitting reminder of the man's musical legacy, in the midst of all the controversy. True, the film never delves into the personality of the man behind the music, bu... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by kasper_t at 01:48, 04 November 2009 | Report This Post

RE: It's like bumping into an old friend you never thought you'd see again

L: adambatman82 Is it Best Picture Oscar material? Thats been banded around on the news this weekend. t certainly isn't, but it's a nice behind the scenes look at what would of undoubtedbly been a spellbinding concert experience for those lucky enough to of had tickets for the O2 gigs. Not a great deal of insight into the man, but from what I gather that was never the film's intention in the first place. I think your level of enjoyment of this could probably be measured by how much you ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Qwerty Norris at 01:27, 04 November 2009 | Report This Post

RE: It's like bumping into an old friend you never thought you'd see again

Nope. It's just an interesting behind the scenes documentary. Nothing more. The show would been amazing, though I don't he'd have lasted all 50 dates. Kenny Ortega really struck me as being a real sycophant though.... ... More

Posted by Timon at 12:52, 02 November 2009 | Report This Post

RE: It's like bumping into an old friend you never thought you'd see again

Is it Best Picture Oscar material? Thats been banded around on the news this weekend. ... More

Posted by adambatman82 at 22:01, 01 November 2009 | Report This Post

RE: It's like bumping into an old friend you never thought you'd see again

L: Snake-Eyes rial]My own review after watching it yesterday - It was a good compilation of footage including dance rehearsals and new video concepts for such classic songs as 'Thriller' and 'Smooth Criminal'. Yes, it was raw and far from prefect, I'm not sure what people were expecting and unlike most people on this thread so far (who seem intent on just slagging the guy off), I am a HUGE fan of Michael Jackson fan and I was happy to see what the man had planned - y'see I had tickets to g... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by benmharper at 20:30, 01 November 2009 | Report This Post

RE: Michael Jackson's This Is It

First off this is supposed to be the review section. Not slag of dead singers.   Weather you like him or not the film stands on its own rights.   I think empire got it spot on with this.  It is a half way house that it OK but you leave feeling it could of been so much more.  But watching it a voice in my head just kept screaming cheap cash in.     ... More

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Posted by Death_Row_Marv at 16:47, 28 October 2009 | Report This Post

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