perfectionist like Mic hael Jackson would have had some issues
with releasing an entire film composed of his rehearsal footage.
For a performer who gave nothing less than his all onstage,
a behind-the-scenes deconstruction of his craft might have
been taken as a short-selling of his true talent. But in the
wake of Jackson’s untimely passing in June of this year, the
world’s appetite for his work spiked. Fans came out of the
woodwork to gobble up the late singer’s various hits, compilations
and memorabilia. Naturally, more product would follow. With
the release of This Is It, those close to Jackson have
given fans a glimpse at two things they might not otherwise
have seen: the massive concert production that was to have
been the singer’s comeback, and the artist in a state of rediscovery,
finding his voice and footing after a lengthy absence from
the stage. He may not have wanted his audience to see him
in that light, but it’s a testament to his vision that this
film is even possible. Even when he’s just walking through
the songs, Jackson is an electrifying force.
from more than 150 hours of footage originally intended for
the performer’s private archive, This Is It provides
an inside look at the preparations for a 50-concert series
that was scheduled to take place in London over the second
half of this year. The film could have been a shambolic mess,
but it avoids disaster by sticking to what fans would want
to see: It’s wall-to-wall music, sequenced approximately as
the shows were to have been. There’s no gossip, not even a
single mention of Jackson’s death, just the nuts and bolts
of what would have been an outstanding spectacle.
glimpse into Jackson’s inner sanctum does a better job of
refuting the rumor-mongers than any amount of talking could.
For all those who claimed that Jackson looked frail, there
are dozens of intense dance sequences. The performer rarely
stands still, choreographing his body movements to every lyric.
For anyone who suggested his voice was no longer up to par,
witness his ad lib on “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You.” He’s
not singing at full voice—he’s just “warming up,” saving himself
for the concerts—but it’s all there. Whoever said Jackson
wasn’t having a good time should see his wide smile in the
closing moments of “They Don’t Care About Us.”
choreographed and directed by Kenny Ortega, were to incorporate
newly filmed segments. The new footage shown here ranges from
goofball clever (a piece introducing “Smooth Criminal” inserts
Jackson into such film noir as Gilda and The Big
Sleep) to patently unnecessary (a 3-D “Thriller” redux).
But those are just distractions; the music is what’s important.
And Jackson clearly lived and breathed his work, something
not just backed up by the testimony of his dancers and band
members but also in the very nonmusical way the singer spoke
about music. “You gotta be nourished by it,” he tells his
band, and via This Is It fans can once again be nourished
by Jackson’s one-of-a-kind talent.