REVIEW – Michael Jackson’s This Is It

Fade out

Michael Jackson’s This is it
Directed by Kenny Ortega

(Inquirer Libre Nov 12 2009)
BITIN (roughly, abruptly short). That’s the best word to describe Michael Jackson’s This is It. Shown in theaters worldwide in the last two weeks, the presentation proves MJ’s boxoffice draw even after his untimely death.

It’s essentially an edited behind the scenes footage of his rehearsals, a veritable collection of his All Time Hits from Beat It to Smooth Criminal to, of course, Thriller. Michael Jackson’s This Is It, fittingly as the credits rolled in the beginning, says that the movie is for the fans.

This is not a documentary. At least not in the strict concept that a documentary still has to tell a story, because there’s no stories here exept showing that MJ rehearsed. It provides little insight save for a few comments voiced by director Kenny Ortega, who would have directed Jackson’s final concert in London if not for the accident. If anything, This is It proves MJ as the consummate performer, and that his music and his dance moves will  stay influential for a long period of time.

Is it cinematic? No. As a presentation, it felt like I was watching a theater-sized special section of a concert dvd. That guarantees that I’ll buy the original dvd when it comes out and play it in my 6.1 surround speakers. It may not be the concert itself, but very much close to attending one.

I was able to catch MJ’s Manila leg of his HIStory Concert at Asiaworld in Pasay back in 1995. I was near to the stage enough to see which songs he sang live and which ones he lip-synched. But he danced, and it was him live, so it didn’t matter if “Hello Manila” and “I love you Manila” were his only attempts at audience interaction.

In the movie, seeing him up close perspiring, or with day-old stubbles, or simply talking normally, takes away the icon behind the gloves and shades and reveals as real a human being as we can see him. Hearing the songs in a THX-certified cinema also helped in creating that (pre-) concert feeling.

If there’s any surprise that This is It showed, it is that his dancers are the other stars of his shows. Just before the Smooth Criminal segment, footage of auditions for his principal dancers was shown, at some point, making me “wow” at a guy who was, as best as I can describe it, bounced on the stage on his back. Did it also help that they all looked good, male and female dancers?

A favorite piece is the section on The Way You Make Me Feel, showing “construction workers” silhouetted high above a skyscraper and climbing down as MJ began singing the song. In Thriller, he showed the same old moves as featured in the classic music video. Interestingly, the movie showed that the production filmed new content for Thriller in 3D format. I seriously doubt this applicable in the concerts, so I must surmise that they had planned to put this feature in the dvd version of the full concert.

In Billy Jean, MJ proves without a doubt that he is a performer unparalleled, when he starts dancing solo without music, gyrating to the beat that existed only in his mind. Finally, I was surprised at how updated he was on environmental issues, as he was aware that there are four years left to work on our issues before the tipping point comes. That made the last piece of the film less trivial for me.

This Is It may not be the best way for MJ to bid farewell to his fans, but it is what we have and it’s more than good enough. This movie emphasizes how much we enjoy his persformances, that it would have been better if it had been the real show. Then again he was gone too soon.

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