This fly on the wall experience of what it takes to put together a large scale boundary-pushing production is entertaining for it’s showman as much as it is a behind the scenes peek at what looks to have been an amazing show.
Remove yourself from all the outside personal turmoil of Jackson’s life and you are left with the undisputed King of Pop. This is on full display in This Is It, the new documentary compiled from footage of the rehearsal for Michael’s planned 50 show run that was due to take place at London’s O2 Arena prior to his death earlier this year. The doc is the closest fans have of experiencing what would have been a pretty amazing show and what would prove to be Michael’s final performances. It opens noting that the footage is pulled from what was essentially professionally shot footage for Michael’s personal collection and production footage shot for portions of the show. What follows is a comprehensive documentary that walks through the rehearsals and effort that goes into a large scale production not afraid to try new things.
Getting caught up in some of Michael’s off stage tabloid fare is easy to do. This is unfortunate as I had forgotten how much of a pure entertainer he could be, what earned him the title of the King of Pop. Watching This Is It was a good reminder of his talents as an artist and showman. He also comes across as a genuinely appreciative and nice guy at moments who was truly in love with what he did. Not once did he come across like an artist with tangents over something not going precisely to his liking. It was also hard to believe, seeing this footage, that he was in the alleged shape that he was rumored to be in prior to his death. He seems vibrant with dance moves that are spot on with those of his younger dance troupe who are in top physical form and training, not bad for a guy 50 years old.
The film’s musical numbers play as a greatest hits of Michael’s history. He sounded really good considering he complained a couple of times about just warming up and not wanting to give it his vocal all, being rehearsals. I wondered how much of the audio was from the actual rehearsal audio as the credits would seem to indicate that master tracks were used, I have a feeling liberally, for the music numbers since some sound very similar to their studio counterparts. There were also four back up singers that seemed to do some of the heavy lifting on several tracks, considering the amount of work Michael was doing this isn’t surprising for the amount of dancing he was doing.
There isn’t too much making of type footage in the mix here. Just enough to peek the interest for one who might be interested in the efforts that take place to stage a concert, especially one of this scale. The film also keeps a laser sharp focus on documenting the making of This Is It. It never strays off course and stays entertaining through out. I never considered myself to be a Michael Jackson fan. While This Is It certainly won’t change that stance, it did make me walk away admiring the artist for the contributions that he did make while he was with this, and the amount of joy it seemed to bring him doing as such. Much like Michael’s infectious music, so is this film.
Tip: Stay through out all the credits for a couple of bonuses I shall not ruin here.
This Is It receives 3 “Kings of Pop” out of 5.
By John Coovert