The eagerly awaited concert film, "Michael Jackson's This Is It" is far more interesting as a sociological that as an artistic or cinematic phenomenon. I can't think of another movie that qualifies as a global media event as "This Is It," which is released in theatres worldwide on the same day, October 28, 2009, more or less at the same time.
A peculiar work, "This Is It" is surely entertaining, due to the great footage of Michael Jackson as a perfectionist performer who rehearses endlessly and tirelessly until he gets the number right. However, those expecting a probing documentary of the man and artist behind the scenes will be disappointed. What the film doesn't do is provide a privileged, or deep look at Jackson the man, despite promises that it will contain info that has never been seen before.
Produced by Randy Phillips, Paul Gongaware, and Kenny Ortega, who's also the nominal helmer, "This Is It" feels like an assemblage of footage rather than a coherent or revelatory portrait of a unique artist. Indeed, more than anything else, this restrained and balanced swan song serves as an honorable tribute to the King of Pop. As such, it will please the multitude of Jackson's fans around the world; repeated viewing is expected by many of the young aficionados. It remains to be seen to what extent this movie is critics-proof, though I think that really dissenting voices will be in minority position.
As you all know by now from the media blitz after Jackson's death, on June 25, "This Is It" is a chronicle of Jackson and his collaborators as they developed, created and rehearsed for his sold-out concerts, which would have taken place beginning this past summer in London’s O2 Arena.
Covering about three months, from March through June, the film was produced with the full support of the Estate of Michael Jackson, drawing from more than 100 hours of behind-the-scenes footage, which features Jackson rehearsing numerous songs for the show.
Raw, but not entirely candid or critical, "This Is It" is an invaluable historical document, offering the very last glimpses of Jackson "in action," trying to capture the multi-faceted and multi-talented man as a singer, dancer, filmmaker, architect, creative genius at work, as he and his collaborators move toward their goals of the London shows.
To be fair, "This Is It" is not a posthumous star trip, as it could have been. Nor is it a film that simply rehashes past events of Jackson's celebrated and controversial life. In moments, Ortega presents some powerful and revealing portrait of Jackson the artist as a grown man; he was 50 when he died.
Offering a window into some of the elements that go into the creative process, "This Is It" takes us viewer inside the rehearsal spaces during Michael Jackson’s last days, as he prepared to make what he knew could well be his last artistic stand as a live performer. We witness the ease and the kindness of Jackson’s communication with other performers, while always remaining in control.
Jackson the artist comes across as a man who always knew what he wanted.In some interactions, Jackson serves as a benevolent instructor. “You have to let it simmer,” he tells his music supervisor and keyboardist Michael Bearden as they work to fine-tune the tone for the beginning of “The Way You Make Me Feel.”
In largely empty halls, Jackson is seen using his creative instincts towards a show that he might have already envisioned and heard in his mind. At the end, he emerges as a confident and assured professional, rising above his troubled, scandalous life, and determined to give his audience all that he has as an artist.
The film's title is most appropriate and prophetic, too, considering the tragic off-screen events. In one willfully dramatic and succinct phrase, the film was meant to signal a grand farewell and, more importantly, a new beginning and a return to form. Credited to Jackson, the phrase was intended as a curtain call and a call to arms for greater love, peace, and friendship in the world, all symbols that the artist himself reportedly embodied and promoted.
Sadly, while "This Is It" was meant to offer a sense of maturation and completion, it now also offers a sense of finality.
Michael Jackson, Kenny Ortega, Michael Bearden, Travis Payne, Judith Hill, Orianthi Panagaris, Tommy Organ, Mo Pleasure, Stacy Walker, Tony Testa.
A Sony Pictures Entertainment release of a Columbia Pictures presentation in association with the Michael Jackson Co. and AEG Live.
Produced by Randy Phillips, Kenny Ortega, Paul Gongaware.
Executive producers, John Branca, John McClain.
Co-producers, Chantal Feghali, Frank Dileo.
Directed by Kenny Ortega.
Original concert production directed by Ortega, Michael Jackson, in association with Travis Payne. Camera), Tim Patterson, Sandrine Orabona.
Editors, Don Brochu, Brandon Key, Patterson, Kevin Stitt.
Music/music supervisor, Michael Bearden.
Production designer, Michael Cotton.
Lighting designer, Patrick Woodroffe.
Costume designers, Zaldy, Topaz Erin Lareau, Dennis Tompkins, Michael Bush; sound (Dolby Digital/SDDS/DTS), William Sheppell Jr.
Supervising sound editor, Tricia Linklater; re-recording mixers, Paul Massey, David Giammarco; choreography, Jackson, Payne.
Visual effects supervisor, Bruce Jones.
Associate producers, Bearden, Payne.
MPAA Rating: PG.
Running time: 111 Minutes.