Sony // 2009 // 111 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // January 26th, 2010
"This is the moment. This is it." -- Michael Jackson
Some fans thought it was too soon, and they protested releasing footage of Michael Jackson preparing for what would have been his biggest comeback tour ever. Michael was a perfectionist, and surely he would not want people to see him rehearsing. But amidst all the drama of doctors being charged with murder, people discussing his legacy, children threatened with DNA testing, and the media invading Neverland, This Is It came out to show what Michael Jackson was first and foremost. He was a musician and a consummate showman, the world's greatest performer. We needed one last reminder to seal his true identity as the boy who grew up to dazzle everybody.
Michael Jackson's This Is It is simply put an hour and a half of raw rehearsal footage assembled by tour director Kenny Ortega. They were preparing a run of over fifty shows at the London O2 arena, and rehearsing the whole thing in Los Angeles at the Staples Center and the Forum. The footage includes a time period from April through June of 2009, all captured by Michael's private cameras that were meant for him to watch to tweak his own shows and performance. The footage looks amazingly clear, and we get an idea of what ninety minutes of the show could have looked like had it happened.
Songs performed in the film:
1. "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'"
4. "They Don't Care About Us"
5. "Human Nature" ¡
6. "Smooth Criminal" *
7. "The Way You Make Me Feel"
8. "I Want You Back"
9. "The Love You Save"
10. "I'll Be There"
11. "Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)"
12. "I Just Can't Stop Loving You" (duet with Judith Hill)
14. "Beat It
15. "Black or White"
16. "Earth Song"
17. "Billie Jean"
18. "Man in the Mirror"
19. "This Is It" (played during the credits)
20. "Heal the World" (played during the credits)
The revelations here are that Michael Jackson was not frail or sick, although he does appear to be desperately thin throughout. Yet any drug abuse or rumored lack of strength is not on display in the slightest. He is a fifty year old man who dances and sings nonstop without complaint or the slightest hesitation. We never see a diva fit or a time when he loses his temper. We do get to see him instructing dancers, musicians, and stage hands gently through exactly what he wants with painstaking detail. It is amazing to see Michael Jackson in his own element surrounded by other artists that are just as thrilled to be working as he is. He's kind and courteous to them, and they sit out in the audience cheering when they can. You realize that he is holding back a bit saving his voice and all out energy for a performance, yet what the results are still dazzle.
Blu-ray is a natural fit for This Is It because many sequences involve the high definition images that Jackson would have used behind him and his dancers. Also concerts and stages are naturally dark places, and the extra resolution makes the footage all the clearer. The picture is delivered in full HD 1080, and the results are incredibly true to life color and clarity. The audio delivers a full surround experience with great levels and excellent mixing of live music. They have to resort to subtitles often when Michael Jackson speaks, but for the most part everything is captured extremely well. It is hard to believe this was simply a couple of cameras that were there just to document and provide rehearsal footage for private use.
Extras include two documentaries about the production of the tour, which go into the nuts and bolts of the concepts and execution of certain aspects of the show. There are also three featurettes that honor Michael Jackson including a look at his costumes, memories from people close to him, and a look at how they selected the best dancers from around the world to share his stage. Exclusive to the Blu-ray disc are vignettes from the show that would have accompanied the songs "Thriller" and "Smooth Criminal." There is also a "making of" feature on the green screen CGI process of making the "Smooth Criminal" sequence which inserted Michael into classic movies. There is also the BD Live aspect which was not available to us at the time of this review, but will probably be pretty active on release week as fans snatch up the disc.
Don't expect a polished show: Michael marks quite a few things vocally without even singing a whole song in many instances. He's constantly telling the staff he is saving his voice, and it does seem like at times he is simply running through the motions as anybody would be in a rehearsal. You will have to go back to previous concert releases on disc if you truly want to see and hear what a Michael Jackson concert is like as a finished product. This simply gives fans insight into what he was working on, and makes you very sad that he never got to launch what would have been a pretty spectacular show.
I had heard through many sources including other reviews that the insights into who Michael Jackson was were incredible during This Is It. Really? Cause I am seeing a man who is a consummate professional, but one who does not show his private life on film at all. It's certainly not like what Madonna gave us with Truth or Dare where we saw her backstage antics. The cameras are only out front and center, the performance is, indeed, it. Is it a surprise that Jackson is a hard working entertainer who dances really well and demands the best of his staff? It's reassuring to see that he was not as strange as we would have guessed getting ready for a tour, but the world knew he was a performer.
If you are a fan of Michael Jackson, this is a must buy. Plus, on Blu-ray, you get great images and a little more in the extras department. I can't imagine anybody passing up the chance to see what Michael was working on if they enjoyed his career. Is Michael Jackson's This Is It simply a money grab on the part of his estate and concert promoters who lost their investments? In part you have to say yes, but on the other hand it is also a loving tribute to a man who was a consummate showman. Anything Michael was offstage disappeared, when he stepped out under the lights and started dancing. It is spooky how natural and comfortable he looks once the music starts. I don't think I have ever seen him as relaxed, happy, and at home. The performance was it for him and the world.
Guilty of showing us what might have been, had Michael Jackson lived just a
little while longer.
Review content copyright © 2010 Brett Cullum; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
Running Time: 111 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Cinema Verdict Review