Michael Jackson’s This Is It ****
Tragedies really have the power to inspire people and this is very evident in moviegoers. Prior to his death last year Heath Ledger was a star much seen but little talked about, with many of his films being largely ignored by the majority of cinemagoers, yet following his death everything he had ever done took on a new dimension and interest in his performance in The Dark Knight shot through the roof. Granted it was an excellent performance regardless, but it really seemed like Ledger’s death made everyone so much more interested in him. Similarly, the death of Michael Jackson earlier this year has transformed the way people think of the once titled king of pop. For many years Jackson’s musical talents have gone almost completely ignored, the focus constantly being on the numerous controversies surrounding the star. Essentially, his many positive contributions to the world were being overlooked in favour of his few alleged negative actions. Now, following his death though, the focus has firmly shifted back on to his positive side. His funeral, broadcast for the world to see, was a celebration of all his terrific achievements and all the good he has brought to the world, and now Michael Jackson’s This Is It once again aims to show the man behind all the controversy purported by the media for the showman he really was.
As the grisly details of Michael Jackson’s untimely death continue to dominate tabloid front pages, director Kenny Ortega focuses instead on what made the performer a global phenomenon in the first place. Ortega has the right credentials for the task, having worked with the musical maestro himself as director and creative partner on his ill-fated This Is It world tour. What we get is an exclusive peek behind the scenes as Jackson and his troupe of dancers, musicians and choreographers prepare for the doomed comeback concert at London’s O2 arena. The footage will thrill Jackson fans and music enthusiasts alike as we’re given exclusive extraordinarily intimate and exclusive access to the star at work, from the gruelling audition stages to final rehearsals, as MJ adds the final flourished to the show that never was.
There has been some criticism that This Is It tries too hard to only show Michael Jackson in a positive light. This, though, is the whole point of the film – to show Jackson for the talent and showman he was. Consequently, anyone looking for a more definitive and balanced representation of the man would be better off waiting for the inevitable biopic. Anyone who wants to see a celebration of everything that was great about Jackson and his music, however, will find absolutely no fault with this film. While the film is essentially just raw footage compiled together, it is so well edited that it flows perfectly with a very organic and natural feel. As a result it works really well as a cinema going experience. The footage used (mostly intended either for Jackson’s personal library or for use in the concert itself) is a mix of live footage from the rehearsals, new film footage shot specifically for the concert, archive footage and vox pops featuring the crew who worked with him. All these aspects combined provide us with a startling insight into Jackson’s creative process and a look at what was surely going to have been a concert to end all concerts. Jackson was trying to push the boundaries – pushing the boundaries being what Jackson was all about – delivering a truly unique experience for the fans that would be unlike anything they had ever experienced before. The show was going to be so much more than just a concert, it was going to a massive multimedia experience. Sequences that were made specifically for the concert – and are included in this film – include a segment where Jackson’s backup dancers are multiplied a million times using CGI and green screen technology to create an infinite dancing army, Michael Jackson himself being digitally inserted into footage from classic black and white films Gilda starring Rita Hayworth and In a Lonely Place starring Humphrey Bogart, and even a 3D ‘Thriller’ sequence – although sadly the film is not in 3D so we don’t get to experience it fully. And, of course, the music cannot be ignored, with Jackson performing many of his biggest and best known songs and even a new song called This Is It. As you would expect the singing and music are truly sensational and overall the film serves as a fantastic tribute a truly talented singer whose death is a tragic loss to the world. This is a must see film for both fans of Michael Jackson and those who appreciate great music, and if you are looking for a perfect swansong for the man This Is It.
Review by Robert Mann BA (Hons)
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