Released shortly after his passing, Michael Jackson’s This is It is more than a concert documentary, but it’s a celebration of his life. Given unprecedented access into the behind-the-scenes production of creating Jackson’s stage show, Michael Jackson’s This is It probably tells us more about the singer than any documentary or interview before has ever revealed. Here we get a look at the real Michael Jackson, make for a simultaneous heart-wrenching but exhilarating experience.
Michael Jackson’s This is It offers Jackson fans and music lovers worldwide a rare, behind-the-scenes look at the performer as he developed, created and rehearsed his sold-out concerts that would have taken place beginning this summer in London’s O2 Arena. Chronicling the months from April through June 2009, the film is drawn from more than one hundred hours of behind-the-scenes footage, featuring Jackson rehearsing a number of his songs for the show. Audiences will be given a privileged ad private look at the singer, dancer, filmmaker, architect and genius as he creates and perfects his finals how.
I can think of no better salute to the legacy of Michael Jackson than Michael Jackson’s This is It . Delving into the rehearsals for his 2009 London tour, also titled “This Is It,” we get a fascinating documentation of Jackson’s passions in his final days. Passing on June 25th, 2009, weeks before his new tour was set to kick off, what we see here is raw look at Jackson’s dedication to his showmanship and music. And it’ll move you.
I know that last line sounds somewhat saccharine, perhaps overselling it, but it’s true. There is a sense of melancholy when watching this movie, already knowing the tragic end this all leads to for Jackson. But, amazingly, this documentary manages to overcome that. Yes, it’s a look at Jackson’s final days as he preps for an extensive tour, but it also revels in how staggeringly talented this man is. His gift, his personality, all of it, is so humbling and just hard to overlook. We see what he born to do, and he does it so, so well. The world lost one of its preeminent entertainers, and that’s never more so apparent here. He has everything down to a fine detail, and it’s mesmerizing to see him break down the whole show and approach it bit by bit.
Here we see Jackson, ever the perfectionist in every single aspect of the show to a remarkable level, go through each beat of the planned show. He belts out a collection of his songs, changes into costume after costume and goes through his performance to what seems to be the smallest detail possible. And he does it all in such a soft-spoken yet authoritative manner. We also get a look at some of the more technical parts of the show and just how well-planned and perfect this has to be. It’s a revelation to see how being a couple seconds late, whether it’s slow spotlight or not getting across the stage in the right time, how it can just throw everything off. Pretty fascinating stuff.
We also get an extended look at most of his back-up dancers and crew members. We see some of the selection process to join Jackson on tour, the history a lot of these musicians have in the business, and how everyone in the show crew is meticulously selected.
And, surprisingly, all of this is brought together with a convincing and compelling narrative. Director Kenny Ortega has done a remarkable job culling hundreds of hours of footage into an unforgettable experience, but it feels more than that. It’s the final portrait of Jackson, undoubtedly, in his element and simply excelling, and we’re there to celebrate it. An over-the-top comment? Perhaps, but it’s such an invigorating and fascinating look that truly does act as more than a simply concert film.
Michael Jackson’s This is It is a celebration of the artist whose impact is still felt, even after his passing, on a worldwide scale. While this movie serves as a reminder of the talent we’ve lost, it’s also a celebration of what we gained from him. Sure, it’s strictly a concert film that doesn’t deviate out of that setting (we never see Jackson anywhere but rehearsing, pretty much), but it’s able to tell a grandeur story using the concert as the stage (weak pun intended). There’s drama, there’s laughs, there are simply jaw-dropping moments and there are tears. I completely understand why some consider Michael Jackson’s This is It to be an emotional rollercoaster, especially when the film is put in context of the entire year. Most importantly, it’s a solid tribute to the type of performer we’ll never see again. Jackson was truly one of a kind, and this film pays credit to his unique attributes. Without question, Michael Jackson’s This is It comes Highly Recommended.
Now, to the Blu-ray portion of this review…
Sony Home Entertainment is releasing Michael Jackson’s This is It in the standard Blu-ray trappings. A nice embossed cardboard slipcase mimics the regular Blu-ray case underneath, resulting in a nice, understated package. A good move on Sony’s part, I’d say. I’d find it a bit disrespectful if they took a flashy approach to the packaging myself. So, it looks good on the outside, yes, but what about within?
Considering the source of the video, a mix of standard definition and high definition cameras used to shoot this rehearsal footage, the video here is really satisfying. While I wouldn’t cite the quality as reference, Michael Jackson’s This is It looks really vivid and exceptional. The standard definition material does look good, but the high definition material really excels. It’s surprisingly crisp and clean, with details readily apparent on all fronts. Again, really exceptional! The shift between standard and high definition is apparent, but it’s easily forgivable given just how this concert documentary was put together. Trumping the video, however, is the stunning DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless mix. Without question, this is probably the best Jackson’s music has ever sounded. The track here is just wonderfully executed, it really is, as everything sounds so powerful. Every song sounds stunning and robust, absolutely perfect. And when the soundtrack isn’t blaring, the quieter scenes sound just as articulate, just as clear. Every little nuance seems dead on, and a single note is never missed with this amazing lossless track.
For bonus content, there’s a nice assortment of extras here. “Staging the Return: The Adventure Begins” and “Staging the Return: Beyond the Show” are the highly-touted extras here, coming off as more of a natural extension of the movie itself. We see Michael Jackson developing, creating and rehearsing for the sold-out “This is It” tour, along with cast, crew, friends and family commenting on the star himself and his mammoth legacy, including the role “This is It” plays. We get a more details on the tour itself, including more of Michael’s vision for the show, the use of 3D, and making sure this concert was more than…well, just a concert.
Additional features include a series of featurettes, including “The Gloved One,” a costume themed featurette; “Memories of Michael” in which the cast and crew pay tribute to the legacy of Michael Jackson; “Auditions: Searching for the World’s Best Dancers,” spotlight the search for the show’s incredibly talented backup dancers and taking a closer look at those who made the cut. The complete and uncut versions of “Smooth Criminal” and “Thriller,” two new vignettes seen briefly in the film along with an accompanied “Making of Smooth Criminal” featurette, are also included. These vignettes are great features that I’m glad to see Sony included, especially since we only see a snippet of them in the movie. Great move on their part. The featurette covers how Jackson was integrated into the classic movie footage, among other aspects of creating the vignette. The disc is wrapped up with trailers, including the theatrical trailer for Michael Jackson’s This is It, and a collection of BD-live content, including access to trivia and movie-related content.
Sony Home Entertainment has done Michael Jackson’s This is It justice with this solid Blu-ray release. The extras act as a perfect complement to the main feature, actually adding and expanding on an already fascinating look at the King of Pop and what would have been his biggest tour. We see more of Jackson’s ideas and wants of the tour, more on those involved, more on what this show would have been, and so on. The bonus content is a great expansion on the main feature. All of this, thankfully, is wrapped up with some excellent audio and video transfers and brought together in a simple but effective package. Invigorating and surprisingly moving, Michael Jackson’s This is It is an unforgettable celebration of Jackson’s storied abilities, and Sony has put together a Blu-ray release that definitely earns its Highly Recommended rating.
Michael Jackson’s This is It arrives on Blu-ray and DVD on January 26th, 2010.