Directed by Kenny Ortega (2009)
I was relaxing in a hotel right in the heart of New York’s Times Square the very day Michael Jackson died on June 25, 2009. Needless to say, I was shocked. And I was not the only one: the entire Times Square was stunned. It all happened so suddenly, so abruptly. The King of Pop was dead. I can’t say I’m a MJ fanatic, but I was definitely a huge fan. He easily gets a place in my top 3 vocalists of all time. It saddened me to see one of the music greats leave the scene forever.
But I’m relieved to know his legacy will continue, be it through his albums or this documentary, This Is It. I was aware of the film when it came out but just never had the chance to watch it, but I’m glad I finally did. It’s a brilliant look into the mind of a genius. Before he died, he was preparing for a series of concerts to be held in London, and this behind-the-scenes takes a look at his rehearsals.
The first thing that popped into my mind when I watched it was obviously the natural talent that flowed out of MJ. The MJ that this film portrays does not look sick, nor does he look like he was on the verge of dying. This MJ was filled with energy, with vibe, with the passion for his music, for his dancing and the desire to entertain his dedicated fans. Fans of his music will watch the entire film with their jaws dropping; how does he manage to consistently produce that beautiful voice we fell in love with in the first place? And I am no dancer (don’t bother asking me to demonstrate; you’ll just be scarred for life), but it doesn’t take a genius to realise just how revolutionary his dancing was. His naturally flowing motions made me wonder if he was really 50 at the time.
The other thing that struck me was the intensity of the rehearsals. It is by far no easy task to prepare perfectly for what may have been the most anticipated series of concerts in years. Yet I don’t see that disheartening MJ. In fact, it almost seems like he enjoys the pressure, forcing him to step up his game and produce something that exceeds the formidable expectations of his fans.
On the downside, the last half an hour or so got a bit draggy, but it’s to be expected since it’s a film that fuels itself solely on MJ’s music. I’ve heard that many MJ extremists criticised the film for feeding off MJ’s death with the sole intention of making a handsome profit. I’d disagree. I think it’s a present to the world, a window with a great view to see the genius in action. It was a bit weird though to see him act very childlike at certain moments. Just another part of the mystery that is MJ.
For fans of MJ’s music, it’s a must-watch, but for those who don’t like his music, then don’t bother. There’s not much other than MJ’s music and dancing; bits and pieces of the background dancers and musicians which I found interesting, but not enough to single-handedly lift the film. For those who have never listened to his music, or for those who haven’t quite formulated an opinion about MJ, give it a shot. You might just come to love the man and his music, dancing and passion.
Personal Highlights: Near the beginning of the film, MJ sings a stripped-down version of Human Nature, my personal favourite of his songs. You can feel the raw emotion behind it and it’s one of his best performances in the entire film. Also keep an eye out for Orianthi, the female guitarist with the magic fingers and easily one of the current great guitarists. It’s good to know she’s garnering more attention for her talent after this film was released.