First off, I would just like to state that I write this review as a ‘normal’ fan of music, and of many artists, including Michael Jackson.
I am not one of those people who gets hysterical at the mention of his name, and I am not one of those people who worships absolutely everything that MJ did; I am just your average Joe. I say this, as I am most likely about to rave over this movie, and although it’s a little sad that I feel the need to say this, I would like for people to see that I went to the movie with an open mind and am not just gushing for the sake of it! I genuinely enjoyed watching it.
So, now that’s said, let us begin 🙂
Myself, Tom and Carlos went to see ‘This Is It‘ on the first evening at Greenwich (UK) IMAX (and opted for Premium Seats) – in theory, giving us the best seats for this in the country! Oh, and yes, I did stay up until Midnight on the 27th September to book them! 🙂
All three of us thought that the movie was absolutely fantastic, and I think I can safely say that we all left the cinema thinking that the shows at the O2 would undoubtably have been the shows of his career (and the best we’d ever seen!). For me, saying that is quite something as, due to the nature of my job, I get to see a lot of concerts and shows, definitely more than your average person I reckon.
(I recommend watching the trailer in full screen HD – it’s awesome!)
What Sony/AEG have done is to stitch together an awful lot of rehearsal footage and essentially recreate the concert that never was. As you would expect, not all of the shots are of cinematographic quality and there is little in the way of narration, but then, we know this is not what the movie is about. In fact, the movie barely mentions Michael’s death, and they have seemingly resisted the urge to make it overly poignant and soppy. This film aims to try and showcase the potential that ‘This Is It’ had for you and me, as audience members at the O2 Arena, to see had we been sat there with 20,000 other people – it is not a documentary.
I have seen a lot of negative reviews in the British media, with many people saying that they hated it and that it was clearly rubbish as “MJ didn’t even look close to death” (erm, hello, drug overdose/heart attack!). They also do not seem to have grasped the concept of the movie, which is somewhat annoying. The media seem to be jaded against anything that is being released by The Michael Jackson Company at the moment – I guess it is easier to be critical/cynical than supportive / open-minded at this time.
Anyway, I have rambled, sorry! I just don’t want people to be taken in by all of the 2 and 3 star reviews that are out there which are based on ‘This Is It’ as a documentary/bio-pic and not as it being clips of rehearsal footage of a concert. I disagree with the notion that “MJ’s vocals and dancing abilities had clearly deteriorated” – the guy was at a fairly relaxed rehearsal, and was also taking in all aspects of the show itself at the same time, so wouldn’t have given the singing/dancing 100%! He seems to have put an awful lot of effort in, especially considering these were just preliminary rehearsals, and I doubt you’d have gotten footage anywhere near this intense/professional had it been a rehearsal of any other artist.
What really comes across in this movie is the attention to detail that MJ had for his craft. Every minute detail seemed to be scrutinised by him, and it was clear that he was always very conscious of giving the audience a show and knew exactly what they wanted. He was the ultimate showman, and I would say that he was on par with the great Freddie Mercury. I think that he had put a lot of pressure on himself for this show, however I think that this would have been true of any tour that he was working on – he came across as being a bit of a perfectionist. To his credit he could have said ‘I’m Michael Jackson, they’ll love me anyway’ and put a whole less effort in. What I also came to respect was that MJ was really the one who put the tour together – Kenny Ortega came across as a bit of a ‘yes-man’ and I would go as far to say that MJ was definitely the person inputting all of the creativity into the partnership, and seemingly retained total control over proceedings.
A few people are saying that MJ came across a bit of a diva in his quest for perfection due to a few recorded moments shown in the movie. It’s sad that they can’t recognise these as also being endearingly funny moments. The best of which was when MJ had the ear feed blaring down his ear, and he stopped the performance and whined ‘It’s like it’s fisting my ear’ and then proceeded to do several fisting movements, at force! LOL! It was moments such as these, that made the audience chuckle and added some humanity to the rehearsal in my opinion. Yes, he’s having a bit of a strop, but in a lovable ‘oh Michael’ kind of way. You know that when he watched it back (if indeed he ever did – the rehearsals were originally recorded as footage for his personal archive) that he would have giggled a little too. Two other bits that will stick with me include when he was on the mechanical arm and Kenny has to shout ‘Michael, please, HOLD ON!’, and also when MJ’s eyes suddenly light up and he randomly shouts out ‘burn it!’ heh. The moment with the “Well… I’ll just feel it” and the subsequent (but petulant) compromise to have video screen off-stage instead on the cue to start singing on Smooth Criminal also made me chuckle.
The show would have been a technical triumph in my opinion. All of the pre-recorded CGI / 3D shots looked really good, and the new staged version of Thriller looked simply stunning. Surprisingly, it seemed to be Michael pushing the boundary, especially with things such as his choice of clothing for the show (they should have shown us!), and I think that it gives a small glimpse of just how well he was able to keep up with the times and breaking/emerging technology to ensure that he put on a truly sensational show.
I was very pleased to see all my favourite tracks on the set list (Beat It, Smooth Criminal, They Don’t Care About Us, Heal The World), though it was a pity my other favourite ‘Leave Me Alone’ wasn’t on the bill. It goes without saying that I enjoy Thriller, Man In The Mirror, Billie Jean, Earth Song et al very much too, just those mentioned are my absolute favourites!
The audience in the cinema were largely receptive, and often applauded. If you want to see every last second, there are a few more clips right at the very very end (but you have to look silly by sitting in the cinema on your own with the cleaners working around you, as everyone else WILL leave heh!).
I have been fairly close to the tour since MJ’s death due to my employment, and it was especially nice for me to get a glimpse of what is currently causing me a lot of stress and late nights. I mean that in a nice way though, seeing this footage definitely makes it all worthwhile, it genuinely does. We even get a thanks (by extension) in the credits, hurrah!
It will remain one of pop music’s biggest tragedies that this show was never seen in full by anyone, however I think that the decision to release this footage as a movie was a great one. Forget about it being released to make money (the world is largely a capitalist one; you can’t criticise Sony / AEG for doing this in my opinion), it was a release that I think that the fans needed, and fans of live entertainment would have been dismayed not to have seen. It was great to see Michael relaxed in rehearsals, and not acting for anyone or being a showman for the massive crowds, though his personal wardrobe was admittedly garish heh! A great 111 minutes, and I will definitely be purchasing the DVD of the movie, and watching it time and time again!
I’d like to close this post with the final paragraph of a review piece by Sitafa Harden and published on DigitalJournal.com (I’d recommend checking out the full review – I agree with this person’s sentiments exactly – especially regarding the ‘lack of interest’ that people seem to have over the release of ‘This Is It’):
This film left no doubt that if Jackson’s final show had gone on it would have been a glorious success. For his fans that realization was bittersweet. Some cried. For 111 minutes he was alive again. And when the movie ended, most of them remained in their seats watching all the credits until finally the screen went black, wishing and hoping there would be just one more clip or sound bite. But, sadly, regretfully, finally…that was it.