Michael Jackson was arguably the greatest entertainer that the world has ever seen. From his days as frontman of the Jackson Five, it was obvious that Michael’s talent was something that, whilst often replicated, could never be matched. His evolution from cutesy childstar to seasoned veteran was watched and observed by fans and critics alike and although he experienced many ups and downs throughout his career, no matter what you may read about him, there can be little doubt that his prowess as a musical force can be called into question.
On 25th June 2009, as Michael was in preparation for his mammoth 50 date London residency at the o2 Arena, he suffered a heart attack and sadly passed away. The world was never to see the King of Pop perform.
‘This Is It’ was pieced together from over 100 hours of concert rehearsal footage and shows Michael in a rarely seen state of mind.
Going into the cinema, I have to admit that I wasn’t too sure what to expect. Even as a big MJ fan myself, I have to admit that most projects he has put his name to have been saccharine sweet affairs (see Moonwalker – the film and the book) that give an image of Michael that he wants us to see, rather than a true reflection of the man behind the music.
However, within minutes of seeing the first few snippets of the man himself, you could tell that this is probably the most relaxed version of Michael Jackson that we have seen. Gone is the softly spoken, eccentric, recluse. Instead, we get a(relatively) normal voiced, self assured perfectionist taking pride in his art. This is Michael Jackson in full-on professional mode. No chimpanzees, no face masks, no dangling babies; just one man in his element – with his music.
Michael shares production credits with Mr High School Musical, Kenny Ortega but from the outset, there can be no doubt who is running the show. ‘This is It’ shows Michael in control. Every aspect of every song is picked apart by MJ, showing an extraordinary eye for detail which can only have been earned through his forty years in the industry.
‘These are my songs. I want them played how the fans hear them.’
I was always worried that given MJ’s much publicised health problems, he would not be able to perform like he could. In truth, Michael never fully hits the moves like he did even 10 years ago but we must remember that this is REHEARSAL footage and not even dress rehearsal. Even taking this into account, Michael on a half arsed day is better than most modern day performers on their best days. AND lets not forget that the man was 50 years old! I find it very hard to imagine my father busting out some robotic moves without putting his back out.
Oddly enough, the parts that most surprised me were not the usual up-tempo songs but the slower ballads, which really enabled us to hear Michael’s voice in full force. His performance of Human Nature was a standout, as were I’ll Be There and I Just Can’t Stop Loving You (not usually my favourite songs!) Michael may have lost a few of his trademark spins and fancy footwork but his voice remains as strong as ever as he battles through these songs.
Much has been made of this film not living up to expectations and if you came expecting something groundbreaking then you may be disappointed. However, if you have a genuine love for music and Michael Jackson, in particular, then I would suggest you make an effort to see this film. What you will get is an insight into the last piece of work that the King of Pop laid his hand to and an understanding that without the extravagance and controversy of his final years was an individual who was at his most comfortable when on stage with his music.