I have never held back about my sour feelings about the late Michael Jackson, but I did think it was important for me to see Michael Jackson’s This Is It, the concert film documenting MJ’s rehearsals of the concert series of the same name which was scheduled to start on July 13, 2009, but warned because of MJ’s death on June 25, 2009.
It’s hard to tell a life-story with mere behind the scenes footage, and anyone expecting the movie to be a biography will be disappointed. Instead, what the movie offered was a rare glimpse of MJ at work. And what a glimpse that turns out to be indeed.
One of the biggest impacts the movie is likely to have on moviegoers is to dispel, once and for all, the myth that MJ was a frail, over-medicated icon, who was too sick and feeble to have really been able to pull off a multi-billion dollar tour. If he was as sick and frail as he was purported to be, his appearance certainly does not reflect it. If he was as medicated on painkillers as was revealed after his death, there is no hint of that in his perfectly synchronized movements while he practiced dance steps with people more than twenty years his junior.
Indeed there’s nothing about MJ that one sees in the movie to suggest he was a brilliant, past his time musician, as he was so often caricatured by the tabloids. Instead, what one gets to see is an MJ who is fully engaged and firmly in control as he instructs dancers and instrumentalists on what to do and oversees choreography and lighting changes.
The MJ one sees rehearsing in the movie is as vibrant, energetic and as animated as the moon-walking, crotch-grabbing, sequined-jacket-wearing Jackson in his prime. When he belts out classics such as “Wanna Be Startin ‘Something”, “Thriller”, “Smooth Criminal”, “I Just Can not Stop Loving You” and “The Way You Make Me Feel”, it’s the larger-than-life MJ one gets to see once again – and not just because he was on a giant IMAX screen.
However, if there’s one thing about the movie that some may find to be a bit of a drag, it’s the special tour films and backstage interviews with gushing, starry-eyed dancers, musicians and others in Jackson’s troupe. The objection is not because these interspersed clips are uninteresting, but because they tend to interrupt the main attraction.
My verdict? This Is It would have made a great tour. But now that Jackson’s gone, there’s no telling how big a success that tour would have been. Nonetheless, the rumors were false. The naysayers were plain wrong. Whatever his personal travails might have been, more than two decades after his prime, MJ the musician, still had it in him. And I am now no longer ashamed to have his greatest hits in my mp3 collection.
Featured Image: Screen Talk