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Michael Jackson's This Is It (7/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 112 minutes.

OK for children.

This film has been put together using over 100 hours of video taken during rehearsals for the show Michael Jackson was preparing before his demise. It is basically a complete show with the songs shown in their entirety. Fortunately, this isnít burdened by MTV-type quick cuts. Instead the camera lingers on Michael from several angles. But there arenít a lot of cuts, and the music is clearly the prime focus.

I wasnít a devotee of his music. Except for ďThrillerĒ and ďBillie Jean,Ē the music here didnít inspire me to any paroxysm of ecstasy. In fact, the audio for ďBillie JeanĒ sounded so much like the sound track that Iím not entirely convinced that what is in the film isnít dubbed from the audio of the recording.

Whatís interesting is to see Jackson in action. Clearly he was full of energy. His dancing certainly displays his fast feet. Heís skinny, but not really emaciated. He doesnít look like heís on deathís doorstep. Even more interesting is that he appears in total control. He knows exactly what he wants and how he wants it and he conveys that in a way that exhibits the power he knew he had. Everybody involved hangs on his every word. This is clearly a guy who is not just admired, but idolized by those in his world, which include mostly gypsies (dancers) and singers.

The amount of work he put into this show couldnít fail to be impressive. He wrote all the music, and there is a lot of new music. This isnít just Michael singing and dancing to all his old hits.

Another thing I liked about it is that Michael has a real understanding of the importance of the rainforest, and his music is aimed at bringing attention to the rainforest and its destruction. This is something that has been ignored by ignoramuses like Al Gore, who apparently doesnít have a clue that if man has anything to do with whatever climate change might be taking place, it is only in manís destruction of the rainforest and the criminal neglect of this by politicians like Gore and his boss, Bill Clinton (for more on the rainforest, see The Rainforest). Al should see this film and pay attention to the rainforest.

One problem I had with the film was that the film doesnít tell whether or not we are seeing what was planned to be the entire concert, or the format, the lineup in which the numbers were going to be presented. It also bounces back and forth because in the same song sometimes Michael is dressed in different clothes. It would have been much easier to watch if the chronology of when what is shown was shot and if there was a more detailed explanation of what we are seeing and how it was put together. As it is, the hundreds of hours have been shuffled together and put into what seems to be a show. The way it is presented is discombobulating.

One of the best parts of this was that the screening was at Graumanís Chinese, a legendary Hollywood theater that not many people attend any more. I used to go to it all the time when I was growing up, but, even though films are still shown there, itís been eclipsed by the multiplex upstairs at the adjoining Kodak Theater complex (where the Academy Awards now take place).

The Chinese is a large theater. I estimated around 1200 seats. I thought it would be packed, SRO. I remember going to the Spiderman II screening several years ago at a huge theater in Westwood. It held 2,000 people and there was not an empty seat to be had. Unlike that screening, there were several hundred empty seats at our screening.

Finally, I think itís relevant for the context of this review to state my opinion of Michael Jackson, since his history, especially his criminal trial, has made him controversial. I never bought the allegation that he abused young children. My opinion is that he was asexual and that what he did with young children was out of sexless affection. I think his acquittal was appropriate and donít think that he should be adorned with a scarlet letter for the rest of eternity. One virulently leftwing friend of my guest at the screening castigated her for attending anything that had anything to do with Michael Jackson. I think that kind of attitude uncharitable and unfair.

This isnít the greatest documentary ever made, nor is it full of terrific music, unless you just live or die with Michael Jackson, although it is full of music. But it is extremely well done, a fascinating, high energy snapshot of a music idol shortly before an untimely death. Whether or not you are a fan of his music, the music is very entertaining.