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Starring: Michael Jackson, Kenny Ortega, Orianthi

Director: Kenny Ortega

Writer: N/A

Cinematography: Kevin Mazur

Original Music: Michael Jackson

Running Time: 112 Mins.

This, Michael Jackson fans, I am afraid to say, is not It, if what you were expecting was something deifinitive that gave you the full immersive experience of the King of Pop. If on the other hand you aren’t a fan of the man or even music This Is It will offer nothing aside from more poison to fuel your dislike, despite displaying a slightly more real and less media-whorish vision of the man within. I have to admit that I am a fan of Jackson, always have been, not I assure you, a die-hard fan that wept upon his death or stood his corner upon the accusations of child-abuse etc. more one who appreciated his worth as a genius of both music and dance, the stage was udoubtedly where Jackson seemed most at ease.

So it is rather fitting that his last moments (other than the macabre shots seen in Hello magazine) were those caught in the preparations that ran up to his “final curtain” (as the man himself put it) residency at Londons O2 Arena, edited down from over 100 hours of footage This Is It simply represents just that, a heavily edited version of rehearsals intercut with the CGI heavy videos that would have played on the large screen behind Jackson, meaning this is far from a definitive piece of cinema and will likely leave most either gravely disappointed that they never got to see the concert proper, or that the guy was, as many accused him of being, a “freak” to be forever misunderstood as the most post-modern of celebritie’s miles ahead of most in his approach to the media.

This film plays through song by song, presumably in the setlist the concerts were to be, each intercuts between Jackson dancing and singing, opinions (all glowering and back-slapping) of the man and the setup and shooting of the CGI heavy set pieces for the likes of Thriller, Earth Song and They Don’t Really Care about Us. As an insight to the concert it is undeniably frustrating they will obviously never happen, a slight drawback when your singer is dead!, considering the amount of money that was to be invested, indeed even at the early stages what was planned looked deeply impressive.

Jackson himself evidently still had it, but so often looks on the edge of cracking, still dancing as much as ever yet showing a frailty (he’s rake thin and irritable) that maybe comes from the fact that he was 50, but is also hindered by what we now know about his final days and the addictions. Is it his perfectionist personality, a trait he has always displayed? Or a tic of something more sinister? it is in questions like this you wonder whether the film was genuinely a good idea, apart from in the money-men’s eyes.

Also for an experience that should feel pacey and exciting it plods all to often, with the editing working as both hindrance and benefit, benefit because the fact that there were only ever one of two cameras so they could capture Jacksn in a more “real” and less edited way but a hindrance in that this often feel slow and deathly dull, there are only so many times you can watch the “moonwalk” or the “crotch-grab” and think “wow it’s MJ, he’s still got it!”. Sadly the spark of live performance get’s lost in translation making for a not particularly gripping film.

On the plus side, and it is an admittedly rather large plus given the man in question, This Is It presents the closest you will ever get to actually hearing some down-right classic songs in a big scale concert style setup (by that I mean a cinema auditorium), and hearing Thriller and Billie Jean to name but two classics writ that large is a liberating experience in itself. Some of the set pieces devised for the songs are also magnificent especially that for Thriller and despite its terrible crassness the 3d rainforrest for Earth Song is fantastically grand culminiating with a digger stopping behind Jackson on stage, and whether you find that too cringe-worthy will ultimately suggest whether this film is at least worth 2 hours of your life, or not.

VERDICT

Far from the definitive MJ experience This Is It at least provides his classic songs on a big scale, but that will come as little solace to those expecting either something more revealing or those looking forward to the concerts that were to never be, so very much an exercise in money making then!

grade-d

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