Michael Jackson’s This Is It

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When I reviewed Martin Scorsese’s Rolling Stones movie, I had to face the problem that I’ve no relation to The Stones, but to Scorsese. And regarding the Iron Maiden documentary; well, I’m not a Maiden fan, but they rock and the movie is good.
But Michael Jackson? I don’t like Michael Jackson and the type of music he represents. It’s like having me review hip hop CD:s or Bulgarian folk music. When it comes to the musical aspect of this movie. But how is it as a movie?
I can’t say I was shocked or even surprised when Jackson died. I was more surprised when he announced the 50 concerts i London. The last years, the guy had looked like he was about to die any day. How should he be able to carry this out? Should he Make A Tommy Cooper and die on stage, albeit without a fez on his head?
No, he died about a week before the show was supposed to open – a show that in a bizarre way must belong to the Grandest Failures in Entertainment History.
HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL director Kenny Ortega’s film is made up of filmed rehearsals; material filmed by the crew that also shoots what’s seen on the big screens by the scene during the show, and a few short interviews with musicians, dancers and crew have been insertet into this. Visually, it’s of course rather limited; this wasn’t filmed with the intention of making a theatrical release, and the image quality varies.
Ortega has of course done all he could with the material, of which most consists of singing and dancing, and not enough behind the scenes stuff with Jackson. Jackson isn’t interviewed and we never get to see him doing anything else than rehearsing and instructing people how he wants his show. He’s never seen just hanging out, eating a meatball sandwich, telling rude jokes. He’s still just The Myth. The others participating in the show are more open, the little we hear from them.
In a weird way, THIS IS IT kind of feels a bit like a freakshow: The guy is dead. He looks extremely weird and creepy, and is remarkably skinny. He’s just a mysterious singing and dancing character, and nothing else. And what they’re creating seems to be a gigantic and amazingly spectacular show, that probably would have been fun to see, whether you like the music or not. It’s fascinating and makes me think of the silent movie LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT, which nowadays is famous for being a “lost movie”; nobody’s seen it since the 1920s and all that remains are some movie stills. This is a “lost show” and THIS IS IT is all that remains. This is a movie that builds up to the biggest anti-climax ever.
THIS IS IT gets a tad repetitive when you only get to see half finished show numbers; Jackson’s choreography doesn’t offer any variations, it’s kick, point, spin, grab the crotch, over and over again.
Some segments are really cool, especially the filmed sequences used to frame some of the numbers on stage; I’d love to see more of the remake of “Thriller” in 3-D (here presented in 2-D). One odd segment is the filmed short that precedes “Smooth Criminal”. I begins with the famous scene from GILDA in which Rita Hayworth performs “Put the Blame on Mame” – a scene that’s much better than the rest of THIS IS IT. Jackson, dressed as a gangster, is edited into a series of clips from old black and white gangster classics featuring Bogart, Robinson and others, who chase Jackson before he jumps out of the screen and lands on the stage.
THIS IS IT wasn’t screened to the press (“security reasons”), and at the screening I attended, the very first one, the audience applauded and cheered between the musical numbers. They even cheered after certain dance moves. I wouldn’t be surprised if hardcore Michael Jackson fans will see this movie every damn night during its two weeks only theatrical release.
But the rest of us? Nah… Just like the show, the movie feels half finished. The You Take What You Have School of Filmmaking. But I liked the fact that Lou Ferrigno is listed in the end scroll, which by the way ends with “Michael Jackson wanted to thank…” And one of the guitarists in Jackson’s band is called Tommy Organ!
Personally, I’d rather see a movie about when KISS decided to put their make up back on for the 1996 reunuion tour.
But that’s just me, of course.

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