Originally intended for his personal library, THIS IS IT is a behind the scenes look at Jackson’s preparation for the comeback that tragically never was. His vision to redesign performances for twelve of his number one hits (including “Wanna Be Starting Somethin'”, “Smooth Criminal”, “Man in the Mirror” and “Thriller”) was sure to be a spectacle with finely woven musical arrangements, jaw dropping visuals and his signature dance moves. Joining him was a dream team of industry wizards and hand-picked undiscovered talent who were, as concert director Kenny Ortega put it, “an extension of Michael Jackson”. Among them were award winning choreographer Travis Payne, Musical Director Michael Bearden, and fashion designer Zaldy along with costuming by Balmain, Dior and Tom Ford. Orianthi Panagaris, Jackson’s 24 year-old lead guitarist whose musicianship matches the likes of Slash and Eddie Van Halen, is one particular newcomer of whom to take notice.
Not only does this film depict Jackson as the genius performer, it reveals a widely known but rarely seen side of Jackson, the craftsman. Jackson’s ability to disect and refine his own work while lovingly cracking the whip on his band members only rivals his effortless ability to ignite the stage–even if only in front of a handful of technicians and dancers. Jackson’s hands-on approach, exacting standards and refusal to settle for sub-perfection were lauded by all those on board. It is evident through the intermittent testimonials of the cast and crew throughout the film that working with Michael was akin to taking a master class in their profession.
The richness of each musical set is enhanced beyond measure with IMAX DMR technology. Every melody is accentuated, every echo is amplified. IMAX theatres boast over 12,000 watts of digital surround sound, up to eight story high screens and a super sharp image quality that transforms this raw material into a living, emotional entity; an almost magical opportunity to meet and be up close and personal with Jackson. The IMAX experience allows the viewer to fully immerse in each scene and interact with the music. A rarity for me, I was dancing in my seat to every song as if I were at an actual concert, and as the movie closed, I left with closure, fufillment, and an awakening to the possibilities we all have as human beings.
THIS IS IT is clearly a product for the fans and is most certainly a parting gift to be cherished. It is also an inadvertent wake up call to the naysayers who fiendishly followed the media witch hunt set to destroy Jackson in recent years. There will be no denying, especially after seeing this film, that Michael Jackson was a powerful mastermind. It is due to this inevitable truth that the movie sticks to its purpose–portraying an incredible artist producing an incredible concert–avoiding any hint of tabloid gossip by steering clear of backstories or confessionals.
Although Jackson’s untimely passing put this triumphant return to the stage to a halt, and may leave many of us wondering what could have been, the silver lining is that the man and the music is alive and will live forever.
Weak: 1 Star Average: 2 Stars Good: 3 Stars Very Good: 4 Stars Excellent: 5 Stars