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This Is It (2009)

Like You've Never Seen Him Before

Rating: 8/10

Running Time: 112 minutes

US Certificate: PG UK Certificate: PG

I can’t imagine that if you didn’t have some sort of fondness for Michael Jackson’s music, you’d find yourself watching This Is It. It has a built in fan base already, and if you go in a big fan you’ll come out an even bigger one. I think, though, that if you go in feeling lukewarm, you’ll come out a convert, which makes it even more bittersweet and even more a record of something the world may never see again.

This is sort of a strange film to try and talk about to begin with, because really, if Michael Jackson hadn’t died in late June of this year, it wouldn’t exist. I mean, the footage would exist, as it’s a compilation of clips and interviews gathered during the rehearsals and prep for Jackson’s then-upcoming concerts in London, but who knows where the footage would’ve ended up. As it is, it’s been used to create a tribute not just to a legendary performer, but to the creative process itself.

Again, it’s strange to think anyone who wasn’t somewhat of a fan already would care enough to see this film, so unlike most reviews, this is kind of a “preaching to the choir” deal. It’s got most of the songs people want to hear—“Beat It,” “Billie Jean,” and a whole new “Thriller” set up, plus Jackson 5 stuff, and some older solo hits like “Human Nature”—and you get that feeling like you’ve gone to a concert and heard everything you hoped for. What sets this apart from most “concert” films, though, is that it gives us a glimpse into something I personally have always found fascinating—a mind that knows exactly how everything should look, sound, and happen, and knows the precise steps to take to get there. Some have said that Jackson would have never approved of this footage being released in this form because he was such a perfectionist, but it’s seeing that perfectionist’s attention to minute detail and interest in every aspect of the show that makes it interesting. Plus, the other artists involved in these concerts were amazing, from the dancers to the band, and while the focus is decidedly on Jackson, the rest of the talent shines through.

Now, lest you think I’m one of those rabid fans who trolls message boards looking for chances to defend Michael Jackson, I’m not. In fact, I kind of dreaded seeing this film, mainly because it seemed sort of boring. There are a few numbers that go on too long, especially a weird save the world bit that would probably have turned out better than it showed up here in its early stages—and really, is it possible that Jackson was as nice all the time as he was shown to be? Probably not. But in the end, it doesn’t matter, because for his fans, this is a satisfying tribute, and for music fans in general, it’s a look behind the scenes at how a concert is made.

It's Got: A cool new "Thriller" number, behind the scenes footage, all the MJ songs you want to hear

It Needs: Less of that rainforest stuff, more on the "Billie Jean" outfit


A perfect tribute for fans, This Is It shows the process behind the creative mind AND showcases a bunch of classic pop tunes.