Michael Jackson’s This Is It

Sorry it’s been three days since I last blogged – my life took a somewhat hectic turn and I’ve barely surface for breath from a quagmire of dissertation reading. I had my third dissertation meeting today – and true to form I enacted the usual routine of walking through the door to my tutor’s office and losing the ability to articulate any form of coherent thought. Good times.

I cheered myself up this afternoon by writing my review of Michael Jackson’s This Is It. This review is copyright Student Savvy and I’m only posting it for those of you who wanted to see it sooner rather than later.

My Jackson-crazy friend Chris and I went to see the film last night, and both came away gibbering about how marvellous it was, so I’ve found it hard to write a review that gives an appropriate level of praise without being an inane rant on how amazing the film was for me. There was also so much to discuss that I had trouble keeping the word-count down, but it’s around 700 now so you won’t fall asleep. Hopefully. I wouldn’t mind some feedback…

Here it is:

abiskippReview: Michael Jackson’s This Is It.

I must confess I was somewhat hesitant about seeing Michael Jackson’s This Is It – it seemed the kind of film that would leave an imprint on your mind as to who Michael Jackson was and what he was capable of, and I didn’t want that final imprint to be one of disappointment or anticlimax.

And I was beginning to regret caving in and agreeing to see it when for the first two minutes a string of prospective backing dancers appeared on screen weeping about the auditions like a melodramatic cross between an Eastenders monologue and an X Factor contestant whose Granny just croaked it.

But get past that, and what you have is a 100-minute explanation of why the world loves Michael Jackson. Admittedly, it takes a good ten minutes to adjust to the format of the film – a mish-mash of footage which isn’t particularly structured – but it is undeniably worth it to be watching what feels like a multi-dimensional production: you become both an audience member for the concert that would have been sure to catapult Michael Jackson up, up and away from the controversy of the past few years, and a fly on the wall discovering how he would create that very outcome.

And no one can accuse Michael Jackson of not ‘creating’ the production – he is shown to have been implicitly behind the decisions for all aspects of the show – from directing the several impressive on-screen accompaniments to some of his biggest songs (including ingeniously inserting himself into some iconic 1940s movies and being pursued by Bogart and Cagney for Smooth Criminal) to coaching the backing singers and casting the principal dancers for the show. He is focussed and capable to articulate his requirements – at one point telling the Musical Director the tempo should be ‘like you’re dragging yourself out of bed’ – whilst remaining endearingly charming.

The footage is often surprising, and certainly suggests the rumours of him only performing a handful of songs were – like most tabloid reports on the phantom ‘Jacko’ – utterly unfounded. While he makes several references to conserving his voice and only goes through the motions of parts of his routines, he does not by any means appear frail and still has an infectious energy that he shares with cast and crew through surprisingly humble encouragements like ‘This is your time to shine’ and ‘This is an adventure – there’s nothing to feel nervous about.’

The crew in turn are filmed singing Michael’s praises: ‘He draws from a deeper emotion than anyone I’ve ever worked with’ says one of the musicians, while a costume designer explains that brand new technology has ‘just been developed for Michael. That’s what Michael’s about – pushing boundaries.’

Kenny Ortega himself is frequently pictured shamelessly flattering Michael, but as director of the film he manages to avoid too many moments of bittersweet nostalgia that would overshadow what is a fascinating production. That said, it was certainly poignant watching Michael dedicate I’ll Be There to his family, and singing the a cappella ending to ‘Speechless’, which finishes with an emotional spoken ‘I love you’.

Despite the Razzmatazz you would expect from a Jackson production (and we are certainly talking serious razzmatazz with impressive aerial shows and an amazing fire screen), Michael is insistent throughout that there is an important message that goes deeper than his performance. Addressing the cast and crew, he insists the show should remind people that love is important, and an urge to change for the better is interwoven throughout his performances, including impressive voiceovers such as: “People say the government’ll sort it, they’ll sort it – they who? It starts with us. It’s us! Or it’ll never be done.”

Perhaps his most enduring quotation of the film is when he explains the audience ‘want escapism; they want to go places they’ve never been and see talent they’ve never seen.’ We certainly see a show that would have oozed talent, and for a few minutes we do indeed escape reality and the King of Pop lives again, albeit on the screen, giving his fans a chance to say their goodbyes.

The film ends sooner than you would expect – Michael Jackson, as ever, leaves us wanting more. The lasting imprint I mentioned at the start of this review turns out to be one of having seen a genius at work – a man who has still ‘got it’ – whatever ‘it’ is. That’s the thing – Michael Jackson was probably not the greatest singer, dancer or lyricist of all time: he was more than that. A man above and beyond the music, Michael Jackson was something else.

Image taken from Abi Skipp‘s photostream.


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