This Is It - DVD Review

'but then something happened... Wanna Be Starting Something began... and my feet started tapping. And they didn't stop until after the final credits had finished rolling'

When This Is It arrived at my house I can honestly say I felt something I very rarely find myself feeling towards films of any type: indifference. You see, I'm not really a Michael Jackson fan, nor am I the type of person who will scour through the pages of Heat or a similar publication to find out who is the latest celebrity to sue who or, more pertinently, what the Jackson family's latest actions are. I don't hate the guy nor do I hate his music, I just don't find myself actively seeking out anything to do with him.

So, on face value, Kenny Ortega's film didn't really have a lot to offer me. Bringing together footage which was apparently shot for Jackson's own video library, This Is It (or, Michael Jackson's This Is It to give the film its full title) attempts to show as much as possible of what the public could have expected from the series of fifty shows at London's O2 arena, sadly cancelled due to Jackson's unexpected death. So really, in essence, This Is It is a concert movie which due to circumstances is missing its concert. And I really wasn't sure how therefore, it could possibly come across as anything more than a few deleted scene extras, patched together to resemble a film.

But then something happened. The introductory five minutes (composed of interviews with dancers, gushing about what an honour it is to dance with MJ) ended and Wanna Be Starting Something began, MJ bursting on to stage and into a string of fluid dance moves. And my feet started tapping. And they didn't stop until after the final credits had finished rolling.

What I came away from This Is It with was two overwhelming feelings; firstly, that barring a few technical issues, Kenny Ortega had been doing a great job on the tour and has done a fantastic job in bringing together the footage on show here to make a coherent concert film cum behind-the-scenes documentary and secondly, that Jackson looks like he is in the prime of his life, pointing out musical problems, improving dance moves and lyrical tests, leading his dance troupe through complicated performances. I might not have come away from This Is It any wiser on who Michael Jackson the person was but I certainly got a view of who Michael Jackson the performer was and I have to say I was intrigued, entertained and charmed by that view.

Even though the film is obviously fairly sanitised, Ortega does include unexpected moments of MJ frankness for us to view and judge, frequently consisting of musical direction or disagreement. Jackson knows his game and knows what he wants and he isn't happy to sit there and have others dictate it for him. Witness his discussion with a bass player; 'it needs more funk. More funk. It should be 'thud, thud, thud' not 'fud, fud, fud'' or his constant grasp of the importance of silence in accentuating the performance that went just before it. He comes across not just as someone who stands there and does what he is told but as someone who really understands his art, a fact reflected in the rehearsal performances we are then privy to.

There are some technical problems, most notably with the fact that some of the cameras used to shoot the footage appear to be framed in different ratios, meaning a bit of a jarring jump from widescreen to big black borders on a fairly regular basis. For some hoping for an expose too, this isn't it and we see very little that could be classed as controversial or revealing in terms of MJ's life at that time (excluding of course, his on stage life), the film largely playing it safe on the material it uses. But given what he had to work with Ortega shows he not only understands Jackson (something evident in the film) but that he understands how to do the best with what he has got towards the end goal of making a celebratory film about Jackson's real skill and talent and that best is very good indeed.

If you're a Jackson fan, you can probably add a further star because this is the closest you will get to seeing the intended stage production of his final shows and, in the end, This Is It's real success is that you do get a view of what those shows would have been like and how dedicated Jackson was to making them a success, a fact which crucially, must lead us to conclude that the loss of Jackson is really a huge one on many many different levels.

Look further...

'We understand that this footage was never meant to be seen as the final product. It’s not the greatest rock show in the world, but it may well could have been' - (Joel Crary), 3/4


  1. i adoresd this documentary. totally forgot it was on dvd now. i need to buy this. it is the perfect feast for his fans' apetites

  2. Absolutely! If you're a fan you'll love it. I'd even suggest that if you're not a fan it's still possible to get something out of it - I'm certainly not a fan and I really enjoyed watching it.