Classy. Classy is probably the best possible word that can describe the just released “Michael Jackson’s This Is It.” The most important thing this movie did was treat it’s audience with intelligence and respect, as it never once bonks you over the head telling you Michael Jackson has died. There is never an interview during the movie where some celebrity is telling us how much they miss Michael Jackson. In fact, if this movie was released prior to his death, you would think the man was alive. Director Kenny Ortega made a bold move in displaying the film in this light, and it is all the better and more honest because of it. The goal of the movie is to simply give viewers a glimpse into what would have arguably have been the greatest live show of all time.
Fans might be initially let down at the fact that you really aren’t getting complete concert experience here. Instead we see Michael going through the process of figuring out just how he’s going to perform his songs and how every single detail is going to work. Most of the time he isn’t even singing the words to the music, as he just sort of mouths the sound of the song while mentally piecing together his routine. That is the magic of this movie though, you’re literally watching a master craft his work on camera, and the result is fascinating.
People have always heard stories about how Michael was a perfectionist, and throughout “This Is It” we finally get to see first hand just how professional the guy is. There are a handful of genuinely funny moments sprinkled throughout the film where we see Michael collaborating with the musicians and dancers trying to get the most out of them and explaining his vision of how the songs should play out. We get shots of him with director Kenny Ortega shooting footage for the video sequences in which he’s always adding his input into what goes where. It isn’t a joke when they say Michael was involved with every aspect of this show.
Speaking of video footage, we’re also treated to many of the new short films that would have appeared during the live show. The most impressive of the lot is the introduction to Smooth Criminal in which Michael has super imposed himself into two old films, Gilda and The Big Sleep, and has him dodging bullets, jumping over roof tops, and hitting on the ladies. Even all these years later, his videos still have the same charm and edge that they did back in the day.
It goes to show just how timeless Micheal’s music and ideas are that none of this stuff feels dated. All of the songs featured in this film could be released today and wouldn’t sound a day old. The band performing all of his classics rocked, and I sort of wish I could get versions of these songs because they sounded so good. One scene in particular has a female guitarist, Orianthi Panagaris, perform the solo to Beat It and she totally shreds. It is an interesting scene because we see exactly how this section was created. The guitarist starts out playing the song safe, but Michael tells her he wants more, insisting that this is her moment to shine and eventually we see her turn into a rock god.
I believe if you even have the slightest interest in Michael Jackson’s music that you’ll find something to enjoy here. This isn’t’ necessarily something for die hard fans of Michael just so they can have the closure they’ve been seeking since his passing. Instead we have a simple documentary about a humble man’s work ethic that just so happens to have some of the catchiest and powerful songs ever written.