Michael Jackson’s Magic Endures on Big Screen in ‘This Is It’

Michael Jackson’s This is it” has been shown in Norwegian cinemas since 28th of October. “This Is It” has a special meaning for his fans. Before his unexpected death on June 25 and after 10 years away from the stage, Michael Jackson was preparing for his final concert tour, “This Is It.”
Unfortunately the tour never got to the stage; however, MJ’s choreographer-director Kenny Ortega has completed a 112-minute documentary compiled from behind-the-scenes footage of the rehearsals — footage that was originally intended for Michael Jackson’s personal use.
Watching the documentary, one thing is for certain, notwithstanding all the allegations against him and the questioning of his personality by the media: Jackson was the King of Pop. At 50 years old, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that his presence, like one of his guitarists says, is immense and awe-inspiring.
Shot on several digital cameras, the film, while lacking a story-arc accumulation, shows us in order the rehearsal and production of the songs that were meant to be performed during the concerts. We are first introduced to the 11 dancers that were selected from among thousands. For these young talents, this tour would be the pinnacle of their career as most of them had grown up with MJ songs and considered Jackson the icon that inspired them to become dancers in the first place.
It is obvious that if Jackson hadn’t passed away, the concert performance would have been more than amazing: The high production values, the creativity and labor put in it only implies the glimpse of a magnificent concert never made. It isn’t just the lighting, fireworks, music and dance itself, but short films were also produced to be shown in the background — the one for “Thriller” might not measure up to the legendary music video, but the art direction and choreography are hypnotic.
In a way, “This Is It” reminded me of another recent documentary, “The September Issue,” which follows infamous Vogue magazine editor Anna Wintour while she prepares the most significant issue of the year. Both documentaries, though quite different on the surface, bring an insightful look to the working flow of their central characters, both extremely talented and successful at what they do.
What is so intriguing about Jackson is that while he is meticulous at what he does and is obstinate in his convictions of how the show should run (he is almost in complete control of everything on the stage), he never loses his temper and is genuinely kind to all of his dancers, musicians and crew. At one point we watch a solo guitar performance by lead guitarist Orianthi Panagaris. While Jackson moves behind her, he asks her to play louder and says, “This is your moment to shine!”
Beyond everything, at 50 years old, Jackson hasn’t lost an ounce of energy and forte. His movements are impeccable and show exactly the same vigor he had 20 years ago. His body is his instrument, and when he performs, one understands that the man is not called “The King of Pop” for nothing. Ortega tells the dancers, “When you are dancing, you are an extension of MJ, do not forget that,” but when seen up close, the star and his dancers form a symbiosis that cannot be simplified as an extension. Jackson brings out the full potential of all his performers, without overshadowing them but facilitating them.
What does remain a mystery is how a man who manifests such physical verve and looks undoubtedly healthy was taking seriously heavy medication all that time until the point of his unfortunate death by drug overdose. There isn’t any hint of the singer feeling tired, looking wrecked or any other relevant symptoms. One only assumes that for Jackson, the only thing that mattered was for “the show to go on.”
Expecting to find any material about Jackson’s personal life within the film would be a false expectation and also an unnecessary one.
Beyond everything, Jackson was a visionary and the bearer of several milestones in musical history. In this sense, it is a thrilling experience to watch him working from such a close and intimate angle. Many people might think the release of the documentary is just another venture to collect revenue using the star’s name, but all things considered, it really would have been a shame if we never got to watch the preparations of such a colossal stage production.
When there is a genius at work, there shouldn’t be any excuse to miss the magic.

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