( Max score: 100 )
Michael Jackson’s THIS IS IT is a rare, behind-the-scenes look at the performer as he developed, created and rehearsed for his sold-out concerts at London’s O2 Arena. Chronicling the months from April through June 2009, this film was produced with the full support of the Estate of Michael Jackson and drawn from more than one hundred hours of behind-the-scenes footage featuring Jackson rehearsing a number of his songs for the show. In raw and candid detail, Michael Jackson’s THIS IS IT captures the singer, dancer, filmmaker, architect, creative genius and great artist at work as he creates and perfects his planned final London shows.
I grew up listening to Michael Jackson. First when he and his brothers were together as the Jackson Five and then later when he went solo. Describing him as a popular music icon wouldn’t be an overstatement. His impact not only on music but pop culture is something that none of us is likely to see again in our life time, if ever. His image suffered in the latter part of his career due to his rather odd/eccentric behavior as well as his questionable involvement with children. Be that as it may there is no denying his brilliance as a captivating performer, song writer, and influential entertainment personality that has inspired fans for decades. His sudden/tragic death was felt the world over. I haven’t followed his music closely for quite some time but was saddened/effected when I heard the news of his passing. His plans for the This is it concert which was to take place in London England sparked renewed interest for fans and true to form Michael was preparing to put on a spectacular display. This is it chronicles the show as seen through rehearsal footage, behind the scenes interviews, and offers an intricate backstage pass to the preparation that goes into such an extravaganza. Director Kenny Ortega allows us to see a side of Jackson that perhaps many haven’t before. I can’t speak for everyone but I had no idea he was so involved in every aspect of his stage performances, short films, choreography, and of course musicianship. He KNEW his music and knew what worked and how to maximize the effect it had on the audience. I thoroughly appreciated the fly on the wall perspective offered here and garnered an increased level of respect for his ability as a showman and musician. The large set pieces planned for Smooth Criminal and Thriller by themselves would have been worth the price of admission. The final 11 dancers chosen out of the thousands that auditioned were remarkable. The band, especially drummer Jonathan Moffet, were equally impressive. Everyone worked in tandem to create what would have been a tremendous effort. It was hard to watch it and not imagine the hurt/disappointment these performers must have felt after Michael’s death. I remember feeling angry when I heard about this film and decided that I wasn‘t going to see it ever. My initial reaction was that this was thrown together strictly for the purposes of trying to recoup lost expenditures. While there is obviously truth to that my position softened after my daughter went to see it and described her reaction to it. After watching it now I feel that it is an important piece in Michael Jackson’s legacy as it portrays him in a worthy and memorable light. He wasn’t perfect but his contribution to music/entertainment/pop culture is something that will endure for years to come. This is it makes for a great keepsake that allows fans the opportunity to see him do what he did best one last time. Thrill us…
The rating is for some suggestive choreography and scary images.
Michael Jackson’s This is it comes to Blu-ray Disc from Sony featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 24 mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 3.8 mbps.
This documentary was shot using a mix of high definition and standard definition sources that are blended throughout the course of the film. When applicable it switches between them on the fly and the differences are of course obvious. The high definition material has a clearly refined and sharp quality that enhances definition in the objects and people within the frame. Colors are rich, gradational and vibrant. Blacks are inky and noise free which provides the many dark sequences and clothing with excellent contrast to lighter elements within the same shot. White levels are equally strong and balance well with black levels while empowering colors and augmenting the perception of detail in bright and low lit sequences. Fleshtones are beautifully rendered as the various complexional characteristics of those appearing onscreen were lustrous and lifelike. The standard definition segments appeared noticeably softer, with jagged edges, flatter colors and deficient resolution. This is of course inherent and not attributable to the encoding. Seeing as these segments are part of the chronology of the film they had a part to play and their presence shouldn’t be strictly construed or seen as an impediment. I factored them but not as heavily as I would have had the intent been different. Regardless the end result is a very good presentation that looks great.
The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio soundtrack delivers an exhilarating surround sound experience which is highlighted by the music pieces. Being a concert style documentary it is important that the music be the focal point. Right from the opening moments it was obvious that wasn’t going to be a problem. This is a well crafted soundtrack that exudes the purity and emotion of the message within the music. The entire surround platform is used to present the instrumental performances. The front three channels and subwoofer carry the bulk of the audio with the surrounds providing ambience to seamlessly bridge the gap between the front and rear sound fields. The result is a entertaining aural experience that is satisfying, involving and room filling. Instrument placement is discernible amidst the spatially wide soundstage. Keyboards sound full bodied with smooth tonality and no signs of brittle or edgy highs. The kick drum and synth bass supply a tight, punchy low end that has quick attack and medium decay that resonates nicely. Spoken dialogue and singing voices are clear but not always supremely intelligible which occasionally required the use of subtitles. This was due to limitations of the original recording and not the encoding. The soundtrack is rich in clarity and detail which allows subtle environmental effects to easily be heard. The mix creates a stable and immersive surround sound experience that achieves excellent balance so that the audible elements inherent in the recording could be realized. It sounded really good.
This is it is a fitting tribute to the music legend that is Michael Jackson. Its meaning as a looking glass into the final days of his life will have intrinsic value to his endearing fans. Additionally it presents an incredible perspective into his imaginative and brilliant approach to his music and knack for thematic presentation. Lastly if nothing else it give us one final moment to enjoy watching him perform the songs that many of us grew up listening to over the years. It is obvious that plenty of attention went into its release on Blu-ray Disc from Sony. The audio/video presentation does it justice and I found the bonus features to be pertinent and fun to watch. A must have if you’re a fan.