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Review: This Is It

29 October 2009 10:47

Compiled from hundreds of hours of rehearsal footage, This Is It documents the final weeks of Michael Jackson's life, as he prepared to put on the biggest shows of his career at London's O2 arena.

While a fascinating insight into Michael Jackson's tour preparations in the weeks leading up to his death, This Is It never quite manages to be as compelling as many fans will want.

After weeks of hype and expectation, the movie - pieced together by Jackson's creative director Kenny Ortega - gives a broad impression of what the final show would have been like. But it only occasionally makes you forget you're watching a rehearsal.

The fault doesn't lie with the film makers. This was a work in progress. And not all the elements that would have eventually been included in the concerts are present.

What does come across, though, is Michael Jackson's passion for detail. They were his songs, and he knew exactly how he wanted to perform them.

Particular highlights are Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' (which would have opened the King Of Pop's shows at London's O2 arena), Smooth Criminal and Beat It.A lot of attention is given to the filmed elements Jackson was creating to accompany the songs. Much effort was put into a creepy, 3D graveyard sequence for Thriller, and a young child playing in a forest for Earth Song.

We never get to see how these sequences would have actually been integrated into the show, but there's no doubt they would have dramatically enhanced Jackson's onstage performance

And, despite his age, his dance skills didn't seem to have diminished. What the film can't tell us, however, is whether he truly had the stamina to make it through 50 shows.

Even so, apart from appearing noticeably thin, there were no particular signs of health problems.

Of course, the nature of the movie means it sometimes lacks atmosphere. It's difficult enough to portray the energy and excitement of a live concert on film, doing it only with rehearsals is even tougher. Still, Michael Jackson was a charismatic enough performer that his undoubted talent and enthusiasm do come across.

As a record of the comeback concerts that never were, This Is It is inevitably lacking.

As a glimpse into the workings of one of music's greatest stars, it's unique.

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