Some movies are easier to review than others—This is not one of them. Unlike most, it’s very difficult to find a genre with which to categorize This Is It. Is it a documentary? No, those usually present some form of investigative nature. I supposed it is being labeled a concert film, which usually you wouldn’t find in theatres. Being that the concert never was, this is the best possibly means for cashing in, pleasing fans, and giving a sendoff to an entertainer of legendary stature.
There isn’t much to say about the story. MJ takes us through a tour of his hit songs, extravagant dance numbers, and high tech theatrics. There is no reporter element. We simply watch Michael as he leads some people through rehearsal (he retained his moves to the very end) for what would eventually become his cancelled farewell tour. No one confronts him, there is no insight into his daily life, and nearly the entire film is on stage yet is doesn’t truly flow from one song to another.
I doubt there was a rush to get This Is It out the door, but little cues make it appear like a rough cut. There are numerous pauses mid-dance and audible director orders. These inclusions set a behind-the-scenes vibe while other elements suggest something else. The bulldozer prop was apparently never used with Michael on stage, but to convey what Michael wanted they inserted the 3D-esque simulation of it and that just further illustrates the unfinished nature, but on the same hand you couldn’t expect this movie to be polished.
Outsiders of the entertainment industry think of the two as interchangeable, but theatre is a much different medium than film. When a stage is involved, the ticket holder gets to decide what to focus on. Filming a play (or concert in this case) takes the atmosphere out of it. I haven’t reviewed a concert film before and I feel that it’s like reviewing the recording of a play. In this case the act contained many songs I enjoy, but I can’t give credit to the film for them since they are a package that was created well in advance (Think Beauty and the Beast versus Shrek). While I have narrative film on the mind, it is worth pointing out that there seemed to be no end to This Is It. The audience is given no sense of urgency, no signifying means of calculating the remaining minutes. Would it have been too hard to use a title to count down the days? I was starting to wondering if Michael was going to sing every song in his arsenal.
Ultimately it was Jackson’s fans who craved the release of this, or so we are led to believe. Most optimistically those who used Tickermaster to procure seating to the now defunct event are going to be waiting in line at the stroke of midnight. I can’t justify an endorsement of something that is such an afterthought. Kudos to director Kenny Ortega, of High School Musical fame, for cobbling together the footage that he never directed. Sure it could have been much worse and Michael seemingly lives up to the hype but as a feature length film something in it is missing. **