Is this really it?

People go to see Kenny Ortega’s ‘This is It’ with different expectations – some are dragged along by their friends who are die-hard Michael Jackson fans, some had tickets for the original concerts and want some redemption… and others are simply curious to see how much exploitation has taken place at the start of what is likely to be a series of attempts to make money from the death of the King of Pop.

By Nevine El Shabrawy

But for the majority, on viewing the film, critical thoughts are pushed aside: it is excellent. While consisting primarily of footage from rehearsals for the ‘This is It’ concerts, it is edited excellently and portrays Michael Jackson in his natural state – talented, strong, skilled, child-like in character and humble, and, most surprisingly, entirely lacking in any creepiness – which has probably been the only adjective I have used to describe him during the past five years.

Each song tugs at your heartstrings a little more – finishing with ‘The Man in the Mirror’ – which brought much of the cinema audience to tears. In the rehearsals Michael knows every piece of music inside out – from keys to tempos to what he would like to extend or ‘simmer’ a little longer for this tour in particular. The dancers who accompany him on stage dance almost entirely in his honor – mimicking his moves and his choreography with something akin to reverence rather than a need to shine on their own.

The length, material and objective presentation of the movie leave the audience with the sense that we have not been duped. This was not simply an opportunity to retrieve cash from a concert tour that must have cost its organizers and producers millions. And yet a lot of the work put into the concert actually get to reach audiences, like the re-filming of a clip for ‘Thriller’ and the army of thousands built digitally for ‘They Don’t Care About Us’.

The movie ends with a feeling of sincerity – but the question remains: Is this really ‘It’? With the incredible hype over this movie and the money it has been generating, won’t Ortega or others be tempted to make another such movie – perhaps a chronicle of concerts throughout the years or a documentary about Jackson’s death? While it’s generally advised to ‘quit while one is ahead’, the extreme profitability of Michael Jackson has only grown since the release of ‘This is It’ – along with a concurrent diminishing of the impact of his terrible tabloid reputation over the past decade. The songs Jackson produced with Paul Anka are already being fed to the public bit by bit.

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