Urban Cinefile  
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday July 28, 2020 


Documentary tracing the hundreds of hours of rehearsal and behind-the-scene footage of the late Michael Jackson, as he prepared for his concert series in London. Captured in high definition with state-of-the-art digital sound and featuring interviews with some of Jackson's closest friends and creative collaborators. During his career, he sold an estimated 750 million records worldwide, released 13 No.1 singles and became one of a handful of artists to be inducted twice into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The Guinness Book of World Records recognized Jackson as the Most Successful Entertainer of All Time and "Thriller" as the Biggest Selling Album of All Time. Jackson won 13 Grammy Awards and received the American Music Award's Artist of the Century Award.

Review by Louise Keller:
It is with a mix of voyeuristic fascination, amazement, nostalgia and poignancy that I watched and loved this unique and spectacular film that invites us for a back-stage peek at the creative process of an enigmatic, eccentric, influential and supremely talented artist. If there’s a surprise, it is how fit Michael Jackson looks, how well he sings and the natural ease with which he makes his trademark dance moves. Superbly edited and constructed, what I liked best is the mood it creates. It’s not all superficial glitz, nor are little glitches and idiosyncrasies taken out; we feel as though we are privy to a small but real insight into the Peter Pan King of Pop’s creative process.

Michael Jackson’s is a showbiz story that is hard to match: the drama, the bizarreness, the controversy and tragic demise. He spent 44 of his 50 years on stage performing, and the concert we watch being created was to be his ‘final curtain call’, a spectacular sold-out series of 50 concerts with the crème de la crème of dancers and singers (‘big fish from all over the world put in the same pond’), complete with pyrotechnics, grand sets, big ambitions, plenty of funk and great music. We can’t look away from this softly spoken, vulnerable, androgynous, slightly built man with an impossibly turned up nose, long, designer-messy hair that falls over his black-rimmed eyes and black shades that threaten to fall as he twirls a dance move. His voice is fluid: a liquid voice with a distinctive vibrato. (His specially selected backing singers have a similar tone and vibrato.) But it is the almost disjointed way he moves as he sings (including his crotch-grabbing gestures) that makes watching it astonishing.

There is little by way of talking head interviews, most of the 111 minutes is on and off stage with MJ as he is called. MJ wearing lurex jacket and orange pants, grey jacket, tomato red spangled shirt, grey shiny jacket, black jacket with pointy padded shoulders and white studded lapels, gold lurex pants, silver jacket and black hat and more. It is not really surprising to hear that scientists were working with the wardrobe designers to create new materials. Rehearsal shots from different days are spliced, edited and sometimes shown in split screen. There’s no missing the tragic irony of the lyrics ‘It don’t matter if you’re Black or White’. Nor Jackson’s commitment to saving the planet (‘Feel the love’). There is no question that he was a perfectionist, nor that he knew exactly what he wanted and when he wanted it. There are amusing instances that demonstrate this, like in his exchanges with the keyboard player (‘You got to let it simmer; bathe in the moonlight’). It’s all about the detail. The precise cues, the deliberate movements – of the arms, the hands, the feet. He was certainly not one of the boys; he was the star and treated with kid gloves by everyone, including director Kenny Ortega who makes us feel as though he is dealing with a porcelain treasure.

The musicians and dancers on stage with him are the epitome of funk. Young, blonde, sexy Australian guitarist Orianthi Panagaris with the black rhinestone boots, who wowed everyone with her wailing guitar solo is sensational. ‘It’s your time to shine,’ Jackson tells her. As you would imagine, the show is a no-expenses spared extravaganza with cherry picker, 3D recreation of Thriller, acrobats, footage of waterfalls, elephants and dolphins as well as fire and fireworks. One of the highlights is a recreation of scenes from a black and white Humphrey Bogart movie in which Jackson becomes a part.

The show promised to be the event of the decade, and is a fitting farewell to a unique artist, whose art will undoubtedly outlive his controversy.

Email this article

Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

This is It Featurette

(US, 2009)

CAST: Documentary with Michael Jackson

PRODUCER: Paul Gongaware, Randy Phillips

DIRECTOR: Kenny Ortega

SCRIPT: Not credited


EDITOR: Not credited

MUSIC: Michael Bearden

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Bernt Amadeus Capra

RUNNING TIME: 111 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 28, 2009

© Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2020