"Wacko Jacko", "The Gloved One", "The King of Pop". As soon as any of those titles are mentioned you know who is being discussed - Michael Jackson. For millions of people around the world, and to an extent myself included, Michael Jackson was the pinnacle of entertainment, achieving ones goals, and dominating the world. After years of accusations, court cases, and stories this was to be the comeback tour to plant Michael Jackson firmly at the top of the entertainment industry however with the tragic, untimely death of the superstar only days before the concerts were to start we will never know if that dream comeback would have been realised. The public though, with 50 sold out concerts at The O2 Arena certainly wanted to see him return.
Michael Jackson's This Is It is comprised of rehearsal footage and interviews from the Staples Center in Los Angeles as Michael prepared for his comeback tour. Sadly with his passing the only way director Kenny Ortega (who was directing the concert, and subsequently this film) was going to get this concert to fans was to edit the rehearsal footage, and release it as a movie. That's exactly what this is - a concert to give the fans an insight into what could have been.
One thing is certain, there is no doubt that Michael Jackson was going all out to make sure This Is It covered all his hits and the 18 tracks in the feature movie include songs such as "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin", "Billie Jean", "Smooth Criminal", "Man in the Mirror", "Beat It" and "I Want You Back" among others while the end credits include his new song "This is It" and "Heal The World". Admittedly fancy editing can do wonders, but from what I can see from the compiled rehearsal footage here Michael Jackson was looking pretty good, fairly fit for the most part, although a little on the thin side. His singing though, is superb. Sure some songs lacked a little zing, and being rehersals without crowds that is probably to be expected, but some of the performances, such as "Beat It", are absolutely electric.
In terms of picking negatives it's pretty hard. It's clear that director Kenny Ortega was going for a 'concert' movie here and while there are some moments where you see Michael talking to the band, dancers or other crew, there wasn't many 'interview' styled moments which disappointed. I would have loved to see more of Michael Jackson's actual involvement in the production - it's talked about in the special features - but never really shown in detail.
With the release of Michael Jackson's This is It we get one final glimpse at one of the worlds greatest musicians creating an epic performance. I'm still touched with sadness when I watch this movie, but I'm always in awe of not just what was created for this film, but also his entire music catalogue.
Having said that what is here looks quite remarkable if inconsistent. Many of the later rehearsals were filmed with the Red One HD digital camera and looks super sharp and quite brilliant in places while the film also includes footage from a standard definition DV camera which looks less impressive with borders on all four sides of the screen, as well as a blurrier image and less vibrancy to the image. There is also some direct footage for videos to be played on the screens during the concerts (such as Earth Song, Smooth Criminal and Thriller) which looks superb.
Subtitles on this disc are provided in English, English SDH, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Arabic, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Hindi, Norwegian, Portuguese, Swedish, and Turkish.
Thriller Vignette with 5.1 Audio (3:51/HD): This is the new intro filmed for Thriller at the concert and is presented with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio at 640kbps. It's quite superb with the only disappointment being that we only have a 2D version, whereas the film was made to be screened in 3D at the concerts. Still, high production values makes this a treat to see in complete form.
Smooth Criminal Vignette with 5.1 Audio (3:58/HD): Another brilliant video clip that would have played during the concert was this intro for Smooth Criminal. Again impressive in terms of video quality and presentation.
Making Smooth Criminal (11:08/HD): This is a pretty cool look with Kenny Ortega and several other key crew members at the filming of the new Smooth Criminal video for the tour.
Staging The Return (40:46/HD): Certainly the pick of the featurettes this covers pretty much then entire creation of the concert. While there is quite a bit of footage recycled from the feature film, the documentary (which is split up into two parts - "The Adventure Begins" and "Beyond the Show") includes plenty of interviews with other cast and crew and it provides an in-depth look at the origins of the concert, what this concert would have been and, most importantly, how much input Michael Jackson had in all aspects of the production.
The Gloved One (15:13/HD): Generally costume design doesn't exactly excite me however this featurette focuses on the very interesting designer Zaldy, and the costumes that would have been used in the concert which really were brilliant. This is absolutely worth a look.
Auditions: Searching for the World's Best Dancers (9:50/HD): The title says it all as this featurette looks at the selection process for the 11 dancers that would have been on the stage with Michael Jackson for This Is It.
Dancing Machine (15:52/HD): This was a very enjoyable featurette which focuses on Michael Jackson and his dance moves.
Meet the Dancers (26:11/HD): Before I started this featurette I didn't really expect much here, but found a wonderful, almost half hour, documentary about each of the dancers that would have featured in the concert, and this gives them some great recognition for their efforts during rehearsals.
Meet the Band (12:03/HD): This featurette looks at each of the band members including Australia's own Orianthi Panagaris who was the guitarist for the concert series.
Meet the Vocalists (11:49/HD): As with the two previous featurettes this extra focuses on the vocalists that were to be on stage with Michael.
The Unfinished Rehearsals (9:23/HD): This is a real gem as it includes Dirty Diana and Smooth Criminal concepts which weren't completed in time for inclusion in the feature film. Here we can see what the intention was for these songs...
Michael Jackson's This Is It: The Photo Collection (HD): This photo gallery contains hundreds of images from the rehearsals and includes the categories of "Michael", "The Band", "The Vocalists", "The Dancers", "Kenny Ortega", and "Props & Themes".
Trailers (1:49/HD): A Trailer for Cloudy With A Chance for Meatballs which is out on Blu-Ray.
PS3 Wallpaper and Theme (HD): Check out under the XMB and you'll see an option to install the Theme which, unfortunately, is a bit bland and doesn't make use of the newer animated Themes.
MovieIQ (HD): MovieIQ returns on this Blu-Ray disc and provides details on the songs and performers. We're still not completely sold on this item on Blu-Ray discs - especially as it requires a download from the Internet - but some may find it useful.
Review By: Dave Warner