I didn’t know this, because I live in a bubble, but Michael Jackson was only 8 days away from doing a 50 show tour, the first in a decade, when he died. This movie, “This is It” is a cool documentary behind the scenes of the prep ahead of that tour. Since it never happened, it’s all we have left of the performer. MJ has always been experimental. This documentary isn’t the greatest but it’s quite moving to watch the production occur in rough with rough and often amazing performances by the late star. And yes, there was enough tech to keep the Gizmodo sector of my brain engaged.
There were some big pyrotechnics, but I’m not sure they were bigger than the ones that burn down theatres or those used at hair rock band shows that play in football stadiums. There was a cherrypicker that seemed pretty nice, but no big. Same for the toaster-like human poppers that sent people flying into the air like some weird contraption you’d find in a Mario Brothers game in an alternate reality. There was even a display wrapped robot that Michael would emerge from and some light-laced costumes for when Michael sung Billy Jean. All ok, and interesting but my favourite was seeing the refilmed videos, which were to be played in the background while they were being sung. Thriller was redone in a faux cemetery and in 3D (like Captain EOS). And Smooth Criminal green screened Michael into an old mobster flick. The Way You Make Me Feel didn’t have a filmed segment but a sunset gotham-like skyline as seen through a lattice of iron girders with workers snapping slowly to tempo and climbing down when the song begins. The entire difference between the live and the recorded numbers are that Michael would improvise ever so slightly on catchphrases, and play with the melody, teasing out the pieces by not giving us the exact songs we remember, which at the same time would keep them fresh. He also goes through some old Jackson 5 songs, and it cannot be overstated that the musical numbers are all lifted from live rehearsal, so really fresh. You see Michael Jackson calling the shots on music composition, sets, dances, performance and as he relates to his coworkers the same as any boss, you are reminded of his talent, and in reflection, of our loss that came with his early death. Especially when he dances.
What I’m trying to say is that when you take away the pop and the celebrity scandal, what you’re left with is a weird genius. Sort of a geek.
Anyhow, Thriller was my first album, so I enjoyed this movie. Maybe you will, too.