The unprecedented 1am start to this London premiere was timed to ensure Michael Jackson's This is It could land in 20 countries simultaneously. It was rather fitting that when the cameras broadcasting footage to the hordes of fans in Leicester Square broke down, shots from the red carpet in Los Angeles were shown instead, connecting the place that Michael Jackson died with the British capital where the This Is It concerts were due to take place from July of this year.
Kenny Ortega, the man who was directing the stage show, is handed the director's credit here and it's no surprise that This Is It portrays Michael Jackson in a favourable light. The action is comprised almost solely of the singer, in various guises, rehearsing for the ill-fated concerts between April and June of this year. Ortega has attempted, as much as possible, to show what the concerts would have looked like. It starts with a written reminder of when the action takes place before opening with a number of young dancers talking excitedly about the prospect of working with the so-called King of Pop. It's a touching moment, and a reminder that behind all the brouhaha of Jackson's death there were many people, fans and professionals, who had their dreams shattered.
This proves a rare moment of interview material as Ortega decides to concentrate on footage of Jackson rehearsing, starting with "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'". This obvious choice of song is quickly followed by footage of the singer announcing his comeback tour in which he stated that he's going to give the fans what he believed they wanted: a concert jammed full of his most popular tunes.
The tone of the movie is set with songs being cut together from performances from different rehearsal dates. It's soon clear as the movie trots out hits such as "The Way You Make Me Feel" that the singer was a long way from his heyday. There are only fleeting moments of great dancing before the inevitable jump cut arrives as the four editors who worked on the film attempt to sculpt a performance.
There is no attempt to get inside the mind of Jackson à la Martin Bashir. The cameramen also seem somewhat shy of Jackson, not getting too close. As a concert film – using footage which was by-and-large shot for Jackson's personal use – this is a failure.
The concert was apparently going to have a very strong environmental message as Jackson talks about his love of trees. What the film does not do, or even try to do, is provide any information that would give an insight into the circumstances surrounding the musician's death. The last song we're shown Jackson singing is "Man in the Mirror"; it's a shame the filmmakers did not take a cue from its lyrics to put together an uncompromising assessment of Jackson, rather than delivering another attempt to perpetuate the myth.
'This Is It' is being screened nationwide