This was actually made in 2009, soon after Michael Jackson’s death, and just before the release of his concert movie, “This Is It,” later in the year – put together by Time magazine, it’s a concise 7-minute summary of the King of Pop’s entire movie career, including one or two on-screen appearances you may not be familiar with.
“This Is It” was technically his very last big screen “role,” although it was a documentary – a videotaped pre-concert concert, assembled from rehearsals that occurred from April through June 2009 (right before he died), for a tour that was scheduled for that summer. For roughly 2 hours, it’s Michael Jackson – mostly a very austere Michael – prepping quite rigorously for a concert tour that, due to his abrupt death, never came to pass.
If there’s one thing I took away from watching “This Is It,” it’s that, quite a lot of work goes into producing a concert fit for a king – the King of Pop, that is. There’s the old joke about the guy who asks pianist Arthur Rubinstein how to get to Carnegie Hall; and Rubinstein replies, “Practice, practice, practice.” And that’s exactly what they do here! The dancers, the musicians, the crew behind the pyrotechnics, and of course, MJ himself, who, throughout the entire documentary, is so self-assured and in full control of almost every aspect of the production, never hesitating to express dissatisfaction (as well as praise) when necessary – traits that seem so counter to the almost fragile, effete Michael Jackson that the media often portrays.
Your appreciation for the film will likely depend on your appreciation for the man at the center of it – because it’s really all about him. You, the audience, essentially are made privy to the kind of footage you likely would never get to see under most similar circumstances. You get to witness how much work goes into the preparation for a concert of this magnitude, as each piece is imagined and realized – no frills, no adornments. You get to see the magic that happens behind the curtain – in lieu of what you would have seen live and on stage, but now never will. In a way, it’s like buying a DVD that comprises solely of extra, behind the scenes features, without the completed film.
Regardless, I think any fan of MJ’s will appreciate what “This Is It” offers – a glimpse of a Michael that I don’t think we ever really got to know, and the final steps of a genius, fully dedicated to his craft, as well as the audiences that still love and support him.
It’s on various home video platforms, so look for it there if you want to see his last on-screen appearance in a film.
For everything else that came before it, watch the Times video summary below (underneath it you’ll find one of the films he starred in, the short,directed by Francis Ford Coppola, and co-written by George Lucas – “Captain EO”):
And here’s “Captain EO” in full: