Michael Jackson still stands as one of the biggest (and yet in some ways one of the most enigmatic and controversial) pop stars in history - the star was commonly referred to as the "King of Pop". Throughout his career, Jackson snagged: 26 American Music Awards, 17 number one singles in the US, 15 Grammys and estimated sales of up to 750 million records worldwide, among other honors.
When Jackson passed away in June, 2009, his passing sent a shock throughout the music industry and saddened his legions of fans. Shortly after Jackson's passing, "This Is It" was released to theaters. The documentary, which was directed by Kenny Ortega (the famed choreographer who was the director of the "High School Musical" trilogy), profiles the preparations that took place for Jackson's mega 50-show "This Is It" performance, which was going to be his last. The footage is taken from rehearsals from earlier in 2009, before the singer's passing (the shows were apparently days away from starting), and was edited together into this documentary. Interviews and other behind-the-scenes footage fills in in-between.
The behind-the-scenes look at the making of the performance is pretty interesting - while there's a lot of praise, the documentary's best behind-the-scenes footage provides a pretty fascinating look at what's required of the singer and crew in terms of preparing a massive stage show, complete with effects and other details. Jackson tries to not only prepare himself for the performance aspect, but eagerly discusses the stage portion and the construction of the remaining aspects of the concert with others.
While the performances are certainly entertaining and go through a series of both classic and recent hits, the footage is of a rehearsal, and while Jackson not at full force is still an impressive performer, one must note that these performances are for rehearsal purposes. The performances are captured well, although the quality of the footage does vary.
It was a little surprising to see a film like this come out so shortly after Jackson's passing, but overall, "This Is It" is an enjoyable farewell for the King of Pop.
VIDEO: "This Is It" is presented in 1.78:1 (1080p/AVC) by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. While most of the program was filmed in HD, some scenes were not and have a different appearance/quality. Sharpness and detail during the HD sequences looked terrific, as the picture sparkled - clarity and small detail level impressed. The non-HD footage (windowboxed) looked softer and rougher, but I didn't find it too much of a distraction. Colors looked warm, bright and pure, with excellent saturation. The non-HD footage looks more basic/primitive, but the remainder of the presentation looks quite good.
SOUND: The film is presented in DTS-HD 5.1 on this release from Sony Home Entertainment. While not among the top concert sound mixes (although a lot of that has to do with the fact that this is rehearsal footage), this is otherwise a solid presentation, delivering a nice spread of the music across the front soundstage, with mild reinforcement from the surrounds. Audio quality was very good, with a full, dynamic sound and a crisp, clean sound.
EXTRAS: Two primary "making of" featurettes - "The Adventure Begins" and "Beyond the Show" run for over half an hour in all and provide further thoughts on the concert that was to be, as well as quite a few interviews from cast and crew about working with Michael Jackson. More thoughts on Jackson are offered in "Memories of Michael", a 15-minute featurette. "The Gloved One" is an interesting look at the costume design for the tour, as Jackson brought in a new designer for the performances. Finally, we get a shorter piece that looks into the extensive audition process for dancers.
Also included are the clips that were filmed that were to accompany "Smooth Criminal" and "Thriller" during the concert (and a "making of" for the "Smooth Criminal" clip.) Trailers for "This Is It" and other films from the studio are also offered - a clip for the Sandler/Spade film, "Grown Ups" plays before the menu.
Final Thoughts: It was a little surprising to see a film like this come out so shortly after Jackson's passing, but overall, "This Is It" is an solid farewell for the King of Pop. The Blu-Ray edition boasts very good (overall) video quality, pleasing audio quality and a mostly enjoyable set of extras. Recommended for fans.
The Film B+