It certainly delivers a weird feeling to hear Michael Jackson announce that his concert tour would be, in his words, “the final curtain call.” However, what follows in This is It makes you forget that he has passed, allowing his fans to appreciate his talents without any media interference, hype, or controversy.
Seeing Jackson perform is a treat, but what This Is It does is show his dedication and even obsessions towards his show. At one point, Michael is backstage (calmly) arguing with his music director about a single note on a keyboard. Jackson makes him replay and replay until it is perfect.
There is a level of respect rarely seen between the general population, let alone a celebrity of this caliber. Everyone refers to each other as sir, with emphatic thank you’s and personal recognition of accomplishment. When someone makes a mistake, it is corrected calmly or even redesigned on the spot.
While This is It remains a shell of what it would have been with a full crowd, this personal collection of rehearsals is at least a significant taste of how it may have turned out. Many of the video montages, rigging, and set pieces are finished. Everything feels ready to go, and even though Jackson himself admits he is not pushing himself 100%, you would not know it.
Even if you were not a fan of Michael Jackson, he is a polarizing figure that can be appreciated for doing what he did better than anyone else. Even if you are not a basketball fan, but viewed highlights of a Michael Jordan performance, you can sense something special, even if you do not appreciate the game itself. The same can be said for Jackson, and This is It, carefully planned and edited as it is, proves it.
Not everything shot for This is It was intended for public viewing or even a hi-def presentation. As such, some of the footage, maybe 30-35% of it, was not filmed in high definition, or even anamorphic video. There is no question the blocky, compressed, interlaced, aliasing-ridden footage pulls you out of some performances, but it is no fault of this AVC encode.
That said, despite a lack of high fidelity facial textures, this transfer is quite vibrant. Jackson wears a staggering amount of reflective clothing, with either sequins or the material itself. Despite the lighting nightmare, the Blu-ray handles this well, limiting compression in all but the fastest light changes.
Footage during a behind-the-scenes look at the Thriller 3-D remake is likely the high point. Cast members and dancers are shown in full make-up and in close-up, revealing all details of the costumes. Long shots of the graveyard, with thick foliage, do not hold up as well. Some noise is evident, a caveat of digital filming. However, it remains a mild nuisance at best.
Depth is generally superb overall, along with deep blacks and a bright contrast. The saturated, bold colors are gorgeous to look at, and the pyrotechnics showcased in one scene are jaw dropping.
Regardless of any video flaws, the DTS-HD effort is more than commendable. Given the recording stage sits in an empty arena, this sounds stunning. The music, from Jackson’s voice, background singers, to individual instruments, is so clear, you have to use the cliché: It’s like being there.
There are times when certain conversations are almost impossible to hear, typically small talks with director Kenny Ortega that are more of an aside than something that needs to be heard.
That brings this mix back to the music, with wonderfully clean highs and deep, rich lows. The surrounds capture the power of the performances, and even some small touches such as clapping or thunder during Thriller. You can almost appreciate the lack of an audience, which allows the music to be brought forward with no interference. Even if this is culled together from a rehearsal, this sounds professional and complete.
You immediately have to fault this disc for lacking any bonus footage since the show itself was pulled from 100-hours of video. There had to be something director Kenny Ortega decided to drop at the last minute.
Regardless, what is here begins with the full footage from the Thriller and Smooth Criminal shorts, and in full (compressed) 5.1. The Making of Smooth Criminal follows, running 11-minutes. Staging the Return is a look at the build-up and reasoning behind Jackson choosing to make one final tour. Split into two parts, this lasts 40-minutes.
The Gloved One is a featurette on the costume design, while Memories of Michael has the crew reminiscing about what Jackson meant to them. A 10-minute look at the dance auditions are followed by trailers, BD-Live, and Sony’s usual MovieIQ.