Watching This Is It, I felt like a cave person being exposed to fire, thinking, “Fire. Good,” because I lacked the vocab to adequately describe what I was seeing. This documentary of rehearsal footage for Michael Jackson’s tour-that-never-was gives an idea of how incredible the spectacle would have been. The pyrotechnics, props, and dancing are eye-popping, but the most amazing special effect is MJ himself.
The man was a genius. He was not only able to visualize things most people can’t imagine, he had the talent and means to bring them to life. His passion for entertaining is obvious, the stage truly his home. It was moving to see how kind he was to his crew and how much he inspired them, how they loved him for it, and what a perfectionist he was without being a nightmare. He worked harder than anyone and the few times he disagreed with his musicians or director Kenny Ortega, he was respectful about it and always right.
My favorite numbers were “Smooth Criminal” and “Thriller,” which incorporated Jackson into filmed segments leading into live performances. For “Criminal,” Jackson inserted himself into that signature scene from Gilda with Rita Hayworth singing “Put the Blame on Mame” and stripping off her gloves (Jackson catches one). For “Thriller,” he was reinventing the video in 3D. After more than 25 years of watching countless others perform that infamous monster dance, it’s quite, well, thrilling to behold the mastermind himself doing it again and see that he’s still got it.
And that’s the thing—at 50, Jackson still had It, the ability to wow me and turn me into a little kid again. I can’t think of many entertainers from my childhood who can still impress my more cynical adult self. The sense of loss is slightly mitigated by the realization that Jackson will probably be with us for a long time, like Elvis and Marilyn. People will continue to organize “Thriller” dance-a-thons and new generations will attempt the moonwalk. The documentary’s title notwithstanding, I don’t think this is it for Michael Jackson.