Movie Review: This Is It

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Michael Jackson's This Is It elicited strongly conflicting emotions as I watched a screening this week.

On the one hand:

How can you not be captivated by this close-up immersion in Jackson's astonishing talent - as a singer, a dancer, a creator of music that is part of our permanent soundtrack?

This patchwork version of his projected concert hints at what his farewell stand in London might have been like, had he lived. (And did anyone really believe that he would hang up the dancing shoes after this?)

It shows an artist whose work is forever embedded in the culture, an expressive singer with amazing range - and a dancer who seemed to invent new moves even when he was standing still. Watching him perform choreographed steps or improvise what seem like instantly invented styles of movement is an inexpressible feast for the eyes. It's a shame that the cameramen, filming in both high-def and low-def for Jackson's own consumption, weren't shooting for real, though the footage is often dazzling and the sound is top-notch.

It also shows an artist seemingly near the peak of his powers and decidedly in his element. The impression is of a stops-out spectacle in the making, one that would survey his entire career while expanding upon it, conjured by someone fully convinced of his own ability to create magic by sheer will and imagination

On the other hand:

Watching This Is It reveals so much about Michael Jackson as a human being: his quiet perfectionism, performance eccentricities and signatures - and the fact that there appeared to be no one in his world - from the lowliest dancer to his partner in creating this show, Kenny Ortega (who gets directing credit for this film) - who was willing to say no to him about anything.

Obviously, Jackson was a genius who didn't need people second-guessing his vision. On the other hand, the impression here is that his entourage and hangers-on had long ago crossed the line between support and sycophantism.


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