Gannett News Service - Oct 26th, 2009
The Michael Jackson film is called “This Is It,” but the question for fans is: What is it?
There have been no advance previews, leaving ticket buyers guessing about what they’ll see during the movie’s two-week run that begins Tuesday night.
The film was assembled from intended promo interviews, rehearsal tapes and behind-the-scenes footage planned for a future DVD of Jackson’s never-to-be comeback series of 50 concerts.
Kenny Ortega, the choreographer and spectacle maestro who worked with Jackson on the elaborate London shows (which the King of Pop professed would be his last), was brought in as director when the film deal was struck with Sony Pictures after the singer’s death in June.
Ortega, who also made the “High School Musical” movies, says the job was to take the grab bag of materials and make them work together – somehow.
“It’s the puzzling together of remnants to create something that had continuity to it,” he says. “It borrows from both the documentary and the concert film idea, but it’s neither of the two. . . . I said to Sony not to promote it as a concert film because it’s going to confuse people. We never were a concert. We never got that far. We had three weeks left of rehearsal.”
But Ortega says “This Is It” does feature “wall-to-wall music. You see Michael onstage rehearsing many of the songs that would’ve appeared in the concert. But there’s no one there watching except for a handful of dancers. And 18,000 empty seats.”
He calls the finished product “a musical mosaic.”
“Sometimes Michael was onstage, and the band was playing, but he wasn’t singing. He was watching, listening,” Ortega says. “But then he would start to sing (another time), and I had to paste things together to create a full beginning, middle and end performance.” The movie will weave in video backgrounds that were designed to play on a giant concert screen.
“This film isn’t some magical pill or potion that brings Michael back,” he says. “He’s very much alive in the context of this film. And there’s great joy in visiting with him in that 111 minutes.
“But at the end of it all, there is tragedy here. And that film isn’t going to make that go away.”