Under normal circumstances, the content that goes into the film "This Is It" would be part of the "Bonus Features" section of a concert DVD.
"This Is It" is basically a collage of footage cut from reportedly more than 100 hours of film of the artist's rehearsals (done between April and June 2009) for his planned London concerts, supposed to have taken place from July onwards.
The film gives the viewer a sense of what Jackson has envisioned as his final bow, and that vision is centered on his fans. As such, the producers of the film clearly made it primarily for Jackson fans' viewing pleasure: rehearsals mixed in with interviews, backstage footage, sound checks, and music video shoots.
And like most bonus footage, it shows us what could have been. But sadly, in this case, this is also what we will get.
As the people behind the film have explained, the footage was never intended to be seen by the public; they were specifically for the star's private collection. And in these supposedly private footages, Jackson does not come off as the weird and reclusive pop star the media has framed his image of late. In this film, Jackson is the King of Pop, and nothing else.
"This Is It" showed Jackson's involvement in all aspects of his show, from the planning of the concert, the envisioning of the stage for the whole show, how each song will be performed, to the timing and tuning of the music. He is seen numerous times in the show, alongside Kenny Ortega (the director for both the film and the aborted concert) and his crew, fine-tuning details from hitting the correct tune and timing of the introduction to "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" to the exact moment a bulldozer (yes, there was supposed to be one!) was to exit the stage in the segment for "Earth Song."
Rehearsal performances of several of his biggest hits - from "Beat It" to "Man in the Mirror" - is the core of the film. There are also music video productions, which were planned to accompany the live performances, notably a new 3-D reimagining of "Thriller," an army of his dancers - digitally multiplied from 11 to 11,000 - accompanying him in "They Don't Care About Us," and a "Smooth Criminal" video where he gets chased by Humphrey Bogart.
But as rehearsals go, we don't see Jackson sing at performance level, so to speak; he even says several times that he is trying to “save” his energy for the actual performances, when his adoring fans are actually present. But even at rehearsal mode, the film shows that Jackson is still a formidable and talented performer, despite his frail 50-year-old frame. The people behind the film made it so that it showcases the star's talents, and it does not fail in doing so.
His dance moves are still snappy and groovy, leaving even his 20-something backup dancers watching in awe of their idol as he struts his stuff onstage. And despite several years of not performing or recording, he still hits the right notes. There are also instances in the film where despite promising to be in rehearsal mode, he shifts gears and gives short yet powerful bursts of strong performances.
The film also shines the spotlight on the concert's supporting cast -- dancers, musicians, stagehands, technical crew, and the rest of the people behind the show. Snippets from the cast and crew include auditions, dance lessons, and interviews, and the selected snippets also showed some amazing performances by the dancers and the backup musicians. The rehearsals were the closest thing they could get to opening night, and Ortega made sure that the film showed off what they had in store for Jackson's legions of fans.
With what the film showed audiences, one could only imagine how great the actual "This Is It" concert could have turned out. The film also successfully managed to remind the viewer of Jackson's status as a global superstar, and reinforce the fact that he was an electrifying performer, a great artist, and a creative genius.