On Sunday night (September 13), MTV exclusively debuted the trailer for “Michael Jackson’s This Is It” at the 2009 Video Music Awards. Featuring the fallen icon’s signature dance moves, blasting his classic tunes, offering insight into his creative process, the trailer makes for a riveting viewing experience. Yet it also brings more than a tinge of sadness. The King of Pop is gone, and we’ll never get to see the comeback concerts for which he was rehearsing so intensely.
The first time we see Jackson, he is alone on the stage, clad in a leather jacket and singing intently, framed by two thin rows of hazy klieg lights. As an angelic choir fills the soundtrack, the allusion to heaven should not be lost on viewers. It is a portrait of the artist in his last days.
Culled from more than 100 hours of behind-the-scenes footage, “Michael Jackson’s This Is It” makes clear just how big a production Jackson was planning for his comeback shows at London’s O2 arena. Inside Los Angeles’ Staples Center, where he was rehearsing, Jackson addressed dancers, producers and the crew helping to make his vision a reality.
“It’s an adventure — it’s a great adventure,” he told everyone. “We want to take them places they’ve never been before. I want to show them talent like they’ve never seen before.”
What we get to hear in the trailer are snippets of live performances of classic tunes like “Billie Jean,” “Smooth Criminal,” “Bad,” “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’,” “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” and “Man in the Mirror.” At one point, MJ shows off his seriously impressive beatboxing skills.
We also get to see the lighter side of Jackson, as he goofs around with his dancers, gives one of his musicians a fist bump, hugs nearly everyone in sight and generally seems like he’s having the time of his life. No doubt this is a loving portrait, produced with the full support of the Jackson family. At least in the trailer, there is no indication of the personal turmoil surrounding Jackson nor any reference to the salient fact that the King of Pop has, in fact, passed away.
Instead, “Michael Jackson’s This Is It” keeps its focus on the singer’s music and stage craft. He was planning a full-scale reproduction of the “Thriller” video, complete with zombie-costumed dancers, a church, staircases and, eerily, a cemetery. During various rehearsals, dancers soar through the air, pyrotechnics explode and an acrobat spins around inside some kind of enormous airborne chandelier. The trailer presents Jackson as a perfectionist, tirelessly going over routines countless times.
“Let’s do it one more time,” he says at one point.
And so he did. But he never got to perform any of this live in front of an audience of fans. “Michael Jackson’s This Is It,” which hits theaters for a limited, two-week engagement starting October 28, stands as the closest the public will ever come to seeing what Jackson had in store for us, to realizing why he’d decided to return to the stage once again.
“It’s all for love,” MJ says in the trailer. “L.O.V.E.”
The 2009 MTV Video Music Awards might have wrapped, but the party is far from over. Stay tuned for behind-the-scenes updates, party reports and much more.
Check out all we’ve got on “Michael Jackson’s This Is It.”