PictureThis Is It hits Blu-ray with a superior 1080p High Definition video presentation in the feature's original theatrical aspect ratio of widescreen 1.78:1. Sure, if this were any regular movie - by today's standards - this would be a very disappointing rendition. Some footage is in High Definition, some Standard, some is blurry and soft, other moments have the clarity of a digitally-shot documentary, it's such a hotch-potch in terms of quality that you would baulk if you saw this for any Hollywood production, or even any final concert production released on Blu-ray. But since this is the best they could do with the varying and limited material on offer, it is hard to complain about the end result. Especially since, at the end of the day, it looks the best it possibly can. For the HD sequences, the detail is amazing, the colours rich across the vibrant, broad palette, and the black levels solid and deep. Everything else displays the kind of traits you would only expect from what is essentially polished-up b-roll footage, so there is nothing unexpected here. They really did a wonderful job, and it's difficult to fault the presentation that resulted from the work done.
SoundTo accompany this musical feast we get a suitably immersive DTS-HD Master Audio offering, a lossless track that really brings out the best in this would-be concert Blu-ray. This is one of the most engaging, all-encompassing tracks that I have ever come across on the format, presenting the litany of Jackson toe-tapping classics in all their glory. Jackson's voice comes across clearly and coherently (taking into account the fact that he is just practising here, so not always giving it his 'all') on stage, and the dialogue during the interludes is also well presented across the frontal array. Of course, you wouldn't expect much in the way of effects from such a musical-number-based production, but This Is It was designed to be a jaw-dropping entertainment extravaganza, and the amazing stunts, bullet-laden Smooth Criminal sequences, shock-factor Thriller effects and show-stopping pyrotechnics all light up the surrounds as if this were a big budget Hollywood Blockbuster. If you're a fan of this legend's music then these 'rough cut' versions of his hits are a must have in DTS-HD.
ExtrasStaging the Return Documentary
This 2-part Making-of Documentary runs at 40 minutes in length and is roughly split into a half hour The Adventure Begins segment and then a ten minute Beyond the Show segment. The first part looks at the scope of the mammoth comeback tour, the efforts that went into staging the event - including use of the latest 3D technology, the preparation by the crew and the work done by the Director, giving us a brief overview of the King of Pop's history prior to the event, as well as building up what could have been, had this gone ahead. The second section takes a look at the tail end of Jackson's rehearsals - including the work done on the day prior to his untimely death - as well as the planned exit for the end of the show, and potentially for the end of his career in showbusiness. Also having a more introspective edge, it briefly looks at the legend himself, and his capacity to entertain across generations, races and continents.
We get no less than 8 Featurettes to accompany the main Documentary, each specifically tailored to their individual topic. The Gloved One takes 15 minutes to look at the fancy Costumes prepared for this event, including the famous Swarovski-studded outfit, and the outfit which was to have flashing lights embedded in it; Auditions: Searching for the World's Best Dancers takes 10 minutes to offer a more in-depth look at the topless men and lingerie-clad women who were recruited to back-up the main man himself, and we get a Meet the Dancers Featurette which gives us a closer look at the dancers themselves. The Meet the Band Featurette does the same for the excellent band, who bow to the every whim of the genius who is orchestrating this epic production, and ditto for Meet the Vocalists, where we look at the superb vocalists, who do a lot of work to make the classic songs sound every bit as good as they have ever done. The Unfinished Rehearsals give us a longer look at some of rehearsal footage and we get a Dancing Machine Featurette which looks at the choreography done. Finally, Memories of Michael spends a few minutes with the production crew and artists involved in the tour, all offering their sound-bites on the man. Although a little insipid in its overly emotional content, it was expected that some of behind the scenes material would look more closely at this aspect of the King of Pop's entourage.
The Thriller and Smooth Criminal Vignettes expand upon the footage already shown in the main feature, showing us exactly what would have immediately preceded both of the songs, the video productions that would play on the big screen at the back of the stage. Thriller set up the ghostly Vincent Price-narrated introduction nicely with plenty of CG effects (it would have looked pretty special in 3D) and Smooth Criminal expands on that classic black and white film intersplicing that was done to help depict Jackson's encounter with Bogart, Edward G. Robinson and other classic icons. Both Vignettes run at a little under 4 minutes in length, and we also get a Making Smooth Criminal Featurette which takes some 11 minutes to look at how said video was put together, the use of green screen and CG technology, and the stunt-work done.
Finally we get the Theatrical Trailer to round off the extras-laden disc.
VerdictThis Is It marks the bookend to the illustrious career of the King of Pop. This musical genius touched the hearts of people across the world, bridging across generations, races and continents to bring his standout performances to millions - if not billions - of fans. Whether or not his fame and consequential fortune left him as an unchecked individual, morally, and whether we - as fans - are to blame for allowing the situation to precipitate into a sea of child sex allegations and inappropriate conduct are far more controversial - but no less valid - questions than this entertaining homage chooses to address, instead giving us one last fond farewell look at the star during the preparations for his most extravagant comeback tour. On Region Free UK Blu-ray we get solid video (given the varying source material) and spectacular audio, as well as a comprehensive selection of behind the scenes extras, making this a must-have purchase for fans. Some of you might still find it a bittersweet mix, whether because of the star's untimely death, or because of the more unsavoury aspects of his colourful private life, but if you can put that aside, then this is a fitting tribute to the undisputed King of Pop.
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