LOS ANGELES // "Michael Jackson's This Is It" premiered to high praise from fans who applauded at each number as though they were at a concert and marvelled as the singer stepped nimbly through his moonwalk and other signature moves. Jackson, 50 when he died last June, kept pace with backup dancers half his age during rehearsals for such hits as "Thriller," "Billie Jean," "Beat It" and "Human Nature." The film was shot as Jackson prepared for a marathon concert stand in London that never happened.
"He looked better than he did when he was 30," said Jessica Childs, a 21-year-old aspiring dancer who caught the Los Angeles premiere. "His voice stood out." Most of the material was intended for Jackson's private use, but it now serves as the last bow of a performer who ruled the pop charts in the 1980s and later retired to a reclusive life amid allegations of child molestation. The mood at simultaneous premieres around the world was tearful yet celebratory. "It was touching. Well done. It was beautiful," said Casey Gosh, 24, who was invited to the premiere by a friend. "It told his story. You really felt like you knew him. It was his final performance."
The footage revealed just how elaborate and demanding Jackson's comeback run of 50 planned concerts last July would have been. One segment showed how Jackson would have made a grand stage entrance inside a mechanical spider. Another, intended as a 3-D film accompaniment on "Thriller," featured an expansive graveyard set. The film also included a medley of Jackson 5 hits the singer originally performed with his siblings.
Celebrity guests included Paula Abdul, Will Smith, Jennifer Lopez, Paris Hilton, Neil Patrick Harris, Katy Perry and Motown Records founder Berry Gordy Jr Ortega said he expected audiences would be most surprised by "the intimacy. It's unguarded and raw and real, and Michael is there and available to us all, and lovely and kind." It was the biggest cinematic blowout ever for a music film as "This Is It" opened for paying customers immediately after the premieres, with evening and midnight screenings in North America to middle-of-the-night and morning showings in Europe, Asia and elsewhere.
Distributor Sony, which paid US$60 million (Dh220m) for the film rights, opened "This Is It" in 99 countries. It expands to 110 territories this weekend. *AP