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 marveled 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.”
Four of Jackson’s brothers — Jermaine, Marlon, Tito and Jackie — attended, saying afterward that seeing their brother on film filled them with love and pride.
“It’s amazing to see him up there doing his thing,” Jackie Jackson said. “To see him up there doing his performance like that has brought a lot of tears to my eyes, sitting there watching him. Because I love him so much. That’s why I keep this with me at all times in my pocket. It’s a little token of him,” he said, pulling out a white-glove key-ring fashioned after one of his brother’s best-known accessories.
Performances in the film included a medley of Jackson 5 hits the singer originally performed with his siblings.
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 Tuesday and Wednesday was tearful yet celebratory. At the Los Angeles premiere near the arena where much of the rehearsal footage was shot, “This Is It” director and longtime Jackson collaborator Kenny Ortega introduced the film to the audience, calling it the “last sacred documentation of our leader and our friend.”
“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.”