The Beatles: Get Back
|The Beatles: Get Back|
|Directed by||Peter Jackson|
|Country of origin|
|No. of episodes||3|
|Distributor||Disney Platform Distribution|
|Original release||25 November –|
27 November 2021
The Beatles: Get Back is a 2021 documentary series directed and produced by Peter Jackson. It covers the making of the Beatles' 1970 album Let It Be, which had the working title of Get Back, and draws from material originally captured for Michael Lindsay-Hogg's 1970 documentary of the album, also titled Let It Be. Originally conceived as a feature film, The Beatles: Get Back consists of three episodes with runtimes between two and three hours each, resulting in a total runtime of nearly eight hours of material. The series is presented by Walt Disney Studios in association with Apple Corps and WingNut Films.
Jackson characterised The Beatles: Get Back as "a documentary about a documentary". Commentators have described it as challenging longtime beliefs that the making of Let It Be was marked entirely by tensions between the Beatles, showing a more upbeat side of the production. It premiered on Disney+ consecutively on 25, 26 and 27 November 2021. The miniseries was widely praised by critics, who highlighted the historical merit of the footage and its showing of the inner workings of the band, although some deemed its runtime to be excessive.
- John Lennon
- Paul McCartney
- George Harrison
- Ringo Starr
- Michael Lindsay-Hogg
- Linda McCartney
- Yoko Ono
- Mal Evans
- Glyn Johns
- Maureen Starkey
- Billy Preston
- George Martin
- Geoff Emerick
- Heather McCartney
Production of The Beatles: Get Back employed film restoration techniques developed for Jackson's They Shall Not Grow Old. Sixty hours of film footage and over 150 hours of audio stemming from the original Let It Be film project were made available to Jackson's team. In reference to the long-reported acrimony surrounding the original Get Back project, Jackson wrote in a press statement that he was "relieved to discover the reality is very different to the myth ... Sure, there's moments of drama – but none of the discord this project has long been associated with."
Jackson spent close to four years editing the series. It was created with cooperation from Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and the widows of John Lennon (Yoko Ono) and George Harrison (Olivia Harrison), as well as music supervisor Giles Martin (son of George Martin and a regular producer of Beatles projects since 2006). In a news release, McCartney said: "I am really happy that Peter has delved into our archives to make a film that shows the truth about the Beatles recording together", while Starr echoed: "There was hours and hours of us just laughing and playing music, not at all like the Let It Be film that came out [in 1970]. There was a lot of joy and I think Peter will show that."
Disney was persuaded by the filmmakers to allow for the inclusion of profanity, with viewer discretion warnings at the start of each episode. According to Jackson: "The Beatles are Scouse boys and they freely swear but not in an aggressive or sexual way. We got Disney to agree to have swearing, which I think is the first time for a Disney channel." Episodes also contain viewer discretion warnings for tobacco use.
The final cut covers 21 days in the studio with the Beatles as they rehearse for a forthcoming album, concert and film project, and climaxes with the full 42-minute rooftop concert. Jackson described the series as "a documentary about a documentary", as well as a "tougher" one than Let It Be, since it includes controversial events such as Harrison's brief resignation from the band, which the original film had not covered. With the exception of specific shots where no alternative exists, most of the material that had been featured in Let It Be was not reused in Get Back, and the series primarily used footage captured from alternative camera angles in the case of sequences shared between the two works. According to Jackson, this choice was made out of a desire to "not step on Let It Be's toes so that it is still a film that has a reason to exist, and our [series] will be a supplement to it".
Ben Sisario of The New York Times emphasised opening scenes of the series from January 1969, with McCartney creating the song "Get Back" "out of nothing" while awaiting Lennon who was running late. According to Sisario, Lennon's only aim in the Get Back project was "communication with an audience", McCartney asked the band to "show enthusiasm for the project or abandon it", Harrison openly contemplated "a divorce" (of the band), while the whole band were uncomfortable about Ono's presence at the sessions.
The project was announced on 30 January 2019, the fiftieth anniversary of the Beatles' rooftop concert. On 11 March 2020, The Walt Disney Studios announced they had acquired the worldwide distribution rights to Jackson's documentary, now titled The Beatles: Get Back. It was initially set to be theatrically released as a Walt Disney Pictures film by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures on 4 September 2020 in the United States and Canada, with a global release to follow. On 12 June 2020, it was pushed back to 27 August 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On 17 June 2021, it was announced that The Beatles: Get Back would instead be released as a three-part documentary series on Disney+ on the Thanksgiving weekend of 25, 26 and 27 November 2021, with each episode being over two hours in length. On 16 November 2021, McCartney attended the UK premiere of The Beatles: Get Back.
On 21 December 2020, a five-minute preview montage from the reproduced film, presented by Jackson, was released on YouTube and Disney+. The video features the band members dancing, doing impersonations, laughing, Lennon reading a newspaper article about Harrison's encounter with a photographer, as well as Lennon and McCartney "jokingly singing 'Two of Us' through gritted teeth". A one-minute clip of the film was released on YouTube on 12 November, containing a scene with the Beatles working on the song "I've Got a Feeling".
The release was preceded by the publication of a book of the same name – the first official book credited to the band since The Beatles Anthology (2000) – featuring an introduction by Hanif Kureishi. The book was initially scheduled for 31 August 2021 to coincide with the initial August release of the documentary, but was ultimately released on 12 October, ahead of the documentary. The documentary was also preceded by the release of a remixed, deluxe edition box set of the Let It Be album on 15 October by Apple Records.
Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported an approval rating of 92% based on 77 reviews, with an average rating of 8.6/10. The website's critics consensus reads, "It may be too much of a good thing for some viewers, but The Beatles: Get Back offers a thrillingly immersive look at the band's creative process." Metacritic gave the series a weighted average score of 85 out of 100 based on 27 critic reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".
Sheri Linden of The Hollywood Reporter called the documentary an "immersive, in-the-moment chronicle of a generation-defining band in the act of creating, offering an up-close look at the quartet's alchemy" and concluded that it "offers ample evidence that necessity is in the eye of the beholder". Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the miniseries a score of four out of four stars, deeming it "one of the most entertaining, compelling and important chapters in filmed music history" and praising the quality of the footage of the rooftop performance.
Owen Gleiberman, writing for Variety, said that while the story "meanders" and gets "bloated" in Part Three, it is an "addictive" portrait of a "transcendent" band that goes above "both the hype and fan anxiety". Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone complimented the miniseries' intimacy, highlighting its poignant and "quiet moments" as "the heart of the film", including the scenes where Starr offers Ono a piece of gum, Linda McCartney and Ono whisper as the band plays "Let It Be", Harrison impresses the band with a Bob Dylan cover, McCartney covers "Strawberry Fields Forever" with Lennon's sly approval, and McCartney defends Ono while grieving for the band's end.
Less impressed, The Guardian's Alexis Petridis called the series "aimless", with repetition that was a "threat to the viewer's sanity", and said that while it had "fantastic moments", they were too few and far between. Writing in The Times, Beatles biographer Philip Norman was highly critical of the editing of the footage and general tone of Jackson's work, commenting that several "inconvenient facts", including Lennon's heroin addiction and the "baiting" of Ono, were ignored. In a five-star review for The Independent, Ed Cumming wrote that the acrimony besetting the Beatles had "taken on a mythic quality" since Lindsay-Hogg's 1970 film, but through Jackson's expanded coverage, "Any future assessment of the band and its members will have to measure up against the people we see here."
|No.||Title||Directed by ||Original release date |
|1||"Part 1: Days 1–7"||Peter Jackson||25 November 2021|
|The Beatles begin rehearsing at Twickenham Studios for what is at first meant to be a television special about the recording of their next album leading up to a live show at a location to be determined. The band rehearse embryonic versions of songs that will appear on the Let It Be album, as well as some songs that were later recorded for solo releases by John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison. After seven days of tense rehearsals that reveal problems in the band members' motivation and collaborative process, Harrison abruptly leaves the group.|
|2||"Part 2: Days 8–16"||Peter Jackson||26 November 2021|
|Rehearsals briefly resume amid uncertainty over the band's future. Following a productive meeting with Harrison, the Beatles agree to abandon the idea of a live show and relocate to their Apple Corps studio to formally record the new album. Billy Preston, a musician the group met in Hamburg, joins in on the sessions on electric piano.|
|3||"Part 3: Days 17–22"||Peter Jackson||27 November 2021|
|The Beatles continue recording as the deadline for completing the project, caused by Ringo Starr's filming schedule for The Magic Christian, approaches. McCartney continues to hope that the band will perform live for an audience and Lennon meets American businessman Allen Klein for the first time. On the penultimate day, the Beatles perform an unannounced concert on the roof of the Apple Corps building, attracting crowds of passers-by as well as the attention of the Metropolitan Police.|
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