The Beatles: Get Back

The Beatles: Get Back Web mini-series, 2021, 3 ½ stars

All those years ago

Get Back in time with Beatles doc mini-series

Exclusive to MeierMovies, November 25, 2021

How big of a cultural phenomenon must you be to have six hours of cutting-room-floor scraps from a documentary you half-heartedly made in 1969 become arguably the most anticipated streaming event of 2021?

The answer can be found in The Beatles: Get Back, an ambitious reimagining of the original 81-minute, Oscar-winning Let it Be. This new version features tons of previously unseen footage – digitally remastered and edited into a three-episode series totaling seven hours and 48 minutes. Peter Jackson gets the director credit, but the title “editing wizard” seems more appropriate. After all, despite the series’ expansive feel, he still had to whittle it down from over 60 hours of video and almost three times as much audio, recorded over three weeks in January 1969. (He also had to add historical context – which he mostly succeeds at, save a rushed and not entirely accurate “Beatles for dummies” intro and a complete lack of contextual wrap-up.)

Let’s not completely ignore the director of the original Let it Be, Michael Lindsay-Hogg. His movie was originally going to be a TV special and mega-concert before it collapsed into just a casual gig (the famous rooftop concert, most of which is included in both the original doc and this new one). It was then shelved for a year, until Phil Spector came in to salvage the album portion, after the Beatles had broken up. The film was then released in conjunction with the album. Think of that original doc as sort of a “greatest hits” of the new Jackson project, which is more exhaustive and rambling than its predecessor. But the new series is also filled with greater love than Let it Be, which focused more on the group’s angst and arguments. In Get Back, we still see the anger, but it’s overwhelmed by the joy that held the Beatles together for more than a decade and fueled their chemistry and friendship.

The real joy for Beatle fans can be found in tiny, revelatory moments – some present in the Let it Be doc, some not and some merely hinted at. These include such gems as budding musical genius Alan Parsons, just 20 years old, working the audio booth; John Lennon confessing to Paul McCartney that, unlike him, he “can’t play bass and sing”; the contrast between Linda McCartney’s limited (and purposeful) presence and Yoko Ono’s lugubrious ubiquity; organist Billy Preston’s creative spark; an insightful Northern Songs business meeting; adorable 6-year-old Heather (Linda’s daughter) imitating Yoko’s primal screeching; the painful parturition of The Long and Winding Road; and the seemingly instantaneous births of countless classics that never made it onto the 1970 Let it Be album but instead saw either an earlier release on Abbey Road, in September 1969, or later exposure on solo albums. (Those tunes include John’s Jealous Guy and Gimme Some Truth, Paul’s The Back Seat of My Car and George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass.) And don’t leave the room for a jam buttie without hitting pause or you’ll miss a clever riff on, of all things, Anton Karas’s zither theme from The Third Man.

Perhaps most intriguing is seeing the transformation of Paul into a sometimes forceful but reluctant leader, embraced by Ringo, occasionally tolerated by John but resented by George.

“I’m scared of me being the boss,” Paul tells them. “And I have been for like a couple of years,” repeatedly referencing the 1967 death of “Mr. Epstein.”

That we’re discussing this at all is astonishing – astonishing that the 16mm footage looks so good, astonishing that Jackson had the patience to put it together and astonishing that, after all these years, we still care about what could be seen by Beatle non-fans as tedious minutiae. I hate to admit it, but they might have a point, as Get Back is occasionally guilty of self-indulgence. But that begs the question: Who are these Beatle non-fans, and what can we do to help these people? Were they dropped on their heads as children? Have they misplaced their aesthetic compass? Or are they merely fools on, well, you know.

I can think of no one other than the Beatles whose rehearsal crumbs and Apple peels are considered still delicious five decades after everyone else’s leftovers have long passed their expiration dates. It borders on religious zealotry. Maybe John was right after all: The Beatles really are bigger than Jesus.

© 2021 MeierMovies, LLC


The Beatles: Get Back is currently streaming on Disney+. Let’s hope a Blu-ray comes soon, followed by the long-promised re-release of the original Let it Be doc, the delay of which certainly isn’t hurting Disney’s Get Back marketing juggernaut. (Mice and (four) Men rule the world.)

(Paul, Ringo, Yoko and Olivia Harrison were co-producers on this project.)  

For more information on the mini-series, visit IMDB and Wikipedia