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Peter Jackson’s Beatles Documentary Goes Large On Disney+

Steve Palace
Photo Credit: 1. Karwai Tang/WireImage 2. Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Photo Credit: 1. Karwai Tang/WireImage 2. Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

What started as a feature-length documentary about the Beatles intended for cinemas is now a 6-hour Disney+ event.

Directed and co-produced by Peter Jackson, The Beatles: Get Back is hitting the streaming service on Thanksgiving weekend, 25th–27th November. Three 2-hour episodes are waiting to be consumed by fans worldwide.

Peter Jackson isn’t prepared to let it be when it comes to the Beatles

The now-jumbo-sized documentary will take viewers behind the scenes like never before, as the Fab Four created their album Let It Be in 1969.

the Beatles performing their last live public concert on the rooftop of the Apple Organization building for director Michael Lindsey-Hogg's film documentary, 'Let It Be,' on Savile Row, London, England.
Photo Credit: Express/Express/Getty Images

This proved to be the iconic group’s swansong. And if Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s 1970 film bearing the album title is anything to go by, the experience was a strained one.

Over the past three years, Jackson has been working with raw footage shot by Lindsay-Hogg. The Wrap mentions there was over 60 hours of film and an ear-taxing 150 hours of audio material.

Jackson reportedly seeks to accentuate the positive, a view shared by surviving Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. Both feel the original movie presented a misleading portrait of a band at the end of their time together.

The Beatles: Get Back promises to be an epic treat for fans of the Fab Four

Does this mean a rosy picture is being painted over multiple hours? Possibly not. The Wrap refers to comments made by the director. Jackson states that Get Back is “not nostalgia — it’s raw, honest, and human.” He adds: “Over six hours, you’ll get to know The Beatles with an intimacy that you never thought possible.”

The Beatles jumping on wall, Used on the Twist & Shout EP cover
Photo Credit: Fiona Adams/Redferns

Vanity Fair has praised the end product, or at least the 43-ish minute section they were shown by filmmakers.

An uninterrupted sequence of the famous rooftop concert at Savile Row gets the thumbs up: “The original footage, taken from at least nine different cameras, has been scrubbed to astonishing clarity, detail, and color, a rapturous window in time,” they write.

From the trenches of World War One to the rooftops of London

When it comes to restoring old footage, Jackson is no slouch. In 2018, he and his team unveiled They Shall Not Grow Old, a documentary that restored film of the First World War to stunning effect.

Director Peter Jackson attends a screening of 'They Shall Not Grow Old' at Vue Leicester Square on November 25, 2018 in London, England.
Photo Credit: Dave J Hogan/Dave J Hogan/Getty Images for Warner Bros.

Gone are the days of crude colorization. Jackson brought audiences a cutting-edge and truly immersive look at the conflict. The end product received high praise from critics and the public.

Reportedly, the techniques used for They Shall Not Grow Old will also be used for The Beatles: Get Back.

Coronavirus led to a bigger and hopefully better Beatles experience

Had the pandemic not arrived, Get Back would probably have been released in theaters during September last year. Hopes were high for an August 2021 debut before Disney opted to premier it on Disney+.

Accompanying the release will be a book, described as the first official Beatles publication in 20 years. Jackson has also whetted appetites via a 5-minute preview, available to watch on YouTube.

Will Peter Jackson’s Beatles documentary be a long and winding road?

Fans of Jackson’s work are no doubt reminded of his approach to Middle Earth. While The Lord Of The Rings gave the director three volumes to play with, its predecessor, The Hobbit, clocked in at 300-odd pages.

Nevertheless, Jackson and company wanted to go large. His big-screen adaptation became another trilogy, totaling approximately 8 hours.

Granted, he has acres of footage to work with regarding The Beatles. But the band’s story is far from unexplored territory. Some worry the extended running time might be a little indulgent.

Writing for Variety, Owen Gleiberman highlights the potential problems. He is a big Beatles fan and looks forward to the documentary; however, he also expresses concern that Jackson maybe “hasn’t done the disciplined and demanding work of editing” required.

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Get Back could well wind up as “a Beatles document dump, the film equivalent of an overstuffed special-edition box set.” As ever with such matters, the jury is out.

Either way, the prospect of a blockbuster director overseeing an in-depth look at McCartney, Lennon, Harrison, and Starr is enough to guarantee that producers won’t be crying “Help.”