June 24, 2021

GET BACK — THREE MORE MONTHS: Peter Jackson Restored So Much Beatles Footage That Get Back Is Now a Six-Hour TV Series.

Peter Jackson’s “The Beatles: Get Back” was originally set for a theatrical release in late August, but Disney+ has now announced the documentary is moving to Thanksgiving and expanding into a three-part series. The streamer explained that “because of the wealth of tremendous footage Jackson has reviewed, which he has spent the past three years restoring and editing, ‘The Beatles: Get Back’ will be presented as three separate episodes.” The installments will roll out November 25-27 and be approximately two hours in length each.

But will more be less? The Beatles: Get Back Is Now a Six-Hour Mini-Series. So Why Does It Feel Like More Might Be Less?

If the Beatles aren’t worthy of the big screen, I don’t know who is.

But that’s no longer going to happen. Now we’ll all sit at home, watching the Beatles separately, on three separate nights. Beyond that, I’m compelled to ask: Six hours? It’s clear that Peter Jackson fell in love with this material and was eager to give us more of it, which sounds like a generous impulse. But six hours of “Get Back” is a lot of “Get Back.” (My curiosity is at fever pitch, but no one pretends that this was the Beatles’ greatest record.) Jackson’s last film, “They Shall Not Grow Old” (2018), was a brilliant documentary reconstruction of World War I that elevated the cataclysmic experience of that war to a newly heightened immediacy, and did it in just 99 minutes. It was a transcendent film. In general, though, Peter Jackson tends to be dominated by his go-big-or-go-home side, which first showed itself in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy (which I think of, in my snarkier moments, as nine hours of folks riding through the woods), then in the bloat of “King Kong,” and then in the jaw-dropping grandiosity with which he inflated “The Hobbit,” J.R.R. Tolkien’s slenderest Middle-earth novel, into three damn epic movies. Do you sense a trend here?

I’m not prejudging “The Beatles: Get Back.” I, of course, hope that it presents a revelatory vision of the Beatles. But I do have a trepidation, one that I feel justified in saying out loud. My fear is that Jackson, in chopping the “Get Back” footage down to a gargantuan six hours, hasn’t done the disciplined and demanding work of editing, of shaping, of putting an exquisitely honed movie together. My fear is that he’ll be giving us not a Beatles documentary but a Beatles document dump, the film equivalent of an overstuffed special-edition box set. Making “The Beatles: Get Back” into a must-see event on Disney Plus reduces the Beatles, on some level, to eyeball-driving artifacts of the newly commodified streaming world. We’ll see if that’s a fitting form for a group that was (to quote John Lennon) not just bigger than Jesus, but bigger than all of us.

It does sound like there will be a later physical release of the footage according to this fellow Beatles obsessive:

Will the original Let It Be finally be released on Blu-Ray as well? This quote from Jackson near the end of a lengthy Vanity Fair article on the upcoming Disney+ Thanksgiving streaming release sounds hopeful:

In a decisive and crucial creative act, Jackson says he avoided repeating footage from the original film. Even familiar scenes would use alternative camera angles. “One of our mantras is that Let It Be is one movie, and our movie is a different movie,” he says, “and we’re trying not to repeat any footage, with one or two tiny exceptions where we can’t do anything else. But we’re trying to not step on Let It Be’s toes so that it is still a film that has a reason to exist, and our movie will be a supplement to it.”

Presumably there will be a Super Deluxe box set, if not this Christmastime, then likely next year, including Blu-Rays of Get Back, Let It Be, and remixed CDs of the original Phil Spector version, the cashiered Glyn Johns mixes, and the 2003 Let It Be…Naked stripped down version.

And who knows? There could be an even more Super Duper Ultra Deluxe version of Get Back/Let It Be depending upon the sales of this upcoming solo Beatles boxed set:

But that will certainly change on Aug. 6, when Capitol/UMe presents the “All Things Must Pass 50th Anniversary Edition” in a variety of formats, the most “Are you crazy?” of which is the limited “Uber Deluxe Edition”: a toybox-sized wooden crate that includes the album and dozens of demos and outtakes spread across piles of vinyl, discs (in 5.1 surround sound and Dolby Atmos and Blu-Ray), books and other ephemera, and — perhaps best of all — the miniature facsimiles of the garden gnomes depicted on the cover, which were immortalized in a recent Variety article… all for just $998.98!

Fortunately, there will be more affordable version — sans gnomes, of course.

(Bumped.)

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