The biggest music documentary of the year is finally here: Peter Jackson’s in-depth The Beatles: Get Back debuted on Disney+ on Thursday, November 25th, with the second and third episodes set to follow on Friday, November 26th, and Saturday, November 27th.
With almost eight hours of material – cut down from an incredible 55 hours – it’s a must for any avid Beatles fan. The footage was lovingly restored from the band’s 1969 recording sessions for their final studio album, Let It Be. The doc then culminates in their famous last public performance atop the Apple Corps headquarters rooftop in London, with the full concert shown.
Considering this was the documentary that caused Paul McCartney to change his own perception of the band’s split, and John Lennon’s son, Julian Lennon, to say that watching it was a “life changing” experience for him, it was always going to be pretty fascinating.
The first reviews and reactions seem to confirm that. Most publications largely praised Jackson’s work, although many did note the extreme length might prove a slog for some.
Indiewire gave the doc a strong A grade. “Overall, Jackson’s insights are savvy, knowing which seemingly repetitive playings of songs or quibbles about performance venues will bring something new to our understanding of these men,” they wrote. “With a project like this that brings back music history from the cutting room floor to the limelight, it makes sense to have too much rather than too little.”
“Get Back is a tribute to the musicianship of the band and a potent reminder of the power of the songs,” said Empire, while Variety said “a heady expansion of the “Get Back” footage becomes an essential diary of the group’s greatness.” The Conversation offered a measured review: “Get Back, then, is unquestionably a mixed bag: thrilling, compelling, and funny, but also sometimes just a little boring.”
The climactic footage of the band playing on the Apple Corps rooftop in London came in for wide praise. “But the real point of the rooftop performance becomes clear when the camera zooms in on their faces,” wrote Pitchfork.
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“As they try “Get Back” for the second and then the third time, the song seems to warm up their frozen fingers…As John and Paul grin at each other, the audience—that notional sea of Beatlemaniacs somewhere out in the world—ceases to exist, has never existed. There is only the four of them. They have accomplished the only thing they truly set out to do—find their way back to each other, at least for the moment.”
The Guardian gave it a solid three stars, leading with the comical headline “eight hours of TV so aimless it threatens your sanity.” “It ends with the famous concert on the roof of Apple’s HQ…It is 40 minutes of untrammelled joy, but it is an inordinately long and winding road to get there. You wonder how many viewers will last the distance and if any, other than the aforementioned maniacs, will take it more than once.”
Twitter had some great reactions to the doc. “Phenomenal to see what he rescued and restored from those 60 hours of film. The sound alone – it can’t be understated how it has made the film possible (not just the music, the conversation clear as day),” wrote radio presenter Zan Rowe.
“Happy Get Backsgiving. the Beatles movie is even greater, funnier, sadder, realer than I was hoping. pools of sorrow, waves of joy, loads of Bitchy George,” said Rolling Stone‘s Rob Sheffield.
NYT‘s Ed Cumming offered a wonderful (terrible?) pun: “The Beatles: Get Back starts tomorrow but Peter Jackson is already at work on the sequel: The Lord of the Wings,” he wrote, referencing McCartney’s post-Beatles band.
If you want to see for yourself if The Beatles: Get Back is good, you can sign up for Disney+ here.
Had the opportunity to see a theatre preview of The Beatles' "Get Back" (dropping on @disneyplus over the next few days). It included some incredible context from director and restorer Peter Jackson about the process – creative and technical.
— Zan Rowe (@zanrowe) November 24, 2021
happy Get Backsgiving. the Beatles movie is even greater, funnier, sadder, realer than I was hoping. pools of sorrow, waves of joy, loads of Bitchy George https://t.co/8SUd56xVDP
— rob sheffield (@robsheff) November 25, 2021
The Beatles: Get Back starts tomorrow but Peter Jackson is already at work on the sequel: The Lord of the Wings
— Ed Cumming (@edcumming) November 24, 2021
— Mark Hamill (@HamillHimself) November 25, 2021
The Get Back documentary on Disney+ does a great job of respectfully making clear that, for all their musical genius, The Beatles weren't especially intelligent about much outside of music. The business management side just stomped them.
— Max Burns (@themaxburns) November 25, 2021
the beatles – get back (2021) pic.twitter.com/2IY1QkysCa
— get back, duda (@mccartneyIlI) November 25, 2021