For five decades, fans have wondered that if the Beatles had to end, did they have to end like that? They broke up in 1970, with the Let It Be album and documentary still to come. Neither was an ideal note to go out on. Phil Spector’s record production was controversial before his murder conviction. The film is best remembered for a miserable-looking George Harrison pleading with Paul McCartney to leave him alone: “Whatever it is that will please you, I’ll do it.”
It came to be accepted the closing stretch was bitter, with four burned-out Beatles desperate to shut it down as they endured a musical midlife crisis (even if at the time of the split none had reached 30). It was easy to regret that their final chapter was such a downer. Enter Peter Jackson, whose new documentary, The Beatles: Get Back, lets in some sun.
For his 2018 documentary They Shall Not Grow Old, Jackson restored 100-year-old film to create an utterly original look at World War I. Reviewing 56 hours of Let It Be footage from 1969 seems comparatively simple and, as expected, Jackson’s cleaned-up audio and video rise to a magnificent quality. But the real transformation comes in tone. Jackson confirms what we’ve long suspected: Being in the world’s most successful band didn’t totally suck, after all. As Jackson puts it, “It’s like a time machine transports us back to 1969, and we get to sit in the studio watching these four friends make great music together.”
Jackson’s efforts even won over the harshest Let It Be critic: Paul. He wasn’t positive about the original documentary, saying, “It was a very sad time,” and telling Jackson the archival footage was bound to be “boring.” But he’s praised Get Back: “It just reminds me of—even though we had arguments like any family—we loved each other, you know, and it shows in the film.” Maybe George genuinely wanted to please Paul, after all.
The Beatles: Get Back hits theaters Aug. 27
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