Seven slightly unhinged ideas to make the new Beatles movies interesting

click to enlarge Seven slightly unhinged ideas to make the new Beatles movies interesting
Library of Congress Photo
The Beatles arrive in America in 1964.

Last week, Sony Pictures Entertainment announced that Sam Mendes will be directing a series of four movies about the Beatles, set to be released in 2027. Each will be told from the perspective of one band member. It's a neat idea, but I'm worried it's going to be really boring.

Music biopics are famously formulaic — an hour and a half of safe fun and references. They tend to occupy the same cultural space as Disney live-action remakes. Artists like Freddie Mercury, Bob Marley and David Bowie took bold creative risks, but their on-screen depictions rarely try. It doesn't have to be this way.

The Beatles were weird, subversive and at times controversial. A series of movies about them can be, too. Here's a list of ideas — ranked in order of least to most outlandish — that could help the films stand on their own as creative products. Yes, some of these could fail epicly. But that's what risks are all about!

1. NO HITS, ONLY DEEP CUTS

We've heard the hits — and the semi-factual stories behind them — too many times. If the films really want to surprise, they should ignore the popular songs altogether. Centering tracks like "Hey Bulldog" (an underrated banger) and "Why Don't We Do It In The Road" (a hot mess) would be far more compelling.

2. DON'T LET LIVING BEATLES HAVE ANY CREATIVE CONTROL

Musician biopics often suffer as a genre because the artists' estates — and sometimes the artists themselves — have direct control over the final product. This was especially stark in Bohemian Rhapsody, the 2019 Queen biopic and vanity project that suffered from the heavy hand of the surviving band members.

Good art isn't supposed to be flattering. I'm glad Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr are still around to make music and tell their stories, but they shouldn't be anywhere near this.

3. HARD R RATING

LSD. Speed. Infidelity. The Hamburg nightclub parties. The infamous group sessions that inspired the "Beat the Meatles" New York Post headlines. There's a lot of compelling material here that doesn't deserve to be sanitized with a PG-13 rating. Even the darker elements — like domestic abuse and alcoholism — could, if done sensitively, be interesting to explore.

4. MAKE IT A MOCKUMENTARY

A good Beatles movie already exists. Nine hours long and split into three parts, Peter Jackson's Get Back uses restored footage to present a candid, fly-on-the-wall documentary about the recording sessions that would become the Beatles' Let It Be album. The imperfect historical footage is a fascinating portrait of the band's creative process.

Sadly, no similar footage exists of the recording sessions for the band's other (and frankly better) albums. But what if we could recreate it? Picture a cinema verite-style faux-documentary of the Sgt. Pepper's sessions that pairs audio of real outtakes with reenacted footage. I think it could be neat.

5. SHOOT IT IN ONE TAKE

Sam Mendes' 2019 World War I film, 1917, was really good. It uses clever filmmaking tricks to give the impression of a camera following the protagonists in a single, unbroken shot. Mendes should try this again, perhaps following one of the Beatles for a single "Day in the Life," or something like that.

6. ALL-FEMALE CAST

One music movie that successfully escaped the biopic trap was I'm Not There, an experimental 2007 film that loosely portrayed Bob Dylan's life using six different actors. The best performance by far came from actress Cate Blanchett, who nailed Dylan's idiosyncrasies and general strangeness.

Taking a similar, gender-swapped approach to the Beatles films could be really interesting and give the filmmakers a way to explore the band members' weirdly complicated relationship with masculinity. If done right, this could also be really funny.

7. MAKE ONE OF THE FILMS (RINGO'S?) A SILENT MOVIE

Ringo is a man of few words. For his film, I'm picturing a black-and-white physical comedy in the style of Charlie Chaplin.

Music biopics love to indulge in grand narratives — the emotional highs and lows of fame. There's plenty of material there in the Beatles' history, but the film shouldn't forget that the band was, in essence, four guys in their early 20s who goofed off constantly. The filmmakers shouldn't be afraid to get silly with it.

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Nate Sanford

Nate Sanford is a staff writer for the Inlander covering Spokane City Hall and a variety of other news. He joined the paper in 2022 after graduating from Western Washington University. You can reach him at [email protected]