Beatles Anthology Reviews
I'm certainly not asking that this series be exceptionally unique as a stylish documentary or whatever, but little in the way of unique stylistic flavor is infused into the presentation of this series' formulaic interview-footage storytelling, and such a lack of flare throughout this sprawling saga, while not too detrimental to momentum, leaves things to feel repetitious before too long, while keeping certain aspects of the final product from standing out as refreshing. ...Yeah, I should probably go ahead and tell you that most of what flaws I will be discussing in this paragraph are really reached for in order to round out this section of the review and reinforce my opinion of the final product, but make no mistake, issues still stand, whether they be as mild as the aforementioned lack of style that leaves things to feel repetitious and somewhat formulaic, or as relatively considerable as the conventional formula's simply being kind of overblown. Whether you see it in the abridged, six-part form it debuted in, or in the eight-part, eleven-and-a-half-hour form that contemporary audiences most recognize, this documentary is just too blasted long, taking a long time to flesh out the story of the Beatles about as much as it possibly can, and sure, on the whole, the lengthiness feels reasonably organic, but it ends up hurting a sense of progression to the narrative of this documentary, which aimlessly wanders along, meditating upon whatever it can to run out the clock, with only so much attention to rises and falls in storytelling. The aimlessness that results from the lengthiness is, like the lack of flavorful style, a relatively quite light issue, but to some extent or another, it exacerbates the repetition, and that would be more forgivable if there weren't certain areas in the wandering storytelling that feel genuinely forced, for although most every piece of information delivered in this immense study on the eventful of some of the biggest icons in the history of the entertainment industry is intriguing, there is, of course, plenty of fat around the edges in the form of excess material and filler that pads things out and often run together to further reinforce some sense of repetition and aimlessness. Like I said earlier, I was expecting to really reach out there to find notable issues, and sure enough, there's not a whole lot that is necessarily wrong with this generally organically structured and thoroughly entertaining, if overblown and stylistically limited documentary series, but there are some problems, particularly in pacing, and they leave you to further meditate upon the final product's absolute biggest, mac-daddy, overpowering shortcomings: natural ones. Yeah, there's just not all that much to this documentary, and that's fine and all, because the consequential shortcomings are hardly great enough to prevent the final product from being the genuinely rewarding, yet I can easily see those who sat down to the first couple of episodes when it debuted not really having all that much trouble if they happened to fall out the series after a while, because you can draw only so much compellingness out of subject matter of this type. That being said, in spite of the fair deal of natural shortcomings and generally relatively moderate, but no less present consequential shortcomings, you'd be pressed to not be thoroughly intrigued by this sprawling documentary series, which rewards as both an insightful study on life and times of the Beatles, and a showcase of what made the Beatles the legendary musical juggernauts they are.
Seeing as we are dealing with an exhaustive meditation upon music legends, there are only so many moments in which this series is without the Beatles' classic tunes, and while most every one of those tunes was a hit, they themselves did not always hit, or at least not for me, for although I have great respect for the Beatles, - especially during their golden post-Beatlemania years - a lot of their songs - particularly the ones of the Beatlemania era - run together, and plenty of them aren't even all that great, so it's not like this series' soundtrack is ceaselessly killer, yet as far as entertainment value is concerned, this series' soundtrack keeps consistent, and whether you're being presented the occasional musical piece that influenced or was influenced by the Beatles, or presented a legendary piece by the Beatles themselves, there are plenty of enjoyable, if not strong tunes to liven up entertainment value and color up insight into this subject matter on a musical level whose effectiveness goes matched, if not topped only by the more visual aspects of this documentary. With all of my talk of repetition, and how it is often intensified by archived filler footage's running together, the actually great deal of dynamicity to this effort would be nothing without the immense wealth of archived footage, whose careful placement into the context of the documentary supplements what sense of progression there is to the story being told in this often aimless documentary, and whose simply being so in-depth, dynamic for the most part, and all around colorful provides both compliments to a sense of intimacy within this human study, and a sense of range that helps in gracing this epic-length saga with something of a sense of sweep. The series all but carries the pretense of being a so-called "epic documentary", and I must admit, in spite of the pacing issues and natural shortcomings, this series lives up to its promise more often than not with a richly hefty collection of classic visual material to join the collection of classic musical material in gracing the final product with a certain range that establishes a certain sense of scope that slowly, but surely, grows greater and greater as the series progresses, immersing you more and more into the weight of the subject matter that is made immersive enough by the Beatles' telling their story, not just in the archived footage, but within contemporary material. I'd be lying if I said that it's not offputting not seeing new footage of the tragically late, considerably great John Lennon, whose untimely death obviously left him incapable of contributing to this series in a way that would have given you more of a connection with his depths, yet as things stand, the then-surviving components to the legendary Beatles - from the band's associates to the band members themselves - give you enough of a sense of intimacy with everything to stand as great components to the compellingness of the final product, with the band members, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and the now-late, also great George Harrison, being especially captivating, delivering on delightful charisma and heart that both charms thoroughly and immerses you into their lives and relationships with each other. It's a deeply enjoyable experience seeing bona fide legends bring themselves down to earth and tell their story with a humble genuineness that only those who led the classic tales being told can provide, and while the effectiveness within the interviews of those who lived to see the creation of this documentary really reflects just how much is being missed out on because of Lennon's tragic demise, the leaders of this interview-driven documentary add a great deal to the final product's compellingness. The presentation of this series' very important subject matter isn't especially upstanding, but it's strong on plenty of occasions, and rarely, if ever less that rewarding, and that's pretty impressive when you consider the many opportunities this sprawling saga has to mess up, though it's not too surprising, because the subject matter itself is nothing if not compelling, because even though the final product leaves a bit too much fat around certain edges, whether it be mere colorful filler or an important piece of information, most every piece of material pertaining to the Beatles covered in this epic-length saga is fascinating, and that's about all you can ask for out of a documentary. Okay, perhaps this effort could have had more flavor to it, because if the natural shortcomings were more obscured by strong tweaks in the subject matter's presentation, I at least would find myself facing a very strong documentary and a somehow even more forcibly padded out paragraph preceding this one, yet as the final product stands, it's an essential for big Beatles fans, and a rewardingly fascinating and entertaining documentary on a general level.
In the end, the love that you take is equal to the love you make... whatever that means, and this effort ends up too dragged down by repetition - supplemented by a lack of an especially unique storytelling style, and possession of an overwhelmingly immense, perhaps even gratuitous runtime that often gets to be excessive and detrimental to an actual sense of progression in storytelling - and natural shortcomings to be especially outstanding, but through a thoroughly entertaining and consistently present soundtrack that is filled with classic tunes, a wealth of nifty archived footage that compliments of sense of sometimes grand range to a sense of sweep to storytelling, down-to-earth and heartfelt interviews - especially by the surviving band members - that charismatically carry storytelling, and subject matter that is simply deeply fascinating and extensively well-explored, "The Beatles Anthology" stands as a consistently compelling and ultimately rewarding exploration and celebration of the life and times of one of the most recognizable and influential forces in modern music history.
3/5 - Good
This documentary assumes some basic prior knowledge of the Beatles; one should know the albums they put out and in what order, and vaguely what hit songs are on which. One should know that Stuart Sutcliffe and Pete Best were members of the band in the very early days. But that's it really, and with that basic awareness one can enjoy and learn a lot from THE BEATLES ANTHOLOGY. For example, like many people, I suppose, my Beatles listening starts from RUBBER SOUL and their music before that album seems like the most vacuous pop. After watching the documentary, I can appreciate that early music as a heartfelt response to the American rock'n'roll that the four young lads were enchanted by.
This is an entertaining documentary, but not everyone will like everything on it. Originally, the format was much more interview-centered, and you can see this in a "director's cut" bootleg that has long circulated. By the time it was broadcast, the documentary had been edited to include much more 1960s footage, with the members of the band often contributing only a line or two between long concert scenes. Therefore, those hoping for lots of facts and trivia may be disappointed, but as someone interested in 1960s fashion and youth culture, I find more footage of that era quite welcome.