Opinion: Will Sam Mendes' Fab Four film saga face biopic fatigue?

Each iconic Beatle will be getting a feature film about their life, courtesy of Sam Mendes. The question is: Will biopic fatigue become a thing, similar to superhero fatigue?

Beatles / V&A Images/GettyImages

Each member of the iconic Beatles, John, Paul, George, and Ringo, will have their own dedicated feature film in the pipeline. "I’m honored to be telling the story of the greatest rock band of all time, and excited to challenge the notion of what constitutes a trip to the movies...," stated renowned director Sam Mendes, who has ambitious plans to craft four distinct movies, each offering a unique perspective from a Beatles band member. These films will intertwine to narrate the remarkable journey of the legendary band, culminating in their tumultuous breakup in 1970. Full life story and music rights have been graciously granted by Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and the families of John Lennon and George Harrison for these scripted cinematic endeavors.

Expressing his enthusiasm, Mendes iw known for his acclaimed works such as American Beauty and the war drama 1917. Many filmmakers would be thrilled to delve into the narrative of what is often called the "greatest rock band of all time" and, hopefully, challenge conventional cinematic boundaries. Sure, the Beatles are far from some invisible band, so it sticks with the current trend of highlighting already-highlighted artists, but it's still a big deal. After all, Sony Pictures Entertainment has taken on the task of financing and distributing all four films, slated for theatrical release in 2027.

Specific details regarding release plans will be disclosed later, with the studio promising a functional, "innovative and groundbreaking" approach to mainlining further doses of Beatlemania. While premiering four films in a single year may seem daring, recent successes of music-centered movies at the box office suggest a promising trend. Movies have always had hit songs associated them, such as Bruce Springsteen's "Hungry Heart" for The Perfect Storm. However, more recently you have successfull full-on biopics like Singer/Fletcher's "Bohemian Rhapsody," Baz Luhrmann’s "Elvis" and Paramount’s "Bob Marley: One Love," which exceeded expectations, while Taylor Swift’s "The Eras Tour," a cinematic spectacle of her ostensibly monumental concert, outshone numerous Hollywood franchises in global ticket sales.

The Beatles film and bands as brands

The successful biopic is no longer a "unicorn" experience, so others are hopping on the apparent bandwagon. Several other projects spotlighting musical legends are in development, including Antoine Fuqua’s exploration of Michael Jackson's life and Ridley Scott's potential directorial venture into the rise of the Bee Gees. Mendes, alongside producing partners Pippa Harris and Julie Pastor of Neal Street Productions, will helm this Beatles production. Executive production will be overseen by Jeff Jones from Apple Corps Limited, the multimedia organization established by the Beatles in 1968.

To fans, this endeavor promises to be an exhilarating and grand cinematic experience. Think of it: Four films, each offering a distinct perspective, interweaving to tell the story of the most revered band in history. To have the endorsement of The Beatles and Apple Corps for this project is an immense honor. This also marks the first occasion where The Beatles have extended their full support for a scripted film.

Musical biopic fatigue?

While the band has been the subject of various documentaries and inspired numerous cinematic adaptations, including the jukebox musical Across the Universe and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, they had yet to endorse a fully scripted feature film...until now. Chairman and CEO of Sony’s Motion Picture Group, Tom Rothman, hailed the project as a cultural seismic event. Of course, there's always the danger that the movie marketplace becomes too saturated with musical biopics, rather than letting them just be a "sometimes food" (to borrow an expression from Sesame Street/Cookie Monster lore).

Keep in mind, this trend is emerging at a time when superhero movie fatigue appears to be very real (also, at various points, entire broad genres seem to fall out of vogue, such as horror). Putting any such concerns aside, Tom Rothman expressed excitement over Mendes' audacious vision, aligning premier filmmaking talent with the transformative music and stories of four individuals who shaped history. In a message to Sony employees, Rothman called it a "once-in-a-lifetime cinematic experience," noting the significant milestone in Columbia Pictures’ 100th year.