Before Bryan Singer’s Bohemian Rhapsody came out, I would tell people that the movie was guaranteed to get a two-star rating. The reasoning behind it was that even if the movie was bad, the music and the performances alone would warrant it an okay rating. Queen is one of the greatest bands of all-time, and the movie surely couldn’t be that bad.
I was wrong. Not even the legendary music of Queen can save Bohemian Rhapsody. This is a contrived, messy, unbearably formulaic musical biopic that does an inservice to the great Freddy Mercury and Queen.
Bohemian Rhapsody looks at the career of the rock band Queen, starting in 1970, where Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek) meets Brian May (Gwylim Lee), Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy), and John Deacon (Joseph Mazello) and form what is now known as Queen. We watch as they go from playing in small pubs, to getting a record deal, to performing at Live Aid, the bands biggest performance ever. We also see the ups and downs of the band as their fame grows.
Bohemian Rhapsody is as cliché as movie biopics get. It feels like when screenwriter Anthony McCarten was told to write the movie, the studio gave him beat-for-beat what they wanted to see. They wanted to see how the band formed, the creation of some of their most infamous songs like, “We Will Rock You” and the titular “Bohemian Rhapsody”, a brief glimpse of the tough times they went through, Mercury’s look transformation over the years, and finish it off with Live Aid. However, that’s all that McMarten put in this movie, and at a runtime of over two hours (a long, two hours at that), the film really misses the opportunity to dive into the band and its eccentric frontman.
Who were these people? Who was Freddie Mercury? Where did his genius come from? The film never answers these questions nor even cares to ask. It never looks to understand who Queen as a band was or who Mercury was. We gloss over some parts of Mercury’s life, like his disapproving father, his ex-wife, his ego and distain for the band over the years, his drug addiction, wild parties, and his eventual downfall due to AIDS. But these are just things that are in the movie, but nothing is ever explored deeper, which is what would have given this movie more emotion, depth, and created an actual character. The movie is like a cinematic junk drawer, just full of things that when used properly are incredibly helpful, but are never used and just end up staying in the drawer, unused.
Rami Malek does his best with the garbage material he was given. His performance is more an impersonation rather than a performance. Because of how badly the character is written, there isn’t anything for Malek to grab onto and nothing for him to do except for walk, move, and smile like Mercury. It’s an Oscar-bait role that fails miserably. No other performance in this movie matters because no other character matters. This was a movie focused on Malek, nobody else.
The final set-piece of the movie is the Live Aid performance, which is considered one of the greatest live-music performances of all-time. In IMAX, this set-piece is spectacular, and Malek is a ball to watch. With the combination of the songs and the scale, I enjoyed the concert, and was going to give this movie the two stars I thought I was going to give it initially. But then I realized that I just wasted almost two-and-a-half-hours of my time waiting for a partial recreation of a performance that I can watch on YouTube for free (you can see it here). Everything in this movie can be summed up with a Wikipedia page and then watching the concert clip. For such a brilliant band and such an interesting leading man, Bohemian Rhapsody is a colossal failure and a disservice to a legend.
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