Despite a troubling production history, I find it amazing that producers were able to salvage anything out of Bohemian Rhapsody, a thoroughly enjoyable movie anchored by excellent Queen songs and a star-making central performance. The movie, released in early November of 2018, resulted in mixed reviews from critics. Audiences, on the other hand, made it one of the highest grossing movies of 2018 and one of the most talked about of the year. The movie then got to the Oscar stage, securing four out of five awards, only losing its Best Picture trophy to Green Book. Since its release, I feel as though certain aspects have gotten a bad reputation. Hopefully, I could bring some of these so-called “issues” to light and offer an alternative aspect to them.
To begin with what’s good about the movie, we’ll start with one name: Rami Malek.
People may remember Malek for his role as Ahkmenrah in the Night at the Museum series. Others may be more familiar with his recent stint on the TV show Mr. Robot. These examples demonstrate that Malek has been building a solid resume, and furthers it with his turn as Freddie Mercury, which earned him a Best Actor trophy at the Oscars. He owns this movie, no questions asked. I’ll even argue that his performance in this was worth the price of admission all by itself. He’s that good. He struts around in several music sequences, practically owning the stage.
Some people have argued that the movie doesn’t go in depth enough. I’ve heard the joke that the movie was adapted from Queen’s Wikipedia page and I don’t think it’s the case here. Even if it is, however, not everyone is as familiar with Queen’s story as the die hard fans of the band. As someone who was more familiar with the music than the story, I found it to be pretty fascinating watching their most iconic songs come to life in the studio.
Freddie and the others convince a record executive to allow them to be more experimental with their album titled A Night at the Opera. The band is taken to a farmhouse where they proceed to record the acclaimed album, though we really only see the six minute song that shares its title with the movie being recorded. I got a good laugh out of Freddie being a perfectionist with the song, forcing Roger Taylor to record the Galileo portion over twenty times.
Die hard fans of Queen had trouble with the change in certain events. This happens with every movie that claims to be “based on a true story”. Certain events are altered or made up for dramatic effect, and in the case of Bohemian Rhapsody, they mostly work out. For example, the order in which certain songs are made gets changed around. When Freddie sports his iconic short hair and mustache look he adopted in the 80’s, he shows up late to rehearsal to Brian May instructing the others to do what would become the stadium anthem “We Will Rock You“, which was made in the late 70s when Mercury still had his longer hair. The change works because it allows Queen to be at their peak and allows Freddie to be a bit of a diva in these sessions.
The movie ultimately ends with their performance at Live Aid. In their brief but iconic set, they play an excerpt from “Bohemian Rhapsody” before going into a rousing rendition of “Radio Gaga“. Freddie then plays along with the audience in his legendary “Ay Oh” routine before the band breaks into “Hammer to Fall” and ultimately ending with “We Are the Champions“. Two songs from their actual performance were cut for time, those being “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and “We Will Rock You“. The movie also implies that Queen didn’t do much in the six years between Live Aid and Freddie’s untimely death in 1991.
As a huge fan of Queen, I would’ve loved to have seen them record their final album with Freddie called “Innuendo“, but beggars can’t be choosers, and in this case, I was very impressed with the end result. Bohemian Rhapsody may not be the perfect image of Queen, or possibly the only movie about them we’ll get in our lifetimes, but it remains true to its colors and helps us celebrate possibly the greatest front-man in music history. Maybe it was built up a bit because of its troubled production, but like I said, I’m happy that the movie even got to see the light of day.