Matter of Opinion #3: Giving ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ a Second Chance & Defending It

With the 2019 summer movie season being somewhat of a letdown so far, one of the few movies that was a hit was Rocketman. The Elton John biopic has been getting tons of good reviews from critics sand it’s performing well at the box office. Personally, I thought Rocketman was an excellent biopic. But after seeing it, this made me want to go back and re-watch Bohemian Rhapsody and wonder if my original thoughts are intact or have changed.

Before this came out, I stated in my review that Queen is one of my favorite bands of all-time. Their music just electrifies my soul with the help of Freddie Mercury’s four-octave voice and how well-written every song is. So, you can understand why I’ve been waiting forever for the band to get the biopic treatment. When I saw Bohemian Rhapsody opening night sporting a Queen tee, the word to fully describe my experience was “mixed.”

For having one of my most anticipated movies of the year being labeled “mixed”  will have you thinking. What I remembered being the positive attributes was Rami Malek’s showstopping performance as the frontman and all of its musical sequences, including the Live Aid finale. But what did bother me was what was changed to make the story broader. It was that or it was because of the production problems behind-the-scenes that made me think otherwise. This just turned out to be a basic biopic that played it a bit safe.

Joseph Mazzello, Rami Malek, Gwilym Lee, and Ben Hardy in Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

But after its release, Bohemian Rhapsody absolutely crushed it at the box office becoming not only the tenth highest-grossing movie of 2018 with $216 million domestically and $903 million worldwide, but it’s also the biggest musical biopic ever made. But in terms of reviews, that’s where it gained a lot of split opinions. Rhapsody currently holds a 61% on Rotten Tomatoes with some citing it dull and not being faithful to Mercury’s life portrayed on screen. At first, it used to be the most divisive movies of the year, so let’s get annoying by crucifying the living hell out it for pleasure. Most are just jumping on the bandwagon and despising it along with Green Book.

One of the reasons why many just want to hate on the film is because Bryan Singer’s name is still attached to it after being fired from it and due to his sexual allegations that have been brought up. Controversy, indeed. Dexter Fletcher, who helmed Rocketman, replaced him to finish it, but is uncredited and is named as an Executive Producer instead. I used to like Singer as a director, but those facts completely went over my head and didn’t come to mind when news about that was brought up. Was his direction the highlight of it? Not really since there wasn’t a ton of style thrown into it. But I tend to separate art from the artist, and not think about it who’s behind it, but focus on the filmmaking. I don’t support Singer and the stuff that he did in the past, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop watching the good X-Men films or The Usual Suspects.

All that being said, after finally re-watching it, it’s slightest better. Originally giving it a C+, now it stands at a solid B-. Even though it’s very flawed, Bohemian Rhapsody is a fun watch. I did want it to be amazing, and while it fell short of that, there shouldn’t be any shame in actually enjoying this. I still love Malek’s performance as if he was truly Mercury. Who cares if he didn’t actually sing the songs and lip-synced through everything; he did a great job at it.

I came to look past the moments that didn’t even happen and just look at it as any biopic, and it’s able to pull off being entertaining. I was one of those people that was looking for a deeper story and be this story about Freddie. We didn’t get that, and I’m not angry about it. Some might not appreciate the dramatic moments, but the scene where Freddie tells Mary that he’s bisexual and she knows that he’s gay is played off so well. The Live Aid sequence still is one of the best moments from any movies of last year and gives me goosebumps every time I watch it just based on how incredible it turned out to be. The fact that this was the first scene they filmed just blows my mind on how they pulled it off.

Rami Malek and Lucy Boynton in Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

But I love how there are people out there that do love this. From the some of the movie reviewers I watch online, this was on the best lists of the year from Scott Mantz (#10), Perri Nemiroff (#2), and Kristin Harloff (#1). They didn’t care about what was true; all that matters is that they enjoyed themselves with what was given to them. But I do honestly think to call it one of the worst movies to come out last year is really being hyperbolized. Maybe it was because of early reviews and the trouble with Singer that was on my mind and stayed with me throughout the movie.

But like any person and group having a biopic about them, of course, not every single detail about their lives are going to be factually right and have to stretch it out for artistic license and be cliché. For some who knows enough about Mercury and the band, I knew some of the things that were presented in here didn’t happen and did take me off guard to wonder why. For example, the inaccuracies did follow were:

  1. Freddie never contracted the HIV virus before Live Aid
  2. “We Will Rock You” wasn’t recorded in the 80s
  3. John Deacon wasn’t the first bassist
  4. Queen never split up

Since Roger Taylor and Brain May were one of the Executive Producers and consultants on the film, they wanted to make Freddie a good guy and respect him. If that was the case, I honestly didn’t mind it being formulaic at times. Also, some hammered the point that the editing was terrible. Sure, the first act does have some questionable editing for just one scene, but have anyone seen poor editing in bad action movies nowadays?

When it started getting accolades, that’s when the backlash sparked, in my opinion. Everyone was surprised at the Golden Globes when Malek won Best Actor-Drama, and the film went on to win Best Picture-Drama that night. That’s pretty much when all hell broke loose online. Do I believe it should’ve won? No, since I was expected A Star is Born to win. And with the Academy Awards, not everybody was happy when it earned five nominations, including Best Picture. To be fair, there have been worse movies nominated before (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, American Sniper, The Tree of Life, etc.).

Rami Malek, Gwilym Lee, and Ben Hardy in Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

I believe Malek earned the Best Actor Oscar this year, even though I was secretly rooting for Bradley Cooper. But I had this feeling that nobody will be happy when it wins anything. They ended up being the movie with the most wins: four. It was at that point where that complaining about this and/or Green Book on Film Twitter was aggravating during that Oscar season.

This movie is just like how Freddie is made out to be: flawed but is able to oversee those problems by enjoying what’s there in front of you. I wasn’t thinking wasn’t going to end being the next Walk the Line, Ray, or Amadeus since they are all different in their unique way. It’s one that should be recommended.

Though Bohemian Rhapsody isn’t great, this is still one movie that I started to defend, even when I thought it was just okay when it first came out in November. I say it’s the perfect movie to introduce those to Queen like they haven’t before and give them a taste of the amazing music. Compared to Rocketman, Rocketman is clearly the better out of the two. At least this was actually finished and didn’t feel like two people directed the final product. Perfectly watchable, if you’re willing to give it a second chance and put everything else on the side.


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