Bohemian Rhapsody - Review

Bryan Singer’s Queen epic falls flat on its face.

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The legacy of one of the most inconsistent rock bands in history could result in a fantastic film. A difficult one to make, surely, but in the right hands, it could be something special. Band dynamics, Freddie’s massive personality, overwhelming success and failure; Queen are the quintessential rock band story that garage rock punks and eccentrics have been attempting to recreate for decades, and the premature passing of Freddie Mercury only enshrined the band further. In the hands of Bryan Singer, director of practically every X-Men movie, the band’s story is an embarrassing, bloated, and completely shallow mess, with none of the charm that made them so interesting to follow.

Saying Bryan Singer is a talented director is sort of like saying that the Russo brothers are visionaries. They don’t completely ruin material, but everything that makes their movies interesting has nothing to do with them. Disney’s grand vision for a multi-decade cinematic universe is the real pride of Marvel films, and the incredible talent assembled in Singer’s films is his. Kevin Spacey in The Usual Suspects, Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy in X-Men, the list is long and varied, and has made Singer’s films some of the more exciting of the last decades. Bohemian Rhapsody has more in common with 2006’s Superman Returns. It’s unlikable, forgettable, and does its leading man very bad. Rami Malek’s turn as the enigmatic frontman is ridiculous, and horribly written. I could talk about any number of things, like his paper thin relationships to bandmates and lovers, but what really appalled me was the way the script introduced his homosexuality. Freddie is living the tour life in America, the farthest from home he’s ever been, and is catching a quick phone call with his wife Mary, played by the lovely Lucy Boynton. His eye drifts to a rough looking man with a mullet and trucker hat headed for the bathroom. This isn’t so bad, if a bit lazy, but the trucker hat closes the bathroom door and the “MEN” sign is slapped in the center of the frame for a few too many seconds. The film is trying to be subtle, thinking it’s letting us in on some great secret the characters of the film won’t find out until later. There has to be a better way to introduce Freddie’s sexuality than with a public restroom and the word “MEN” in bold white font.

Malek’s out of place performance aside, the rest of Bohemian Rhapsody is in a constant struggle to maintain watchability. Musical performances fare best; even a film this bad can’t ruin the power of this band’s music, but the way it glosses over crucial details is reprehensible. The way the film tells it, the band was in an argument over their sound going into the new decade when John Deacon started playing his iconic bassline to “Another One Bites the Dust”, completely off the cuff. If the film wants to tell this simplified version of the story, fine. It may have even benefited from more creative liberties, but it doesn’t flesh out any idea. Band dynamics only become important when Freddie quits, and musical performances are cut short or edited so strangely that they can hardly be called tributes. The Live Aid set is mostly untouched, leaving in a few less-than great Queen tunes of the time, but its use of computer generated audiences is sadly easy to spot. This extended scene that ends the film is also drastically over-edited, making the performance feel less like a triumphant return to form for the band and more like a greatest hits, which Queen made sure was not the case that day in 1985. Most of this film is either a bore or a facepalm, with not even one opportunity to imagine what might have been. Bryan Singer’s career is need of an indefinite hiatus, and while this may not be the film to do it, filmgoers and Queen fans alike should never have to settle for a film as poor as this.