Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody has had a troubled journey to make it to the big screen. Initially Sasha Baron Cohen was cast as Freddie, then left over on set differences to be replaced by Rami Malek of Mr Robot fame. Then Bryan Singer was replaced by Dexter Fletcher as director, but I noticed Singer’s name still on the credits, must be a union thing. Despite this, the film has still made an impact, with what looks set to be a great box office opening. When you think about it, there isn’t a Queen fan in the country that won’t go see this, whether it’s good or not, so it’s already onto a winner. I spoke with a friend recently and told him that I thought Venom was a bad movie, shocked by my statement he explained it couldn’t be a bad film as it had broke a box office record on it’s release. I was going to explain that good takings don’t mean a good movie, but i didn’t as he would just ignore me anyway. I imagine the same thing will happen with Bohemian rhapsody.
The film follows Freddie and the boys meeting for the first time, taking the first steps towards making a name for themselves, their rise in popularity all round the world, stumbling across the hurdles of band differences and creative control before getting back together for Live Aid. It’s a story riddled with cliche and could probably have been used as a template for any other film about any other band at this time. The trope ridden screenplay seems to be have been written from a formula. Every single beat you have seen before, and as we know the eventual outcome of the story, there is literally no drama for us to become invested in. Band gets famous, band fall out, band get back together for charity event. That’s it.
However, there are some decent moments in the production that will keep the fans happy, as we see Rami, channeling Freddie and giving Adam Lambert food for thought with his uncanny impersonation. Rami looks and acts like Freddie, his on stage recreations of iconic gigs and events are the highlights of the film, but sadly it comes across as a greatest hits collection and not a film. The rest of the band, and the actors, all look the part, but they are so 2 dimensional that we really never learn anything about them. Sure Freddie is well fleshed out, but what the rest of the band were doing at the time is a bit of a mystery. They appear with other people who we assume to be partners, but this screenplay has a remit to tell Freddie’s story, and they do to the detriment of everything else.
There are also moments where the whole thing looks set to slide into a Queen musical, with characters saying lines that have been written to send the entire cast into a song and dance routine. Often the musical writing segments look ready to explode Glee style into a number, and it seems so confused as to what direction it should be taking. Perhaps the director switch made things difficult, but I almost feel it would have been better to just commit to the bit and go full Greatest Showman here. The decision not to do this must have been made at some point, but honestly they may have missed a trick here by not taking that route.
Trust me, the Queen fans would have flocked in to see it anyway, and they could have exteded their cinema run by three weeks by showing sing a long versions. Basically this is a watered down CBBC version of the real events that surround the band. Diluted and badly scripted yes, but I know the Queen fans will love this, and with a good opening weekend that means this is a good movie…right? Right?