Queen was known as a group who took chances with their music while never wanting to be defined by just one thing. That and the impact they had on the music industry during their time together is enough to see why people would want to turn their story into a movie. Of course, it would take quality storytelling in order to tackle everything that went on during their run effectively. I’m assuming that’s what they had in mind when they started the process of making the Bohemian Rhapsody movie. Musically, they were able to achieve some of those goals. It’s the other areas where they had some difficulties.
On their journey to global success, Queen became a sensation that would change music with their iconic songs and revolutionary sound. As they rose to prominence, they were constantly changing, growing, and in search of more. And out of the entire band, no one embodied that more than Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek), their lead singer and most enigmatic personality. Creatively, this could be seen as a good thing, but his need for more brought some of the darker sides of fame and fortune into their lives while also coming close to tearing them a part.
In the first half, Bohemian Rhapsody doesn’t know that it was supposed to be focused on Freddy Mercury. It starts off with him, but quickly becomes about the band for a large period of time. The only thing that separates him from the group somewhat is that they do feature an early romance and touch on his family life a bit more than they do the others. By itself, focusing on the entire group more isn’t a huge issue, but it makes the film feel kind of odd since we know the spotlight is supposed to be on Mercury more than anyone else.
This section of the movie feels condensed and moves so fast that we have a hard time connecting with the many engaging characters that we’re introduced to. While watching, you get a sense that they just wanted to hurry things up and get to stuff that they deemed as more important. Of course, this is something that you should never do. By going about things this way, you risk damaging all of what we’ll be receiving during the rest of the movie. In doing so, you’re preventing the people on-screen from establishing a bond with those who are watching them.
That’s especially important for a movie that contains so many scenes and moments that we’re supposed to emotionally respond to. This is one reason why this film feels as uneven as it does. Another reason is that none of it is ever really taken as seriously as it should be by the filmmakers. If you know at least some of the story, you know there are some tough periods during the band’s time together. However, most of what we get in Bohemian Rhapsody, is either played for laughs or shown to us in a relatively safe manner. Because of this, it comes off as a movie not willing to take as many risks as you might think it would.
Anyway, while the first half is quick and uneven, the second half tightens up as the spotlight finally fixes its sights on Mercury like it’s supposed to. This takes a more balanced approach to filmmaking as what’s seen here is laid out more like you would anticipate it would be. We’re still focusing on his romantic life here, but his time as a partier and a musician take center stage as his band mates are pushed to the background a lot more. Overall, I’d say this portion works but not as well as it should since the ability to connect had already been hampered by the mishandling of the set up earlier in the film.
The one constant that’s featured in Bohemian Rhapsody is the music. While the rest of what’s delivered can be viewed as mostly uneven, the music and all that went into it is able to consistently hit its high notes and is clearly the best thing going throughout the entire duration of the picture. Whenever this becomes the focal point during the movie, everything takes off and improves dramatically. Watching Queen come together, work together, and perform elevates the movie and gives it just about all of the value that it has. I just wish the rest of the movie was handled as well.
If the movie’s structure was better and we were allowed to bond with the characters the way we should have been able to, Bohemian Rhapsody could have been a much better movie. A lot of what we get is fine, but the movie itself needed to be smoothed out and maybe even extended for it to reach the targets that they appeared to be aiming for. That’s not to say it’ll be seen as a failure for everyone who sees it. For some, the highlights may be able to overshadow the problems that the movie has structurally. If so, you won’t regret watching this and maybe even singing along.
Director: Bryan SInger
Film Length: 135 minutes
Release Date: November 2, 2018
Distributor: Universal Pictures
- Score - 6/106/10