IT has been years already when I passively waited for the Queen biopic focusing on the life of rock god Freddie Mercury. Back then, Sacha Baron-Cohen was slated to play Mercury. I delighted at the fact that Baron-Cohen, known for his vulgar, rambunctious on-screen characters, had the chance to show the world Mercury’s wasteful, extravagant, rock and roll lifestyle.
Then news broke that Baron-Cohen was no longer doing the film. Rami Malek was chosen to play Mercury. At that point, I really couldn’t care less about who played Freddie Mercury, as long as the film got done. It had been stuck in production limbo for quite some time. And I felt Hollywood knew better than to mess up a Queen biopic.
The trailer came out. I was stoked. “Bohemian Rhapsody” the producers called it. The film, based on the trailer, would be tackling the legendary performance at Live Aid in 1985. What a sight!
I finally got to see the film and was hyped beyond measure as early as when the opening credits rolled in (guitarists will know what I’m talking about). As the end credits rolled, I recognized the fitting track closing the film, “The Show Must Go On,” one of the popular tracks released before Mercury’s death in 1991. Great choice.
The middle part, however, was a mix of peaks and trenches. The biopic felt like a sanitized and fictionalized re-telling of what we know about the 1970s-1980s.
Spoiler alert: Read on at your own risk.
Fans of Queen, who have at least some basic knowledge of the band’s history, know that Queen never really “broke up” like the movie suggested. And yes, it’s impossible to cram every fan boy bit in a two-hour film, but that wasn’t really the issue for me. The scenes, the conflicts, the realities of life then, felt like puzzle pieces that came in simple squares rather than intricate curves and edges.
But—and there’s a huge but.
I consider context as the solid, bottom base of criticism. Queen, four parts musical geniuses, has always been about entertaining and educating its listeners and viewers. “Bohemian Rhapsody” took the route fit for the modern audience who are being re-introduced to the rock and roll era of the time and, will fare better in cinemas with consumers globally. The film is easy to understand and easy to digest (why was “We Will Rock You” written the way it was? Queen always had a plan for the better) and audiences will leave movie houses relishing a modern musical experience honoring one of the industry greats.
The nitty-gritty will have its time. That long, dreary biopic of Mercury might be worth a second take in the near future. But for now, in this Instagram-crazy society, the colorful, polished and much-needed “Bohemian Rhapsody” contends as the rock band movie of the decade.