Moderator / Reviewer
- Apr 4, 2017
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There are legendary bands out there that have made their name in the rock music hall of fame, and then there are those who have transcended mere greatness and have become ICONS of an era. ZZ Top, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd and of course Queen. The biggest, baddest, and most flamboyant British rock band of the 70s and 80, who have contributed countless songs to rock and roll history. I didn’t grow up with Queen like my older brothers did (I was an 80s kid, so by the time I was really into rock they were fading out after Freddie Mercury’s infamous death in 1991), but there songs are a part of our musical history, and have infused themselves into the modern world with countless covers, songs sung at sporting events (“We are the Champions” has been sung at more sporting events than we could possibly count) and the induction of the iconic band into the Rock n’ Roll hall of fame.
To say that Bohemian Rhapsody has been covered in controversy and setbacks is an understatement. The powers that be originally wanted Sacha Baron Cohen to play Freddie Mercury (a take I really would have liked to have seen, as the man can play wacky and serious with amazing dexterity), but eventually settled on Rami Malek. Then the set itself became a battle ground as director Bryan Singer (X-men, X-2, X-men Apocalypse, Return of Superman) supposedly raged and was a tyrant on set, and then was summarily fired after MORE reports of sexual misconduct surfaced (the man faced those same charges several years ago as well) and Dexter Fletcher was brought in to finish up filming for the last month (ish) of shooting. So you can bet your bottom dollar that I was a bit nervous when the film hit theaters. Well, after years of waiting, and months of nervous chatter the word of mouth was astronomical for the biopic. The $50 million budget was easily beaten with a MASSIVE $835 million (worldwide) box office haul, not to mention the Golden Glove and Academy award wins for Best Film and Best Actor (Rami Malek deserved every award he got) come awards time last month.
Not being able to see this in theaters due to a brain fart and some scheduling conflicts, I was super eager to watch the film, so once I got the 4K UHD edition for this review I found out that I was just as enthralled by the biopic as the word of mouth suggested. Rami Malek was jaw dropping as Freddie. I’ll admit that I was nervous about his casting at first, but from all the trailers he looked, sounded, and acted like Freddie Mercury so I was ecstatic and awestruck to see the mousy little actor from Mr. Robot and BoJack Horseman completely eclipse anything I’ve ever seen out of him before. He embodied the enthusiasm, chilling exotic flamboyancy, and nervous shyness of the Queen lead singer. While there are a number of great performances in the film, this is ALL about Freddie, and the film’s momentum dependent on Rami’s performance. A performance that was completely knocked out of the park and so enthralling that I really wanted to see more of the film just to watching Rami bring Freddie to life once more.
The plot is the one thing that really is the “downside” to Bohemian Rhapsody. I know this was a phenomenal experience, but in many ways the script follows the traditional biopic pattern. We see Freddie (Malik) as a young British Indian student from Zanzibar trying to become something different than what his Zoroastrian parents wanted for him. He joined a band, he got a lovely tagalong fiance named Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton), and he rose to stardom in the blink of an eye. No one saw Queen coming, and with Freddie Mercury’s showmanship (along with the band’s skill) they rose to one of the most listened to British Rock n’ Roller’s of the 70s and 80s. However, with every rise comes a powerful fall. The old statement is “nothing good lasts forever” and ain’t that the truth. Queen’s rise was fraught with the typical pitfalls of the music fame wagon. Freddie’s engagement crumbled when he admitted his proclivity for the male sex (I could write an entire article on the ambiguity of Freddie Mercury’s sexual orientation, as he came out as Bisexual, but many others have theorized he was gay but trying not to out himself as THAT gay for fear of ostracizing his fans, but we honestly may never know as Freddie was a ridiculously private man who kept his lips sealed on that subject. A subject we can only theorize about), and his lavish party lifestyle consumed him. Drugs, sexual exploits that would shock even Wilt Chamberlain, and a gigantic ego led him down the path of proverbial destruction (and in some ways literal).
Bohemian Rhapsody is in many ways stereotypical of the biopic genre as stated above. It jumps from moment to moment in Freddie Mercury’s life, skipping over many parts, and giving us just enough of a taste of them before moving on to the next. There is no hugely in depth peeling back of Freddie’s life, and in a few small ways it gets some of them wrong (his solo career, and also the fact that Freddie was a very shy man off the stage, much shyer than they portrayed him here even), but what they did get right was soooooooooooooo much better than those flaws. Malek is absolutely incredible as Freddie, as he adopted so many of his physical mannerisms, his enthusiasm, and the genuine POWER that the real Freddie exhibited on stage. I was genuinely shocked at the vocals, as I didn’t know how much was actually Malek at first, and wondered if they had dubbed over him. Supposedly the singing is an amalgamation with Malek lip syncing as her performances, but it’s not what you think. The voices are part Malek, part Marc Martel (a Christian Canadian rock singer who sounds FRIGHTENINGLY like Freddie himself), and some of Queen’s actual work’s blended together. The end result is a voice that is so eerily like the original it actually takes work to differentiate actual Queen vocals and the sound alike made for the film.
The performances are great, the story is solid, but the best selling point of the movie is the music, and in that Bohemian Rhapsody excels with and brings in spades. The movie is interspersed with all sorts of practice, and live singing of the famous Queen songs, but the highlight of the movie is that final act. An act that really makes the film all the brighter over other biopics. I could have seen the film ending on a very bitter and sad note, as Mercury’s body wasted away from the effects of aids (most people guessed it during the 80s, but Mercury kept his lips sealed till Nov. of 1991 where he announced his battle with the terrible disease, only to die the very next day), but Singer and Fletcher ended the film with a powerful upswing, giving us a good 10 full minutes of the Live Aid concert with Freddie singing his heart out to almost 100,000 fans (watch the special feature of the Live Aid concert, as it truly is a sight to see).
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, suggestive material, drug content and language
4K Video: Video:
• Rami Malek: Becoming Freddie
• The Look and Sound of Queen
• Recreating Live Aid
The Songs, the music, the man, Bohemian Rhapsody is a fantastic movie despite all of it’s set backs and controversies behind the scenes. There are some narrative hiccups and morays to sit through, but in the end this is a movie about a very flawed man. A man who was a LEGENDARY performance, one who rocked us all, but a man who was consumed by his own demons as well. It’s somber, exhilarating, and wistful all at the same time. But no matter what your opinions are on the man, these 4 men gave birth to an era of Rock n’ Roll that has not been surpassed to this day and their music has influenced so many others that it’s nearly impossible to gauge their influential reach. The 4K UHD disc looks and sounds amazing, and while the extras are a bit slimmer than hoped for, the Live Aid convert addition is worth the price of admission alone, and is the best part of the entire package. Highly recommended as a great watch.
Starring: Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, Joseph Mazzello, Aiden Gillen, Tom Hollander, Mike Meyers, Aaron McCusker, Meneka Das
Directed by: Bryan Singer (Dexter Fletcher)
Written by: Anthony McCarten, Peter Morgan
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 HEVC
Audio: English: Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Core), English DTS-HD MA 2.0, English DVS, Spanish DD 5.1, French DTS 5.1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Korean, Mandarin (Simplified), Mandarin (Traditional), Norwegian, Polish, Swedish
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Runtime: 135 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: February 12th, 2019
Recommendation: Great Watch