To even try to explain what, the band, Queen did for music would always fall short of an understatement. As one of the most phenomenally eclectic and experimental bands to ever come out of the music industry, it’s impossible to even tap into the true impact they’ve had on the world. Their influence doesn’t just stop at music though– as people, having the bold front man from foreign reaches shaped and created new, uncolonized paths of existential diva-ism and a brand new realm of expressing sexuality. So naturally, approaching the concept of creating a full-length film of the life and death of Freddie Mercury was a bold move. Twenty-plus years after his passing and we were promised the untold story of the Zanzibar native’s life in an iconic movie known as “Bohemian Rhapsody”, named after the world’s greatest rock song, the most notable song the band Queen ever produced and namely Freddie Mercury’s ‘coming out’ song. All and all, I feel like the movie title was quite fitting.
Unfortunately, upon seeing this movie, right off the bat you could tell it’s main intent was to be a typical, drama-ridden Hollywood film. As a devout Queen fan that knows probably far too much on the matter of the band, instantly I was thrown off by the pacing of the movie. Moments I personally felt would have be derived as significant to Mercury’s life and fundamental to a movie about him (such as him coming out and being diagnosed with an incurable illness) seemed to barely make an appearance and/or be extremely brief. Instead, the focus of the film became Freddie’s lack of commitment to those in his life and betraying his band mates and those he considered part of his “family”.
With such an ostentatious lifestyle that Freddie Mercury led, I personally feel that the matter of relationships was rather irrelevant. Personally, I was expecting to witness the much more raw and vulnerable side of the ever-private, yet excessively flamboyant Freddie Mercury and how he dealt with the heavy weight of knowing his time alive was limited. As we know, Freddie Mercury lived and worked another four years after being diagnosed with AIDS. In this time, he recorded multiple albums for Queen, Monserrat Caballe, his own solo music and so many other incredible projects. It would have been very interesting to see that side of Freddie Mercury, in a state of emergency but still carrying out what he knew he was destined to be.
Despite the content of the film seeming a bit sellout-ish, I cannot praise more highly of the sheer quality of the film. From the visual aspects to the audio, I am over the moon. The actors portraying all iconic band members were so flawlessly spot on that you genuinely did feel like you were watching the real deal people on screen. Rami Malek, having the biggest shoes to fill, zipped up those glitter platforms and paraded around the stage like it was everything he was meant to be in life. Malek embodied Mercury’s mannerism so flawlessly it seemed almost effortless; however, the most flawless performance of them all came from the little-known actor, Gwilym Lee who portrayed guitarist, Brian May. Lee was literally identical in every way possible that it was almost hard to believe that he was not just Brian May in the flesh. Perhaps having access to Brian May’s personal concert attire really set him in the right mindset to recreate the guitarist’s personality– whatever it was, Lee absolutely nailed the role.
Coming from an audio engineering side, my heart and soul was so full with how perfect the everything came together. The most memorable portion of the film was the recreation of the entire, yes, entire Live Aids concert. From rebuilding the entire stage setup to choreographing every movement of the band members during that set, it was the most surreal experience to witness the full twenty minutes of the world’s most notable rock concert to ever be performed. The audio engineers did a brilliant job of salvaging the band’s performance audio and mastering it, giving the audience a full rock concert experience within the theater.
What I find to be the most beautiful part of the whole Live Aid portion though, was the recreation of the stadium’s crowd during that performance. While remastering the audio of a mic-ed band is fairly easy, editing the sound of a mass crowd, as one could imagine, is much, much trickier; therefore, present day fans of Queen were encouraged to submit audio recordings of themselves singing segments of the songs Queen performed at Live Aid and once submitted, the audio engineers for the film took each individual audio file and layered them over on top of each other (mind you, thousands upon thousands of audio files) to recreate the Live Aid concert goers response.
This element in the film alone is such a beautiful, thoughtful concept that it fills my heart so full. Live Aid was so impactful solely because of the way Freddie Mercury’s interaction with the crowd. It was captivating and quite honestly a game changer for future live rock and roll concert performances. Allowing present day Queen fans to now be a part of that historic moment in the modern age is such a beautiful and rather integral component to really commemorate Freddie Mercury and what he stood for.
All and all, I genuinely enjoyed Bohemian Rhapsody. Though I wished they stayed more true to the actual chronological timeline of his life and avoided excessively dramatizing unnecessary elements, I find this film redeemed by how dedicated the entire cast and crew of this film was towards honoring Freddie Mercury. While I was hoping the film was see through to the very end of Mercury’s days (which, yes, is extremely morbid), I do understand why they left it they way the did. “Bohemian Rhapsody” was created to honor and commemorate a the greatest, most legendary icon in the music industry. Also, how are you ever able to cram in forty-five years of such a bold personality in the span of two hours? In short, you can’t. Everyone knows how the man and legend, frontman of Queen, left this world, but not all knew how he started out. It was quite moving to see it all through the young and naive eyes of an unknown Farrokh Bulsara as he blossomed into the primadonna, Freddie Mercury, that we all know and love.