It’s not generally a good sign when an entire movie can be told in the span of a two-minute trailer, but this is the case with Bohemian Rhapsody, a movie whose trailer is so good at telling the story of the band Queen that you don’t need to watch the movie that tells the story of the band Queen. The trailer, of course, is just a highlight reel of the band, told with questionable chronology and lacking depth, context, and insight. But, then, that’s a good summary of the movie, too.
The film isn’t really about Queen, anyway, so don’t go in expecting that. Queen is definitely featured, and we get some highlights from the band’s time together, but this is predominantly about Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek), the lead singer. Given its biopic nature, it’s hard to feel bad about spoiling his fate, but for the two of you out there who don’t know anything about him or the band, I won’t spoil anything here. You can go look up what happened on Wikipedia, which is what it feels like the filmmakers did before making Bohemian Rhapsody.
What I’m saying is that the production lacks depth and insight. It’s one of those tepid, lacking biopics that play out more like a book report than an experience with its characters—and that’s a shame, given that members of the band allegedly were consultants on the movie. Instead of feeling like a part of this group, witnessing its ups and downs, and getting to know its members, we feel like we’re just zooming by as someone recounts a few highlights.
And it all feels terribly familiar, even if you aren’t intimately familiar with Queen’s history. The thing with many biopics is that they wind up coming across as similar on-screen. Regardless of the why—Hollywood only having a few general story ideas in the “biopic drawer” that are the only acceptable ways to tell these kinds of stories, filmmakers unable to fit real-life events into a presentable narrative, or something else—what we get here is something that comes across like many other movies about bands that we’ve seen before.
The highlight—perhaps one of only two—is Rami Malek’s performance of Freddie Mercury, which is a great imitation and will surely be the thing for which Bohemian Rhapsody is remembered. He mimics Mercury very accurately, looks the part, and is electric for much of his time on the screen. Given that it’s much more his story than the band’s, that’s pretty important. The other members fade into the background, and if you’re not already aware of who they are going in, you’re not likely to even remember their names after it’s all over.
The other highlight is the music, which sounds a lot like Queen and will make you nostalgic for the songs you like from the band—some of which you many not have heard in a while. But apart from the music and Rami Malek? There’s nothing here that requires watching. The entire story can be boiled down to a two-minute trailer, and it lacks depth and insight, it feels overly familiar—it sticks to the Hollywood Biopic Script more than it ideally would. It’s not a terrible watch, but there’s little reason to give it the time.
Conclusion: Bohemian Rhapsody is a tepid biopic.
Recommendation: Unless you’re a massive Queen fan—and are okay with historical inaccuracies—you don’t have a reason to watch Bohemian Rhapsody.