The life and times of Queen rocker Freddie Mercury finally get the big-screen treatment in Bohemian Rhapsody, a rock biopic that has generated a huge amount of controversy before even hitting cinemas.
Whether it was original star Sacha Baron Cohen quitting, the departure of director Bryan Singer in the middle of production last year or the huge debate over whether Bohemian Rhapsody ‘straightwashes’ Mercury’s bisexuality, there’s been no shortage of debate about the movie. Now, critics are actually getting a chance to see it and sound off on its artistic merits as well.
Below, Digital Spy presents a sampling of the first reviews of Bohemian Rhapsody (including our own) ahead of its cinema release:
“This is a biopic aimed unashamedly at Queen fans and if you’re looking for two hours of ‘weren’t Queen great?’ feels, then you’ll get them in spades. Anyone else looking for some depth and insight into the band, and especially Mercury himself, might want to look elsewhere.”
Some other publications disagreed and did find that Bohemian Rhapsody measures up to its mighty soundtrack:
“Frankly, if you are not cheering along with the crowd as Mercury belts out an ultra-satisfying rendition of ‘We Are the Champions’, then a doctor should check your pulse. Somewhere, an outrageous artist knows that his Queen movie rules.”
“It strains effortfully for the top notes and vaguely growls the low ones. Still, there’s a solid middle range it manages to belt out, when everything’s aligned alright. It’s a case of winning us over against the odds.”
“To the filmmakers’ credit, and even though they don’t entirely avoid the clunky factoid-itis that often plagues the genre, this is a biopic that favours sensory experience over exposition.”
However, the majority of critics felt that Bohemian Rhapsody bites the dust:
“Bohemian Rhapsody feels like dirty pool. Either one of the next two things are true: Either the surviving members of Queen still resent the fact that so much of their legacy is wrapped up in Freddie Mercury that they had to make this revisionist history of a movie, or the surviving members are so cinematically tone deaf they inadvertently made a movie that sure comes off like that’s what they were trying to do.”
“Bohemian Rhapsody mistakenly believes that simply trudging through a workmanlike overview of Freddie Mercury’s life will allow it to arrive at something approaching intimacy.”
“Despite its intentions to get close to Mercury, Bohemian Rhapsody is as intimate as a sold-out stadium show, with none of the accompanying power.”
“The critical failure of Bohemian Rhapsody is that, 134 minutes after the lights go down, the members of Queen just seem like four blokes who’ve been processed through the rusty machinery of a Hollywood biopic.”
“A bolder film might have explored the relationship between Mercury’s hedonism, his mostly closeted sexuality and his on and off-stage personas in a more nuanced way. Or at least taken its cue from Mercury’s own songbook and played it with some melodramatic abandon.”
Den of Geek
“Malek’s Freddie is a musical performance for the ages, but the film he’s trapped in is the three-minute radio edit that the character and real songwriter would have never settled for.”
“With a performance as commanding as Rami Malek’s at its centre, why isn’t Bohemian Rhapsody a better movie?”
Bohemian Rhapsody is out on October 24 in the UK and November 2 in the US. Book tickets here.
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