Queen were a big part of my childhood. I’m going to be doing a Top Ten list of my most nostalgic songs soon and I can reveal that Radio Ga Ga is very high up on that list. I had that song on vinyl single as well as One Vision, A Kind of Magic and also Freddie’s ‘The Great Pretender’. I obviously had the Queen’s Greatest Hits album too (didn’t everyone?). The videos for I Want To Break Free and A Kind of Magic are etched into my brain. And the soundtracks for Flash Gordon and Highlander? Totally awesome. Highlander is one of my favourite movies and the Queen soundtrack plays a big part in that.

I recently watched the Bohemian Rhapsody movie, and I wanted to get my thoughts down in a blog post as I not only had mixed opinions about the movie but also mixed opinions about the new technology that I experienced in the cinema.

Firstly the film. I really didn’t know much about the film before I saw it. I’d watched the trailer, but that was about it. It was only afterwards that I read about how Sacha Baron Cohen had spent 6 years trying to get the movie off the ground, that he wanted to play Freddie, and that he left the project after (allegedly) Brian May said that Freddie would die half way into the film and the second half would be about how Queen went from strength to strength (that didn’t happen in the end but it highlighted artistic differences between Cohen and the band). Also I’ve since learned that the director Bryan Singer got fired with about two weeks left of filming and Dexter Fletcher (of Press Gang fame) took over the reins. So not exactly a smooth ride for everyone in the cast and crew and I think it shows. In a nutshell there are some great moments but it’s just lacking something overall. As I normally like to do in my movie reviews, here are my bullet points of the good and the bad. Just my personal opinions, after one viewing, as ever. I’ll start with the bad points this time.

Bad points

  • The timeline is quite a bit out of sync in places. If you are a Queen fan then you will probably raise your eyebrows at a few of the timeline issues. But it probably does add to the drama of the film so I guess they have to do things like that when condensing a big story down into 2 hours
  • Some jokes just seemed a bit too obvious or gratuitous. It was quite clever having Mike Myers in a disguised role and saying a line about how kids would never bang their heads to that song in a car, but something about how it was written or edited just made it seem a bit forced and it pulled you out of the film slightly. It could have been more subtle maybe. There was another gratuitous joke too, which I can’t remember right now, and I think that one was worse and actually made me cringe
  • It seemed to jump forward too quickly in places. Perhaps it needed more of an explanation about how famous and successful they were getting or something. It seemed to just happen overnight and wasn’t really shown on screen. For example one night he’s sitting with his girlfriend watching a massive Queen concert on TV. Either it’s Rock in Rio and the timeline is seriously out of whack, or it’s one of the early 80s gigs in Brazil that still set the world concert paying audience attendance record, but either way it’s kind of washed over and I think it would have been great to actually show that concert and make a thing of it
  • The end felt a bit unrealistic. Not the fact that he went to see his parents right before going to Live Aid, that was really well done, even if it perhaps isn’t historically accurate, but the fact that he also went round to pickup new boyfriend Jim Hutton out of the blue, after only apparently talking to him one night a few years previously (I think), and then taking him to his parents and on stage at Live Aid in the same day, just seemed a bit unrealistic. It all seemed a bit too rushed and squashed into one afternoon
  • I felt they didn’t really make Freddy’s illness as emotional as they could have. Perhaps I need to watch it again but I’m sure they could have done something more poignant with Who Wants to Live Forever and songs like that
  • Live Aid – Just some bits of it. See below for the good points, but it was quite obvious that they were low on money I felt, because there were too many closeup shots of the band playing music with a low camera shot looking up at the band member and it looking obviously like it was just filmed on an indoor sound stage. It felt a bit cheap and pulled me out of the biggest scene of the film which was a shame. Also, there must have been over 80,000 people at Live Aid in the crowd and when they went in for crowd reaction shots you could always see the same extras ever time. Felt a bit too much like Braveheart’s crowd reactions. But here it just felt cheap and that they only had about 50 extras and the rest were computer generated.
  • Overall I just felt that it lacked something. Perhaps it lacked more of them playing on stage in their early days, or more detail about their rise to fame (it all seemed to happen very quickly) or more poignancy about Freddie facing death. It just felt that it was on the edge of becoming a really great film.

Good points

  • Rami Malek – I nearly put Malek in both the good and bad lists here. In some ways he was superb, particularly when performing. But in the ‘normal’ scenes he seemed to make Freddie slightly nervous and almost creepy, with not quite enough of the charming Freddie that we have seen in interviews. But it must be so hard to bring Freddie to the screen and overall I think he did a good job
  • The band – This was the highlight for me. I could watch the band interacting all day. I really, really loved how Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon were all portrayed. Perfect. Great banter between them and great acting. I thought Gwilym Lee as Brian May was absolutely spot on
  • Mike Myers – I liked having Mike Myers in this film and it was a good role for him. It wasn’t even that obvious that it was him. Very good accent Mike!
  • Recording music – The bits of them recording the high notes of Bohemian Rhapsody or practicing the hand clap of We Will Rock You were great. Moments like these are what make rock biopics special. Getting that insight into the creation of a song or anthem that you know intimately. I felt it was underused in this film
  • Live Aid – I mentioned some bad bits about Live Aid above, but in general it was fantastic. The stadium looked fantastic, the crowd looked real, and I loved how you saw other bands coming off stage while Queen go on. I know U2 were there and I’m sure there was someone else visible too. Perhaps Dire Straits or Elton John, I can’t remember. I actually watched the real Live Aid clip right after seeing the film and it was obvious that they tried their best to recreate the exact movements and choreography of the performance as closely as they could, which was great to see.

Now let’s talk quickly about the Screen X technology. I hadn’t even heard of this technology until I booked my ticket and saw it displayed on the receipt. I looked it up and discovered that it is where you don’t just have one main screen in front of you but you also have two projected screens on the left and right of the cinema. The effect of which is to give you more of an immersive experience. In principle this sounds great. I was curious how this would work in reality, however, although I did think I had chosen quite a good film to view with Screen X due to the Wembley crowd scenes. My gut instinct, that it would be best viewed from bang in the centre of a row in the cinema was correct. I was about a quarter of the way along a row and both side screens were slightly skewed. So when something travelled from the left screen, via the centre screen, onto the right screen it kind of did so in a weird stretched, uneven way. If you ever see a Screen X film make sure you are in the centre of a row. 

Like any new technology such as 3D or IMAX it can be overused, and sometimes it isn’t even turned on for some shots. I assume they have to shoot Screen X movies with two extra cameras or a special lens, but also you have to make sure more of the scene is screen-ready. In the movie world of smoke and mirrors they have to be careful of where the crew is placed and how much set has been built etc. Also some scenes just don’t merit having stuff visible on the sides. If two people are having an intimate chat you don’t really want to be able to look at what’s in the corner of the room. So in this film it was mostly used for crowd shots or wide vistas. It’s certainly quite an interesting effect, but I really don’t think it adds too much. The wide helicopter style shots flying over Wembley, however, really did utilise the technology to its maximum. That was cool. One thing to watch out for, however, is the Screen X demo they show at the beginning. They play a 3min video to get you used to the Screen X effect. They throw everything at you. Camera moves, different action genres and subject matters. It was way overboard, not at all realistic, not useful in actually setting you up for the sort of shots you will see in a movie, and above all else, particularly because I was off centre, it made me feel hugely motion sick. I seriously had to shut my eyes through most of it. Horrible. I wouldn’t rush back to see another film in Screen X but if there was a big ‘event’ film or natural world/stunning vista film, then I might consider. A space film or a desert film like Mad Max Fury Road might be quiet good in it. But make sure you sit in the centre of a row!

All in all I felt Bohemian Rhapsody was good but not amazing. It did certainly, however, make me go down a YouTube rabbit hole of Freddy Mercury videos. Here’s a great Freddie interview I came across where he is actually quite open and honest with the interviewer whereas sometimes he can be quite defensive.

After the fantastic Straight Outta Compton and the good Bohemian Rhapsody I really hope they do a Guns N’ Roses movie. Apparently James Franco was helping fund or produce one but I’ve not heard much about it for a while. Fingers crossed that happens.