The Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody has finally opened to tepid reviews. Although Malek’s performance as Freddie Mercury has been appreciated by one and all, the film has seen its share of troubles long before releasing its final cut. The role was initially set to be played by Sacha Baron Cohen who left the project due to the creative differences with members of the band who wanted to tone down scandalous elements of Mercury’s life.
Ben Whishaw was initially helming the project but was later replaced by Bryan Singer for direction and Emmy winning Rami Malek in the lead role. However, Singer was fired from the project after the director was reported to be late or missing from the sets he was meant to be on. It was then that Fletcher came in to finish the film. Although Singer revealed that he was absent due to health issues, many believe that it was due to the rise of the #metoo movement that the director went incognito.
Singer will still be getting credited for Bohemian Rhapsody, due to the rules set by the Directors Guild of America which states that only one director can be credited for the film.
The film so far has a 57% rating on Rotten Tomatoes while 49% on Metacritic. Here are the best critic reviews of the film:
IndieWire (David Ehrlich)
If not for Rami Malek’s feral posturing as one of rock history’s greatest frontmen, a deep roster of killer songs, and the long shadow of his band’s iconic 1985 performance at Live Aid, this movie could effectively be about any musicians, at any time, rolling through any part of the United States. From the disapproving parents, to the drug-fueled orgies, to the unbelievable scene when a young Freddie Mercury (née Farrokh Bulsara) introduces himself to Brian May and Roger Taylor mere seconds after the two bandmates have been abandoned by their original lead singer, it’s an out-of-body experience to watch such a paint-by-numbers portrait in a post-“Walk Hard” world. If there’s anything more tiresome than the movies that inspired the Dewey Cox story, it’s a movie that uses Jake Kasdan’s damning parody as a template. Even when it’s funny, “Bohemian Rhapsody” isn’t in on the joke — it’s too busy burnishing its own myth.
The Playlist (Kimber Myers)
Like trying to hit that famed high B flat on “Galileo” without a warm-up, “Bohemian Rhapsody” is embarrassingly unprepared to cover the life of its subject — Freddie Mercury. This jumbled take on the legend is squawky, sexless, and shallow, assaulting the senses as it offers little insight or real depth into Mercury or the band he fronted […] But what’s most astonishing about this version of Mercury’s life is that it’s so utterly sexless. Malek does his best, but the material gets only a PG-13 rating for “suggestive material,” among other things, when there’s no reason to be so tame. This isn’t a biopic about Lyndon B. Johnson. Sex and sexiness were so intertwined with Mercury’s public persona that making a film this entirely lacking in anything more than the hint of lust can only be seen as intentional.
Little White Lies (Hannah Woodhead)
Distracting technical flourishes such as blurry cameras and quick zooms take away from any potential resonance of the acting, and even Malek’s best attempts at emulating Mercury during the performance scenes fall flat due to cheap CGI crowds and awkward quick cuts which take away from the magnetism he’s trying to create in his wide-eyed showmanship. It doesn’t feel like the work of a seasoned director (or two of them, in fact) but rather a garish, gushing student project that’s got wildly out of hand. It’s nowhere near as interesting or absorbing as its central figure, and in glossing over the elements of Mercury’s identity and life which are so vital and important to many – his race, sexuality, and the fact he was the first major cultural figure to die of AIDS – Bohemian Rhapsody leaves a sour taste. This is a revisionist attempt at painting Mercury in primary colours suitable for audiences who’d rather just bop along to the Greatest Hits than think about the man who shared his gift with the world until it killed him, and Freddie deserves so much more.
New York Post (Johnny Oleksinski)
The best part of the movie is — shocker — hearing Queen’s timeless songs. They’re best showcased during a fabulous re-creation of the 1985 Live Aid concert, which was watched by 1.9 billion people worldwide. […] What we ultimately wanted from “Bohemian Rhapsody” was not carbon-copied concerts, but behind-closed-doors insight into a deeply private, complicated, internationally beloved superstar.
Uproxx (Mike Ryan)
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. […] I have no idea if it was malicious – probably, consciously, it wasn’t – but regardless, this is the end result: to punish Freddie Mercury 27 years after his death. And, without the surviving band member’s permission, this movie couldn’t use Queen’s music. In hindsight, it would be better if this movie didn’t exist at all.
However, not all reviews were bad. Some even reviewed the film positively.
The Wrap (Alonso Duralde)
An object example of how a film can be entertaining and even exhilarating without being particularly good, “Bohemian Rhapsody” has the driving energy of a stadium anthem and the fizzy meaninglessness of a bubblegum pop song. As a biopic of flamboyantly theatrical gay frontman Freddie Mercury, the movie frequently falls short, but it does provide interesting origin stories for many of the hits created by Mercury’s band Queen.
Daily Telegraph (Tim Robey)
Everyone loves Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody – with its staggering heft and operatic kitsch – as a go-to karaoke number, but it’s an overambitious one to try at the burnt-out end of the night: such renditions usually get grisly, when everyone’s too drunken or hoarse to carry the tune. The story of Freddie Mercury and his band, which has finally reached us on film, plays out a little like that. 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.
Empire Magazine (Olly Richards)
However, the film has a secret weapon, firing off all over the place to try and blast the movie out of its gentility: Rami Malek. As Mercury he is spectacular. A strutting, flamboyant peacock among pigeons on stage; a party waiting to happen and too scared to leave it. There are other lights in the cast — Ben Hardy is a lot of fun as Roger Taylor — but Malek outshines them all, giving the material a wallop it needs.