This week was a huge one for the upcoming musical biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, based on one of the most renowned bands in music history, Queen. Not only did we gain a new member to the cast with Lucy Boynton set to play Mary Austin, but we also got our first official look at Rami Malek as the legendary frontman, Freddie Mercury. This news follows a recent stream of news about the project, including the casting of Ben Hardy as Roger Taylor, Gwilym Lee as Brian Man, Joseph Mazzello as John Deacon, and Allen Leech as Paul Prenter.
The film has been a long time coming and has been highly anticipated since its announcement back in 2010. In that time, fans who have followed the production have debated over a few aspects of the upcoming film, including the apparent timeline of the movie as it pertains to the untimely passing of Mercury. At one point, the script allegedly intended to place the events of his death in the middle of the movie (which came with its own set of debates), but it seems now that the film will be set between the formative years of the band and their famous performance at Live Aid. This gives Bohemian Rhapsody a relative timeframe of 1970-1985, skipping Mercury’s death entirely.
Some fans questioned that decision, perhaps hoping for a film to showcase the more dark and tragic truth of Mercury’s life. I was also in that crowd for a while. However, over time I came to accept this creative choice. In fact, I now believe this to be a fairly good idea for a few reasons.
Too Much Story Will Kill You
It’s true that Freddie’s death seems like a strange thing to skip, and it is. However, let’s not negate the fact that even without those last 6 to 12 pivotal years of Queen, we still have about 15 years worth of material to work with here. That’s already more material than most musical biopics are tasked with adapting into a 2 hour movie. It makes sense that the story would have to be cut down at least… a lot, but why then should Freddie’s death get the boot?
When you think about it, the first 15 years of Queen have every element typically seen in a biopic: the origin, the rise, the fall, and the resurgence/legacy. It’s a formula we’ve seen before in both musical biopics (like Jersey Boys and Straight Outta Compton) and biopics in general (like Steve Jobs and The Founder). With the decision to focus on this era of the band, I’m confident Bohemian Rhapsody will continue that trend by showing how the band originated from the band Smile, rose with the release of A Night at the Opera, fell with the release of Hot Space and South African concert, and returned to prominence with their show-stealing Live Aid performance. It just so happens that all those events occurred during Freddie Mercury’s life.
Ending the movie while Freddie is still alive would probably be necessary for keeping the movie short, sweet, and to the point, allowing them to tell a traditional yet strong narrative without blowing their load by trying to fit everything in. I’m not saying that there isn’t a way to cover everything without the story suffering (more on that later), but it may be pushing what the writers can do. Remember how many reviewers and critics said they loved Straight Outta Compton even though the third act (the part with Eazy-E’s death) was a bit weak? Perhaps this is this movie’s way of avoiding similar criticism.
After all, it can be argued that the remaining 6 years Freddie spent with Queen could be a whole movie in itself.
It’s Not That Kind of Movie
Let’s also consider the fact that, while a lot of people are yearning for a more dark and brutal look at the Queen story, they won’t get it here. That vision for the film walked out the door with Sacha Baron Cohen years ago. In fact, one of the reasons Cohen left the production was due to them not focusing on the hard-R aspect of Freddie’s life. From that, and everything else we know about the movie so far, this film will lean much more on the family-friendly side.
Whether you would’ve preferred that darker tone is entirely your prerogative. I’m not saying I don’t want to see that, too, but this seems to be more of a story about the band’s roots and legacy than it is the personal demons of its members. There’s nothing wrong with that perspective either. Making the film more approachable will no doubt increase the film’s appeal, especially to non-fans who don’t know the full story.
However, don’t fret if you were really hoping for something more in-depth. It’s not like this will be the only movie based on Queen or Freddie Mercury ever made. Consider how many films based on Michael Jackson, Bruce Lee, Steve Jobs, or Elvis Presley exist; each one focusing on a different aspect of that specific person. The odds of there being another movie about Freddie Mercury in the near or distant future are incredibly high, especially considering how film-worthy and fascinating his life was.
So, maybe this Queen movie takes a more general approach to the source material. Maybe another future movie will take a more interpersonal approach, which would flat-out require the events leading to and including Freddie’s death.
The Show Can Still Go On
Even with all these reasons, some will still argue that any movie about Queen that doesn’t include this tragic and pivotal moment of Queen’s story feels wrong. Something about that fact showing up in text-form at the end of the movie doesn’t sound complete. That’s totally understandable, too, which is why I’m personally hoping for the film to cover Freddie’s death in a brief yet meaningful way towards the end; similar to how Jersey Boys ends by jumping to the Four Seasons’ Rock and Roll Hall of Fame performance.
I actually have a few ideas as to how they can do this.
One idea is to fast-forward from 1985 to 1991 with the recording session for Innuendo and “The Show Must Go On”. You’ll see a sickly Freddie, unable to walk without assistance and hiding his pain with vodka, making his way to the booth to record this 4-octave vocal performance. Brian May suggests Freddie not try, he tries anyway, and before the song starts it fades to black with “The Show Must Go On” playing over the credits.
In a similar way, you can also adapt the recording session for “Mother Love”, his final song. The shooting for the “These Are the Days of Our Lives” video would also do.
Or say they choose to shoot a scene from after Freddie already passed. You can jump to 1992 with the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert, which would be a great way to demonstrate Freddie’s legacy by how many rock legends appeared in a concert held in his honor. Another opportune moment would be 1997 with the recording of “No One But You (Only the Good Die Young)”, which was made in honor of Freddie and the last song made with John Deacon before retiring.
One final idea would actually have the movie jump to present day at a Queen + Adam Lambert concert, ending with Brian May’s tradition of addressing the crowd and performing “Love of My Life” with footage of Freddie playing in the background. This would demonstrate Queen’s lasting legacy and persistence through the ages, allow the band members and current frontman Lambert to make a cameo, and beautifully wrap up the story of Freddie Mercury.
These are all brief, visual ways to wrap up the movie in a way that doesn’t dance around the fact that Freddie is no longer here. Ultimately, they may not go with this idea at all, which could also work if done correctly, but let’s also entertain the possibility that the timeframe isn’t as strict as we may initially think. And even if it is, all that matters to me is that they make a good, enjoyable, truthful movie. At the end of the day, that’s what matters most.
Do you think the Bohemian Rhapsody should cover Freddie’s death? Let me know in the comments, and feel free to let me know why. And be sure to follow The Ranting SBox through WordPress or via email to keep up with future posts such as these.
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