“I won’t be a rock star. I will be a legend.”
A Night At The Opera
I fucking love Queen. I just wanted to say that at the start because otherwise I’d talk about how much I love Queen forever. Because I’m not here to talk about Queen, I’m here to talk about Bohemian Rhapsody, a film that chronicles the journey of the band while mainly focusing on Freddie Mercury.
Freddie Mercury was a force of nature, and one of my idols from a very young age. The man played the most impressive instrument of all: the audience. When Queen played Live Aid, Freddie had that audience in the palm of his hand. My old man says that if Freddie told them to go smash the government they would have, and I’m inclined to agree.
Anyway, the film tells the story of how the band formed and went on to take the world by storm. Along the way we see the trials and tribulations of the group, Freddie’s diagnosis of HIV, his personal relationships falling apart, and the film finally culminates in a reunion of the band playing Live Aid.
And here’s where a lot of the problems come with the film. There are a LOT of plot points in the the film that are either very exaggerated or flat out false. I’m going to highlight a few of the big ones below.
In the film there is a lot of drama surrounding Freddie recording his solo album, Mr Bad Guy, resulting in the band going on a “break” from working/touring together. Now there are two major issues with this. Firstly, the band never had an issue with Freddie recording a solo album and there was no animosity towards the decision as Queen were already recording their 1984 album The Works.
Secondly, on this note, Freddie wasn’t even the first one to record a solo album. Roger Taylor (the band’s drummer) recorded his solo album, Fun In Space, four years before Freddie went on to record his.
To stay with the band breaking up a bit I have to talk about the build-up to Live Aid. In the movie Live Aid is treated like a reunion for the band. Freddie comes back from Russia, gets diagnosed with HIV (more on that in a bit) and the band gets back together and everyone is friends again. Now here’s the thing: the band never split up and Live Aid was no reunion. The last show of their previous tour was only 8 weeks before the Live Aid concert so they didn’t “have to get back in shape” at all.
But here’s the biggy. In the movie Freddie is diagnosed with HIV in the build up to the Live Aid concert and he only tells the band about it shortly before the show. It’s a real punch in the gut moment that shows the band really coming back together as a family.
That’s all bullshit. Freddie Mercury didn’t learn he had HIV til ’86/’87 (it’s not entirely clear), a year or two after Live Aid. The other thing is that according to Roger Taylor the band wasn’t made aware of Freddie’s diagnosis until 1989, four years after Live Aid.
I understand that a lot of these decisions were to “add drama” to the film and really add meaning to the build up to Live Aid. But was that entirely necessary? Freddie Mercury’s life was already a bit insane and I think some of these additions weren’t necessary. All some of these additions will accomplish in the long run is confusion around the life of a man who is already a pretty mythical figure.
I am a massive Queen fan as I said at the start of this. The first biopic book that I ever read was about the life of Freddie Mercury, I worship the man and his immense legacy of music with Queen. Some of these decisions rubbed me the wrong way but, despite that, Bohemian Rhapsody was the first movie in over a decade that I went to see in cinema more than once (The last being Revenge of the Sith). I fucking love this movie.
I saw a review for this movie that basically said that it was a fantastic music video with a mediocre film buried in it and I wholeheartedly agree. The songs of Queen have been entertaining the people of the world since 1973. The legacy of the band is immense. I have never met anyone that didn’t like Queen, and that’s a true testament to their power as musicians.
In Bohemian Rhapsody (the film) there is a scene where their record producer says that Bohemian Rhapsody will never be a song people bang their heads to in their car.
If you haven’t had this experience, go back to whatever planet you’re from. I don’t trust you and you clearly aren’t human.
In Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s book Good Omens, a character, Crowley, has a car that turns every tape put in it into a Best of Queen tape in a matter of weeks.
In the show Modern Family two characters play chess and as one takes the other’s queen he says “you can’t sing We Are The Champions without your queen”.
In the first Halo video game some of the enemies will sing We Are The Champions if they manage to kill you.
The 14th episode of Cowboy Bebop is called Bohemian Rhapsody.
The film Highlander has a soundtrack comprised mostly of Queen songs.
And of course who could forget that the songs of Queen were turned into a west end show in We Will Rock You.
The list could go on and on and on but I hope you get the idea. People love Queen. There’s something about their music that just resonates with people.
During the London 2012 Olympics (21 years after his death), Freddie still managed to steal the show.
Seeing this movie was a great joy. I couldn’t stop signing along (under my breath). Even with the made-up stuff surrounding his diagnosis, I still had a tear in my eye.
The best part of the movie (for me) was of course the Live Aid concert. Still considered one of the most important moments in music history, the film did it brilliantly, and there was clearly a lot of love and effort put into it.
If you’ve got 20 minutes spare then I command you to watch that video (before it gets taken down). The film is almost a shot for shot remake of the actual concert and it was a phenomenal ending to a film about a phenomenal band.
Thanks for reading and I’ll see you all next time. Until then, remember to take care of yourselves. Peace.
A fantastic video of music students hearing Bohemian Rhapsody for the first time.