The Freddie Mercury biopic has been cooking up since 2010. Originally meant to be a Sacha Baron Cohen and David Fincher collaboration, the biopic’s direction had shifted into the hands of the remaining members of Queen. This led to Baron Cohen leaving the project due to artistic disagreements, envisioning a much more adult version of Bohemian Rhapsody. Eventually, Anthony McCarten’s screenplay was green-lit with Bryan Singer (ugh) attached to direct. Soon they found Mercury in Rami Malek, as well as some reforms after Singer was fired from the project, some backlash for the lack of inclusion of the AIDs crisis, and accusations of “de-queering” Mercury’s depiction the film (more ugh)! It’s almost impressive that a project with such an infamously-controversial development stage could amount to a film this dull.
But here we are. Bohemian Rhapsody, despite a mixed critical reception, hit the #1 spot of the box office, making an estimated $50 million dollar earning. Somehow, this has only sparked more controversy as a quite irritating critics-versus-audiences conversation has formed once again. I think we have bigger things to worry about, considering the director credit has gone to an accused pedophile (he is currently being campaigned for by Fox for best director as part of the upcoming awards season). Simply put, this film already gave me a headache before I even got the chance to see it. Dubbed the “unseasoned chicken” of cinema by our editor-in-chief, Dilara, and writer, Iana, Bohemian Rhapsody is not only the blandest on-screen version of Mercury’s extravagant life possible, but it also does a major disservice to the gay and bi men who have looked up to the idol since the 80s. While the “de-queering” criticism may be slightly hyperbolic as Mercury’s sexuality is a large thread within the film, it is not handled with the amount of care to be worthy of high praise.
I can’t quite tell you why I was so excited for Papillon when I first saw the trailer for it a few months ago. I only found out after I had begun to anticipate it that it was actually a remake of a 1973 film by the same name, which in turn was based off a book of the same name, which was, in fact, a memoir from Henri Charrière (now played by Charlie Hunnam) whose nickname was, you guessed it – Papillon. I felt a bit silly for not knowing any of this beforehand, considering the original film starred Steve McQueen in the titular role, and Dustin Hoffman in the supporting role of Louie Dega (replaced in the new film by Rami Malek). Still, I enjoyed the fact that the only reason I had originally become excited for the film was because it seemed like a classically fun prison escape film, something that has been missing from the stack of summer blockbusters for the last few years. I became intrigued with the idea of going into this film completely blind, so as to not spend the entire runtime comparing and contrasting it to its predecessor. Instead, I could see it the way I had when I first saw the trailer: As a new and exciting prison escape genre action film starring two actors I’ve always enjoyed. If you go into this film having been a fan of the original, or having read the book for that matter, I’m not the person to tell you exactly how it holds up. But I’m of the belief that all films are created equal and deserve to be judged as such. With that being said, this film definitely manages to hold its own.
Trigger warning: Bryan Singer, sexual assault, sexual abuse against minors.
This essay is by our guest writer, Lindsay Miller.
It was announced a few days ago that Bryan Singer would be receiving directing credits for the upcoming Queen/Freddie Mercury biopic, despite being fired three months into principal photography due to his “unexpected availability” on set. And while his replacement, Dexter Fletcher, directly expressed not wanting the credits himself in an interview last month, this brings up yet another issue in the ongoing saga that I like to call: Bohemian Rhapsody Hell.
I was not planning on seeing this movie before this news was announced. I love Queen and I love Rami Malek, but nothing about this project really seemed to spark my interest besides the awesome photos of Malek in that Mercury Mustache™ . It just kinda seemed like the standard music biopic that comes out once a year to pretty good reviews but is then altogether forgotten in six weeks time. It is rare for movies of this nature to transcend the border of mediocrity, either due to the film itself or because of poor marketing. When both elements are seemingly in sync, you get a hit like Walk The Line or Ray but when one of them fails, you get duds like CBGB.
To many, Bohemian Rhapsody seems to be on the fast track to success thanks to Malek’s casting (“Somebody just give Rami his Oscar already”) and the overall attention the movie is getting from the media. But despite my overall apathy, I really cannot bring myself to support this film in theaters for one reason and one reason only: Bryan Singer.