The new trailer for Bohemian Rhapsody dropped yesterday and, for fear of understating things, people seem rather excited. It’s certainly an exciting trailer; full of mashups of different Queen songs and lots of Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury honestly giving it a decent go.
In fact this teaser pretty much sums up Queen perfectly: a pure crowd pleaser, something for everyone and not too challenging. Therein potentially lies an issue, and one that’s endemic with modern biopics – they don’t ever get under the skin of their subject material.
When was the last time you saw a musical biopic that did anything more than play the artist/s’ greatest hits and generally praise them until it induces nausea? Straight Outta Compton is probably the worst example of this; sure Eazy-E waves a gun around for 5 seconds but otherwise that bad stuff that happened around NWA? They had nothing to do with it, honest…
The biggest issue with these movies is that, especially recently, the people that the movies depict are still alive and even involve themselves in the movie. Again, Straight Outta Compton had Dr Dre and Ice Cube as producers and the entire third act is an advertisement of their properties. Literally.
That’s not to say that heavy involvement from the people about whom the movie is based always means that it is doomed. Sure it’s not perfect, but 8 Mile is a great example of a movie entirely involving the artist it’s based on – even with them in the main role – and not shying away from the sometimes ugly truth of the humble beginnings (note: I know 8 Mile is semi-autobiographical at best).
Of course it’s too soon to tell where Bohemian Rhapsody will fall on this spectrum. However, with Brian May and Roger Taylor – two of rock music’s most self-aggrandising artists – carrying producer roles and already throwing their weight around on the project (they apparently were involved in throwing Sacha Baron Cohen off the movie), it doesn’t inspire a lot of hope for the brutally honest depiction of life in Queen at its peak.