REVIEW: ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ Blu-Ray release

Bohemian Rhapsody is the (condensed, and perhaps idealized) story of Queen and their dynamic frontman, the late-great Freddie Mercury. Produced with a lot of input, and costume and prop contributions from Queen’s Brian May & Roger Taylor, the film attempts a look at Queen from the beginning, to their performance at Live Aid in July 1985, called by many the best rock performance of all time.

A lot has been said about the quality of Bohemian Rhapsody as a film, and as the story of Mercury’s life. The consensus by most critics seems to be that it lets Mercury down, and Taylor and May were given far too much input into the story, leading to an idealized version of themselves, and a shortfall in portraying the realities of Mercury’s life. Meanwhile, the general public has embraced the film, leading to a worldwide gross of over $840 million. Something we usually only see for superheroes or other huge action films these days. Star Rami Malek has won Golden Globes, BAFTAs, and more for his phenomenal portrayal of Mercury, and the film itself won the Golden Globe for Best Picture, and is nominated for the Oscar.

I went into my own personal feelings of the film on the Pop a la Carte Podcast back in November, but needless to say I’m a fan. While being able to recognize the complaints people have, I feel most critics wanted the 10-hour gritty look at the AIDS that took Mercury’s life, rather than the 2 hour 13 min celebration of Queen’s music Bohemian Rhapsody gave them. As someone with a history degree, I don’t look to dramatized films for 100% accurate portrayals of any person or event in history, because that’s not their job. Neither is it for a dramatized 10-part series. Their job is to entertain. Documentaries can’t even always be trusted to get the truth right at all times. I want the general details to be accurate, and for changes to not be offensive while they must also serve the story. And most importantly (but I like to read histories and biographies, so maybe I’m weird), I want the story to inspire me to go out and find out the true story. And Bohemian Rhapsody definitely gave me that.

The Fox Home Entertainment release for the film features three making-of documentaries, and the thing most people have been begging for, the full film performance of the Live Aid set.

The documentaries on the release include “Rami Malek: Becoming Freddie,” “The Look and Sound of Queen,” and “Recreating Live Aid.” All three are fascinating, and contain a lot of discussion about the worry about getting the look and feel of these people and their journey right. But I dare you to watch them without playing “Spot Bryan Singer” like my husband and I did. Unless you live under a rock, you’re probably aware that original (and still credited) director Singer was fired from the project after he stopped showing up on set, and had clashes with the film’s stars and producers. Dexter Fletcher ended up having to replace Singer to get the film finished. But unless we missed them, neither director is included in the behind the scenes documentaries, not even the back of a head. In fact, when watching the final of the three docs, “Recreating Live Aid,” Cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel is featured so heavily that, knowing the Live Aid performance was part of the first few days of filming, we found ourselves wondering if Singer had ever even been on set directing the film in the first place.

The erasure of Singer’s role in the film from these documentaries is understandable with the volatile working relationship that ended so badly, and then the re-emergence of sexual assault accusations that have been written about recently (the disc would have been in production before this happened, but the producers and Fox certainly had an inkling it was coming). The argument over whether or not Singer should have been given the position when these rumors have been swirling around him for years, coupled with behavioral problems on other sets, is topic for another time. But it’s impossible to ignore the elephant in the room of no director appearing in any of these pieces on the disc.

Still, watching the work put into the mannerisms that made Mercury so unique, the costumes, the props, and the set of Wembley Stadium (which has since been torn down and completely rebuilt) used for Live Aid are the real stars of the documentaries, and if you’re a film buff, a Queen fan, or just a fan of Bohemian Rhapsody, the film, on its own, you should find everything you want in these documentaries.

And if you watch them back to back, as I did, you may find yourself eager to see the one thing I think makes the entire Blu-ray release worthwhile: the full film performance of the Live Aid set. I can’t wait to see the inevitable YouTube video with a side by side of the entire filmed performance next to the performance by the actors. It’s just too bad the Blu-ray didn’t include the band’s performance itself. Missed opportunity.

And that’s it for the extras, which isn’t surprising in this day and age, seeing as special features on a disc seems to be on the way out. But it is surprising that there’s not a single commentary track. Sure, Singer was out, but what about producer Graham King who worked for a decade on trying to get this film made? Or the cast (something you never see anymore)? Or May & Taylor (how amazing would that have been)? It’s the only glaring omission from the disc, and it’s a real disappointment that it isn’t included.

However, if you’re a fan of the film, the disc has more than enough to make it worth a purchase (did I mention that full Live Aid performance by the cast?), and so I count this as a definite recommend.

Bohemian Rhapsody is available in 4K Ultra, Blu-ray, and DVD from today.