WASHINGTON: The biographical drama about rock supergroup Queen and its dynamic lead singer Freddie Mercury crescendos onto the ultra-high definition format after its theatrical box office soared to more than $800 million worldwide in Bohemian Rhapsody(20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, rated PG-13, 135 minutes, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, $39.99).
Actor Rami Malek, in an Academy Award-winning performance, carries the movie as the enigmatic Mercury who commanded the rock arena as potent as any opera diva while displaying his multilayered sexuality.
Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury
Mr. Malek delivers a balanced exuberance and pathos as he portrays the singer during his intense performances and as he spirals out of control through life choices that ultimately killed him.
Actors that portray the other band members — Gwilym Lee as guitarist Brian May, Ben Hardy as drummer Roger Taylor and Joe Mazzello as John Deacon — are all spot on, especially when on stage with instruments in hand.
Additionally, supporting Mr. Malek’s transformation is Lucy Boynton playing Mercury’s perpetual girlfriend Mary Austin and Aaron McCusker as the singer’s eventual boyfriend Jim Hutton.
However, for all of the glossy exposition of the formation of the group, its pivotal moments such as the recording of the classic “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Mercury’s melodic crowd interactions and their performance at Live Aid, its unfortunate revisionist history impedes the reality of the story.
Most egregious is creating the false emotional narrative that the band was broken up before Live Aid, supposedly caused by Mercury. In the movie, they reunite for the show and learn the singer has AIDS while rehearsing for the event. That’s all fabrication and makes a bit of a mockery of Queen’s legacy.
Queen in 4K HD
The 2160p presentation is proficient with warm colors and crisp visuals throughout. However, it works best while examining the enormous Live Aid crowd with a sweeping fly-in shot into Wembley Stadium and the stage.
Additionally, you can bet your sweet bippy that the Dolby Atmos soundtrack infused with Queen’s memorable music requires turning up a home theater sound system to 11 to absorb these great songs.
Tunes such as “Keep Yourself Alive,” “Somebody to Love,” “Killer Queen” and “Another One Bites the Dust” will send chills thanks to Mr. Deacon’s memorable bass lines and Mr. May’s grandiose guitar flourishes.
And, of course, Mercury’s soaring vocals shine, reproduced using original recordings and singer Marc Martel, who is his vocal doppelganger.
This love letter to fans offers about an hour’s worth of production featurettes and the entire presentation of the actors faux-playing of Queen’s Live Aid set on the Blu-ray disc.
First, viewers get 16 minutes on Mr. Malek becoming Mercury with most of the cast and crew (even the movement and vocal coach) talking about the lead singer’s life and showmanship. It includes interviews with Mr. Taylor and Mr. May and shots of Mr. May on the set watching Mr. Malek in action with the guitarist wearing a permanent smile.
Next, a 21-minute segment covers the origins and success of Queen with more interviews with cast and crew. It’s often filled with the actors discussing being the musicians, learning how to play the instruments on a tight schedule and more insight from the original members.
Finally, viewers get 20 minutes on recreating the Live Aid event including covering the charity concert’s origins, recreating a packed Wembley Stadium digitally and watching original organizer Bob Geldoff stopping by to examine the set pieces with Mr. May and Mr. Taylor.
What’s missing is an optional commentary track from the director. That makes sense since Bryan Singer was fired from the project with a few weeks left, and an uncredited Dexter Fletcher had to step in to finish the film.
However, the disc producers certainly could have offered a track with Mr. Malek, Mr. Taylor and Mr. May that would have made fans very happy.
As far as, the full Live Aid sequence by the actors, available also on the 4K disc, I would have preferred to watch a clean copy of Queen’s real performance.
Considering any idiot can find the concert on YouTube, it seems that securing the rights would not have been an issue. Obviously, it’s far more exciting to watch the real Mercury and the band in action during that memorable mini-concert.
• This story originally appeared in The Washington Times.