Queen is still the champion.
The 2018 biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which details the history of the band Queen, has earned more than $290 million at box offices worldwide since its release.
This past weekend, “Bohemian Rhapsody” became the highest grossing musical biopic in history, surpassing “Straight Outta Compton,” a biopic about the rap group NWA, which earned more than $201.6 million during its run in theaters.
The movie is a celebration of the music and life of the band Queen, especially the lead singer, Freddie Mercury, played by Rami Malek. The movie tracks the band through its formative years — when Freddie Mercury went by his real name, Farrokh Bulsara — and ends with the band’s iconic Live Aid performance in 1985, which is known as one of the greatest live performances by a musical group of all time.
Dylan Fink, a member of the University of Mississippi Concert Singers, said he believes Freddie Mercury is the epitome of a showman.
“Queen had a profound impact on rock ‘n’ roll by expanding its definition to include a broader range of influences,” Fink said. “The operatic section in ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ was strange but highlighted the existing operatic influences in the broader rock ‘n’ roll genre.”
Fink, a bass singer, said he has never been able to perform a Queen song due to Freddie Mercury’s high vocal range.
“I have been known to yell out a few operatic ‘Bismillahs’ when requested to participate in a group karaoke rendition of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’” he said.
Beyond being an entertaining depiction of a popular musician, “Bohemian Rhapsody” tells the story of a man who influenced both rock ‘n’ roll music and society’s perception of the LGBTQ community and AIDS.
“He helped to shape the individualist, ‘let-your-freak-flag-fly’ movement within the rock ‘n’ roll tradition,” Fink said. “His legacy is of particular importance to the LGBTQ community and promotion of inclusivity. His legacy also persists as a central figure in promoting HIV and AIDS awareness.”
Freddie Mercury died on Nov. 24, 1991, at the age of 45 of bronchial pneumonia resulting from AIDS.
Jaime Harker, a gender studies professor at the university, said Freddie Mercury’s star status contributed to the 1970s movement of blurring gender roles in music.
“Freddie Mercury was part of a larger trend of LGBTQ performers in the 1970s who were visible to LGBTQ folks without being ‘out’ in general,” Harker said. “And though he didn’t reveal his HIV status until right before he died, talking about it publicly was also important for the LGBTQ community at a time when AIDS was still very taboo.”
Harker believes that a major studio producing a movie about Queen and Freddie Mercury’s influence shows the national interest in opening a conversation about gender expression.
“I am interested to see how the younger generation perceives Freddie Mercury,” said Harker. “His superstar status definitely meant that queering gender didn’t bar one from success in the music industry. That was very important in an industry that isn’t always courageous.”
Morgan Kelly, a sophomore psychology major, has already seen the movie once and said she plans to go see it again.
“I have a short attention span, so the fact that I stayed interested in a two-hour long movie was a big feat,” Kelly said. “I thought it was extremely well done, and the casting was spot on.”
Leigh Anne Duck, an English professor, remembers Queen at its peak.
“What a great band,” Duck said. “They were in their prime when I was a kid, which means their (music) would be the one eight-track that would be at every overnight, every camp and every bus trip.”
Even though biopics are not Duck’s favorite film genre, she said she understands that they are incredibly successful.
“It certainly appeals to fandoms that are already out there,” Duck said. “This genre is great for actors. (It’s) a clear challenge and so impressive when someone nails it.”
Malek has already received rave reviews for his performance. According to David Edelstein of Vulture, “The actor might not be as handsome as (Freddie) Mercury, but he’s nearly as magnetic, and he makes you believe that that voice is coming out of that body — an amazing feat.”