“Bohemian Rhapsody was better than Rocketman” is a statement I hear too often and I always respond with the same answer:
Every time, this is/always will be my answer. No.
No it wasn’t, no it isn’t.
Rocketman versus Bohemian Rhapsody has become a discussion where I immediately spring into action. I have my defense locked and loaded because there’s a fine line between enjoying something and it being good and hating something and it being bad. Yet, I’ve found the majority of people don’t see it this way. Why? Because most base their knowledge on what’s good/what’s bad based on what they personally like/dislike, which is not illogical. Unless you have knowledge or an education in film, what else are you supposed to do? And sometimes even then, it doesn’t matter because everyone has a different preference and different opinions. Yet, these two movies are compared all the time, but should they be?
They are both biopics (they both recreate scenes and moments from Queen and Elton John’s lives and careers, but neither are particularly accurate) about famous musical artists who rose to fame, suffered from addiction, and struggled with a desperate desire to be loved by someone and not be alone… Okay let’s be real here, no one cares about that. I do, but people only see the obvious similarity between the two: they’re film biopics about rock stars that were released around the same time. “Same time” being roughly six months apart. Would they be compared like this if there was a six- year difference? Possibly… But probably not.
The point of all this is its apples to oranges. They’re two completely different things, and because of their similarities if they’re going to be compared, they should be compared the right way. Acknowledging the good and the bad and what really makes them different.
For starters, according to Rotten Tomatoes, Bohemian Rhapsody earned a score of 60%, while Rocketman was given a score of 89%. However, Bohemian Rhapsody won four out of five Academy Awards, while Rocketman was only nominated, and won, one. Based on that alone, many may believe the awards speak for themselves and in most cases, yes. However, you should always take into consideration which nominations they did receive (In Bohemian Rhapsody’s case, Best Performance, Film Editing, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing and Best Picture) and which ones they didn’t (i.e. Best Original Screenplay, Best Directing etc.).
Rami Malek’s win for his portrayal of Freddie Mercury, was beyond well deserved. When I first saw the film, I had to consistently remind myself that the man on the screen was Rami not Freddie. He was unbelievably outstanding. But an Oscar in one category does not cancel out the problems in the other categories. All it means is the film was successful within that particular aspect of filmmaking… but for Bohemian Rhapsody, even that may not be the case. At least one of their wins, Best Editing, has been called into question (I recommend the Bohemian Rhapsody’s Terrible Editing breakdown on YouTube). Bohemian Rhapsody may have beautifully and successfully recreated Queen’s Live Aid performance (which is probably why they received the Oscar for editing) but why the simple and basic editing wasn’t on par is unclear.
As I mentioned before, Rocketman only earned one Academy Award, Best Original Song. I was thrilled for the win, but I also was incredibly disappointed about the snubs in other categories, specifically Dexter Fletcher for Best Director. Personally, I found his directing style jaw- dropping. The structure of the movie; a musical, where people lapse into song and dance, but not like a traditional musical where you understand this is the nature of the world— i.e. people bursting into song, finish, and go about their lives. No, this will be the nature of Elton John’s world, how he’s perceiving it, how he’s feeling, it’s all in his head… it’s a fantasy, which was the entire point. However, not everyone is into musicals. Regardless, Rocketman was always destined to be an acquired taste due to the story venturing deep into the dark places of Elton John’s life.
I mentioned earlier that Rocketman received more critical praise than Bohemian Rhapsody. Most may disregard the score, but in this case, I do believe it’s important to point out. I’ve noticed that anything below 80% means something is wrong, or to be more specific, something is lacking. And something was lacking in Bohemian Rhapsody.
The film danced around Freddie Mercury’s sexuality and addiction where Rocketman addressed Elton John’s head on. Freddie’s drug addiction was literally being told to us. I can’t think of any scene where we actually see Freddie getting high, we’re just told that he is from the band whereas in Rocketman, we’re seeing Elton drinking and doing drugs over the course of several years.
It felt like Bohemian Rhapsody wanted us to draw our own conclusions about what was happening but wasn’t giving us enough evidence for a reasonable assumption. For example, Paul, the right- hand man to Queen, caused Freddie to push the band away. What was happening with them? We know they hooked up earlier in the movie, but leading up to Live Aid, were they together? There was no evidence of it. But there was no evidence that they weren’t.
Part of me blames this on the film not exploring Freddie’s sexuality enough. If they had, the picture could have been clearer. Rocketman on the other hand was abundantly clear. The entire ‘Bennie and the Jets’ sequence was showing us how out of hand Elton’s sex and drug addiction were. But it was artistically done, to make their point to the audience.
While I was amazed (as well as shocked but blown away nonetheless) I find that this is what some audience members, particularly my parents’ generation, were not crazy about. No, it isn’t due Elton John’s sexuality. It’s due to personal preference. Not everyone is comfortable seeing a heavy amount of sex and sexual implications and I understand that, however it was 2019… isn’t it about time we see it?
The bottom line: Bohemian Rhapsody held back while Rocketman didn’t. Rocketman was told how Elton John wanted and Bohemian Rhapsody was told how Queen wanted (in a nutshell). One film was more standard while the other was not. Obviously, I’m biased. I loved, loved, loved Rocketman because based on my taste, it was right up my alley. That’s not to say that Bohemian Rhapsody wasn’t, because I loved it too. Although, as I’ve proved, it’s not solely about personal taste or movie preference.
So, when people say to me, they prefer one over the other I’m not going to judge or question them. They liked it more and that’s perfectly fine. What I want everyone to understand is why they think that is. Like I said before, there’s liking something and it being good, there’s disliking something and it being bad. Can’t we just unblur the lines?