While this first teaser for the biopic on late Queen frontman Freddie Mercury has garnered some cause for concern with a late-stage director swap and some criticism regarding construing Mercury's sexual identity in a misleading way, the editing and music itself is tremendous in the way it staves off the obvious approach.
That obvious approach would be, of course, using the song “Bohemian Rhapsody” in a film of the same name. It’s already a song well-used in trailers, most notably in the campaign for 2016 DC film Suicide Squad. The first sound and scene is already somewhat unexpected: a call-and-response between Mercury and a large crowd doesn’t immediately identify any particularly well-known Queen tune, but rather, illustrates the connection and the relationship he had with fans.
At 0:16 we get the famous studio recording of “Another One Bites the Dust,” which, while not thematically essential in the context of a biopic, sets an appropriate tone that captures the 1970s heyday for both Mercury and the band, as the teaser as a whole appears to highlight. The recording is mixed with synchronized live handclaps, vocals and live percussion. However, the entire experience is taken up a notch as we realize at 0:24, vocals from “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Killer Queen” are perfectly mashed together and synchronized with the existing “Another One Bites the Dust” track. Whether this was done with some particularly sophisticated editing software or if custom sound-a-like vocals were recorded just for this teaser is unclear, but since a young Mercury features throughout the film, the latter may well be possible.
From 0:45 to 0:48 we hear mixed together snippets of one of the guitar solo bridges in “Rhapsody,” and only at the end of the scene is it revealed that this sound is diegetic, emanating from guitarist Brian May’s amplifier in the studio. “So now what?” May asks, at a point exactly halfway through the trailer and followed by the first moment of silence. Things get a bit more conventional in terms of sound editing at 0:58 as we see Queen recording the famous “mamma mia” gang vocal section from “Bohemian Rhapsody” in the studio. This quickly gives way to the fully instrumental version and a montage of various scenes from the film.
At 1:05, however, the “boom-boom-clap” of “We Will Rock You” innocuously enters underneath “Bohemian Rhapsody,” again perfectly spliced in, ending synchronized with a fist pounding a table at 1:10, stopping for a deadpan one-liner much in the vein of a typical comedic trailer. “We Will Rock You” returns with vocals at 1:18, and a live aural ambiance is added seconds later, ending not on a final chord, but on a distinctive clap alongside the release date card at 1:28.
Clearly, the challenge for this trailer is facing Queen’s own music as a somewhat overused quantity. By combining Queen’s songs in musically coherent ways, the editors have successfully conveyed not only the tendency of memory to mix and blend in various ways, but also the band’s creative process, as was shown in the various scenes in the studio and off stage. While there may yet indeed be an issue with regard to how the trailer appears to ignore Mercury’s sexual identity, the music is most clearly front and centre, giving us the opportunity to hear Queen again from a fresh perspective and with renewed ears.
– Curtis Perry