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Scott Derrickson’s Issue With Some ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ Bad Reviews Starts an Online Debate About Film Criticism

The "Doctor Strange" filmmaker doesn't agree with how some critics were approaching the new Queen biopic in film reviews.

"Bohemian Rhapsody"

“Bohemian Rhapsody”

20th Century Fox

Bohemian Rhapsody,” the Queen biopic starring Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury, opened in theaters nationwide November 2, but the reviews weren’t exactly anything to rave about. While the movie has a mediocre 59% on Rotten Tomatoes after 237 reviews, it was panned by IndieWireThe New York Times, and The Daily Beast, which called the film an insult to Mercury’s legacy. One person who did enjoy the film was “Doctor Strange” filmmaker Scott Derrickson, who reacted on Twitter by sharing a general observation about the criticisms he was reading on the movie.

“I really enjoyed ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,'” Derrickson wrote. “Most criticisms I’ve read about the film say it could’ve been something more. But I refuse to judge a film by I wanted it to be, I receive it for what it is.”

Derrickson made it clear his response was not an attack on film critics (“I love good film criticism and strongly believe it to be a very different skill set from filmmaking,” he wrote in a follow-up post, but his opinion started an online debate about whether or not it is right to criticize a film for what you think it should be when it clearly fails to meet those expectations.

Many of the bad reviews for “Bohemian Rhapsody” criticize the film for being a shallow and sugarcoated look at Mercury’s life, and the movie has spawned numerous essays on how it doesn’t fundamentally understand or honestly depict Mercury’s sexuality, even if it doesn’t straight-wash his life entirely. Clearly, critics went in to the film wanting the movie to be a certain kind of biopic that it simply is not, but is it fare to criticize the movie in this way? Or should we only be judging the film on what it gives us? That’s the question proposed by Derrickson.

Variety’s Guy Lodge weighed in on his own Twitter page by writing, “It’s good to review everything on its terms. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t criticize a film for being limited in scope, ambition or courage..If you’re not bothered by the de-queering of Freddie Mercury’s story for mass entertainment purposes, well, great — you are exactly who Bohemian Rhapsody was made for. Enjoy! But also take a moment to consider whether the film should have been made only for you.”

More critical of Derrickson’s opinion was Kayleigh Donaldson, a film writer for ScreenRant, Pajiba, and more. “A lot of those critics – myself included – who wanted it to be ‘something more’ are explicitly talking about the film’s moralising attitude towards its subject, it’s de-queering of its focus, and its fudging of history to settle scores and reinforce brand synergy,” she wrote. “You liked Bohemian Rhapsody? Okay, you do you, but let’s cut it out with the pseudo anti-intellectualism that positions criticizing bad film-making as having too high standards.”

“Bohemian Rhapsody” is now playing in theaters.

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