“Bohemian Rhapsody” was never a favorite among film critics (IndieWire’s David Ehrlich gave it a D+ review), but it earned outright scorn after nabbing four Oscars, the most of any film at the 91st Academy Awards. Among its victories, “Bohemian Rhapsody” picked up the award for Best Film Editing. The decision left many critics and moviegoers puzzled as the film’s editing has been widely panned (there’s a reason this clip went viral). To put “Bohemian Rhapsody’s” editing into perspective, video essayist Thomas Flight has published a comprehensive analysis arguing why the film is a “masterclass in bad editing.”
The video essay analyzes what it claims is one of the worst edited scenes in “Bohemian Rhapsody”: Queen’s first meeting with their eventual manager, John Reid (Aidan Gillen). As Flight explains, the scene lasts 104 seconds but contains 60 cuts, which makes for an average shot length of 1.8 seconds. That shot length happens to be 30% faster than what Michael Bay used during most action scenes in “Transformers: The Last Knight,” where the average shot length was 2.8 seconds. It’s not a good sign when a scene of people talking around a table has more rapid fire editing than a giant battle between humans and robots.
In the scene where Queen meets with John Reid, there are also several cuts that serve no purpose whatsoever. The editing goes overboard with its shot-reverse-shot pattern to include reaction shots from Brian May and other band members that telegraph no new information to the viewer. A shot will show Brian May reacting to Freddie Mercury’s outfit and then return seconds later to a shot depicting the same information. Furthermore, the editing does not properly sync up with character eye-lines and body positions, which creates a disorienting effect for the person watching. There aren’t actually jump cuts in the scene, but the editing makes it feel like there are several.
Ultimately, the video essay is a crash course in streamlining the “Bohemian Rhapsody” editing process. In breaking down the scene into panels showing every cut, Flight is able to pinpoint the shots that provide information to the viewer and the shots that are simply repetitive or visually confusing for the viewer. Flight goes as far to remove these shots and replay the trimmed scenes to show there was a way to edit “Bohemian Rhapsody” and have it flow more smoothly.
Watch Flight’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” bad editing breakdown in the video below.