Film School: Bad Editing in ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’

Still from "Bohemian Rhapsody's Terrible Editing - A Breakdown" by Thomas Flight

“Why did this film win an Academy Award for Best Editing?”

… asks Thomas Flight, as he proceeds to break down some fundamental film editing strategies which are missed throughout Bohemian Rhapsody (2018). Here is his video breakdown, followed by lessons we took from it:

Motivated Cuts

Thomas discusses “motivated” edits, or the importance of cutting for a reason. Cutting without motivation can needlessly complicate a scene – and to illustrate this, he contrasts a section of the existing edit:

… with his own suggestion for how to improve it:

Eyelines

Thomas explains one thing that helps us follow the action in the scene – one thing that helps us understand the space with which that scene takes place – is where the actors are looking. When cutting between two actors, it’s important that they appear to be looking at eachother:

If they aren’t, perhaps different cuts need to be made:

Fix It In Post?

Importantly, Thomas notes that editing choices are limited by poor coverage and direction. “If an editor is given a scene that’s poorly blocked and composed, it’s difficult to fix that in the edit.”

“Good editing should rarely be noticeable,” Thomas opines. “The Oscar sometimes goes to films with the most noticeable editing.”

Update

Boy, did the internet pile onto Bohemian Rhapsody‘s editor John Ottman once Thomas’ video went viral. John responded (in impressively sporting fashion) – and then Thomas responded to that.

Also…

… as I was reminded by one of my students: Bohemian Rhapsody changed directors mid-production, which should certainly be considered when critiquing the film. Dexter Fletcher was tasked with completing someone else’s film, which alone could account for problems in the final product. For comparison, take a look at what he did with his other rock music biopic, released a year later, and which he helmed from start to finish, Rocketman (2019):