May 24, 2019 Rocketman (Movie Review)
The film world has gotten its fair share of music-related biopics in the past few years. With movies like Netflix’s The Dirt based on Mötley Crüe and 2018’s Oscar-winning Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody making huge waves, it should come as no surprise that more films of this nature have started making their way into theaters. They cannot all be good films, right? Well, if you found Bohemian Rhapsody to be a bit lacking, then perhaps Rocketman is for the film for you!
Directed by Dexter Fletcher, who swooped in to finish directing Bohemian Rhapsody after original director Bryan Singer was fired, Rocketman follows a familiar music biopic outline. The difference, in end result, is a vibrant and evocative tale of Elton John’s unparalleled life and career that will easily put a smile on your face, having you singing your favorite Elton tunes on your way out of the theater.
Set for release in theaters on Friday, May 31st through Paramount Pictures, Rocketman follows a predictable path; a mostly chronological one dotted with the most memorable points in John’s life, but this film is made original with the way it smartly weaves in extravagant musical numbers featuring the most iconic tracks. A flamboyant film starring Taron Egerton (Kingsman: The Secret Service 2014, Eddie the Eagle 2015) as Elton John, it becomes something of a musical and a biopic, but the songs are not placed without thought. Each one makes sense in the story and timeline, and nicely fluctuates with the joyous moments of John’s life and his lowest lows.
Despite some of the explosive sequences and dance numbers, Rocketman takes a deep dive into John’s battle with drug and alcohol addiction, unaffectionate parents, and struggles with personal relationships. After all, the film’s narrative is framed by Egerton’s relaying John’s life story from a rehab facility – dressed in a bedazzled devil’s outfit, of course. Adding to it all, John himself even acted as producer.
All this said, it can be difficult to create a film about a person who is still alive, especially one as beloved as Elton John. Fortunately Fletcher crafts a fitting tribute to the flamboyant singer with something that dares to be as original and colorful as its subject. Much of the film’s joy stems from lead actor Egerton, who fully embodies the role and acts as the film’s beating heart. Plus, he actually sings, rather than having Elton John’s vocal track played over scenes. This welcomed change is refreshing and adds to the film’s authenticity, plus Egerton’s even got the vocal chops to almost keep up with the man himself. This, plus the way Egerton fully leans into the wild vivacity of John’s character, along with his apparent confidence in the role, successfully gives life to Rocketman.
Playing opposite Egerton is Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot 2000, Fantastic Four 2015) as Bernie Taupin, John’s longtime lyricist; and Richard Madden (Game of Thrones series, Cinderella 2015) as John Reid, Elton’s lover and first manager. The onscreen chemistry Egerton shares with both co-stars brings an extra dimension and the down-to-earth moments shared between them nicely balance out the over-the-top theatrical numbers.
Furthermore, what would a musical film of this level be without a soundtrack? Available everywhere Friday, May 24th, the Rocketman soundtrack is more than average, featuring the actors’ renditions of the most iconic Elton John tracks, and even includes the brand new song “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again,” performed by both John and Egerton. Egerton’s raw rendition of “Your Song” is particularly memorable, and the soundtrack allows listeners to hear the full version of this among other songs rather than the truncated versions seen in the film.
Recounting the length of hits John has had through the years just proves what an indelible mark his music has left on the world, and the aptly titled Rocketman is a true testament to this otherworldly figure. A combination of great music, an intriguing story told right, and human spirit places Rocketman at the top of the heap. To dismiss it as simply another music biopic would be doing the film a disservice.
A hybrid of Musical, Fantasy, and Drama, Rocketman is a moving depiction that manages to do justice to the life and career of one of the most recognizable musical figures of our time. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives it 4.5 out of 5 stars.