‘Rocketman’ is an epic musical fantasy about the incredible human story of Elton John’s breakthrough years. The film follows the fantastical journey of transformation from shy piano prodigy Reginald Dwight into international superstar Elton John. This inspirational story — set to Elton John’s most beloved songs and performed by star Taron Egerton — tells the universally relatable story of how a small-town boy became one of the most iconic figures in pop culture.
Before we begin this review, a bit of a backstory: As a person who never really followed Elton John or his music career (besides, of course, the one time he collaborated with Disney for the animated classic The Lion King), I was still anticipating this movie’s arrival especially after the critical acclaim it has gotten at its world premiere in the Cannes Film Festival. Even with all of that praise, I still went into it with an open mind, a bit of reluctant optimism, and a shade of skepticism. This is because Rocketman just coming right after the blockbuster success and controversial backlash of Bohemian Rhapsody, also a musician biopic that was released in theaters last year. My position on the BoRhap spectrum is somewhere in the middle between “Dislike” and “Strongly Dislike”. Needless to say, I was not a fan. That said, it was going to be difficult for me to watch this movie or go through this review without comparing the two films. I am going to try my best to NOT constantly bring up Bohemian Rhapsody because it is fair to say that these two movies are in fact very different from each other in a stylistic way. Because of that, however, it played out very nicely in the favor of Rocketman because it was not what I was expecting at all and I gotta say, I really REALLY loved this movie.
For starters, I knew that Rocketman was going to be about Elton John’s story on his rise to fame, his struggle with addiction, and his ultimate comeback. However, I did not anticipate for this movie to be an actual musical! When the movie posters say Rocketman is “based on a true fantasy”, they meant it very literally! It was a very interesting stylistic choice that may not work for some people right away but honestly, I found it to be one of its strongest features later on during the film. If you are an Elton John fan, I think you are going to be very pleased with the amount of his music you will be listening to throughout the movie’s 2-hour duration. What worked even better besides the song selections were the song placements that benefit the storytelling aspect of the movie. It felt like each scene was molded perfectly around the songs that were picked for that exact moment and for that reason, I believe audiences will be able to get a lot more out of this kind of dazzling biopic that follows the “musical” formula. Be prepared to be jamming in your seats because I certainly was!
The best part of Rocketman, without a doubt, was the outstanding performances delivered by a phenomenal cast. For the purpose of this review, we will focus on the main characters. We have Jamie Bell playing the Elton John’s long-time business partner and world-renowned lyricist Bernie Taupin, Richard Madden who plays Elton John’s first manager John Reid, and of course, Taron Egerton as Elton John. Words are not enough to explain how amazing Egerton was at portraying one of the world’s best-selling music artist. The moment he finally stayed on the screen for the remainder of the movie, I was hooked. One of the reasons why his performance was so compelling is because of the contagious energy he brings on the big screen. Whether Egerton was being been completely eccentric and giving a flamboyant performance on stage or he was down in the dumps and battling with his personal struggles with drugs, alcohol, and his own identity – he delivers every line, every emotion and every expression with so much heart and soul. Egerton even sings in the movie and boy, does he NAIL IT! He does not sound exactly like Elton John but instead, he provides his own spin to the classic songs and still gives a fair representation of the iconic music star. It may be too early in the awards season to make any calls but I would love to see Taron Egerton receive an Oscar nomination for Best Actor next year. He committed to this role and went above everyone’s expectations, so it would be well-deserved.
I had a few complaints about the movie that should be addressed. First off, I wish that we could have seen more aspects of Elton John’s life that were not elaborated enough or even pushed off to the side entirely for the purpose of keeping the movie no longer than 2 hours. I wish we could see more character-building in that regard. Also, though we see several stage performances in this movie, none really match the hype or scale of other previous concert films such as A Star Is Born or even BoRhap. Because of that, the ending of the movie actually fell a little flat for me. I desired to see another grand performance before the end credits starting to roll in but we did not get that. Besides that, though, it is the unforgettable performances from the cast and the musical element that totally redeems this movie ten-fold.
Rocketman was ultimately a story about Elton John’s journey to find love and be loved in return. We see him go through hardships even since he was a child that made this journey difficult for him. You realize that a musician’s life, though it looks glamorous, can be an extremely hard one to get by if you feel a huge void inside, a hole that can only be filled with genuine love from others and self-acceptance. That is the main takeaway from Rocketman and, again, Taron Egerton was destined for this portrayal. He steals the show effortlessly and it is no wonder why Elton John himself is overwhelming pleased with the outcome of this movie.
My score: ★★★★/5
Rocketman is now playing in theaters everywhere.
probably at the movies.