Elton John is a beloved musical artist, with more hits than can be counted and more head-turning fashion choices than the Met Gala. The tagline for Dexter Fletcher’s Rocketman reads, “Inspired by a true fantasy,” and that fantasy is on full display in this film, which depicts Elton’s life in musical style. The man who finished 2018’s Bohemian Rhapsody, the divisive Queen biopic, has full control of this story, and the result is a fun, lively, and joyous trip.
Dexter Fletcher, who has previously directed 2016’s Eddie the Eagle and was famously tapped to finish 2018’s Bohemian Rhapsody after Bryan Singer departed, is back for another musical odyssey with this film, and his full control really shows. Fletcher imbues the life of Elton John with color, humor, and a sense of grandiosity that feels bold in an era of generic and plain biopics. Scenes move with verve and energy, with Elton’s music carrying us through both quiet life events and loud concerts alike with plenty of showmanship. Most interestingly, Fletcher gives much of the film a hallucinogenic or trippy bend, bringing new dimensions to scenes and injecting plenty of life into unexpected places. I was very impressed with how he steers this ship, and his passion clearly shows throughout.
If there’s one place this film stumbles a bit, it’s in the plot department. The narrative follows Elton’s life from childhood to super-stardom, along with everything in-between. And while it’s framed in an interesting, non-linear style that keeps the film from being overly straightforward, the actual narrative itself is fairly standard biopic material. Many of the big story beats feel very familiar (rise to fame changing the star, addiction, cutting ties, etc.), but are often redeemed by their larger-than-life presentation. The film also does not shy away from Elton’s homosexuality, and in fact makes it a large part of the narrative, which is exciting to see from a release as major as this one. Otherwise, it’s a totally serviceable plot, but does not bring much new to the table.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Everyone in this movie brings their very best to the table, but none more so than Taron Egerton as Elton himself. Portraying him across many years and eras of his life, Egerton is never anything less than believable, bringing plenty of soul, charisma, and showmanship to a role that necessitates them in large doses. He sings his heart out on every track, and easily does Elton’s legendary songs justice. In short, he’s an absolute triumph. Elsewhere, Richard Madden plays Elton’s lover/manager John Reid, Bryce Dallas Howard his mother, and, most notably, Jamie Bell as his best friend and collaborator, Bernie Taupin. Bell is often the emotional center of the film, with his relationship with Elton anchoring much of the spectacle and extravagance of the film. The cast is roundly superb.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
This was never going to be anything less than stellar. After all, Elton John has created some of the most iconic songs of all time, so naturally a film featuring those songs will be lively and enthralling. Every song is larger than life and sounds terrific, with many featuring new arrangements and the cast’s voices to guide them. Unlike Bohemian Rhapsody, the cast are all singing these songs themselves, and it’s a gambit that works wonderfully. The soundtrack does enough differently to be consistently interesting, and will have you wanting to sing along the whole runtime.
Egerton is fully transformed into Elton John, and the makeup & design departments deserve full credit for their work. From his hair down to the gap in his teeth, he’s the spitting image of the legendary showman himself. Likewise, the many surreal effects that this film utilizes are well-done, and often elevate performances to higher, more epic levels. Everything about this film just looks great.
It would have been easy for Rocketman to be just another biopic, full of songs you love and not much else. However, Fletcher and the wonderful cast bring a more unique, flamboyant, and daring vision to the proceedings, resulting in a satisfying musical adventure that is much more bold and experimental than many anticipated. If you’re a fan of Elton John’s music, musicals, or just artistically adventurous blockbusters, don’t wait a long, long time to catch this one. Rocketman is a pure delight.