Starring: Taron Egerton, Richard Madden, Bryce Dallas Howard
Director: Dexter Fletcher
Running Time: 121 mins
Rocketman is a British film about the life of singer Elton John, from his humble beginnings to becoming an international music superstar.
With vibrant, passionate and dazzling energy from beginning to end, Rocketman sets a new gold standard for the music biopic, brilliantly blending a riveting true story with inventive and dizzyingly entertaining musical shenanigans throughout, not to mention a fantastic lead performance from Taron Egerton, and stunning directing from Dexter Fletcher that brings it all together into one delightful and endlessly enthralling whirlwind.
It’s really quite impressive how this film takes on the premise of a music biopic, because one of the genre’s innate issues is that, while the personal stories of each individual musician through history are of course different in their own ways, the general arc of the rise of a superstar and the troubles that come with it are very similar in a majority of films.
Now, narrative-wise, that’s the case with Rocketman, with Elton John rising from humble beginnings to become an immense celebrity, all the while struggling with a number of inner demons, worsened by the world of excess that he’s thrown into. Of course, it’s an engaging true story, but it will ring bells of a number of other music biopics, above all Bohemian Rhapsody.
However, the narrative arc is thankfully where the similarities between Rocketman and Bohemian Rhapsody end. Where Bohemian Rhapsody takes a dull, very literal approach to telling a music biopic, Rocketman recognises that there is more to show than just the chronology of a musician’s life, and that’s where the music itself comes in.
You can never really count music biopics as proper movie musicals, because while they always feature the artist’s songs, they rarely burst into life like a classic movie musical. The case is very different with Rocketman, which ingeniously uses the songs of Elton John to not only tell the story of his life, but bring a powerful, vibrant and endlessly delightful musical energy to the film as a whole.
If you don’t like Elton John’s music, then I’ll warn you, because there is a hell of a lot of music in this film, starting right from its bold opening sequence, forming the core of the film’s energy, and often even taking centre stage from the narrative itself. Perhaps if you just want to learn about the life of Elton John, then this approach won’t be ideal, but as far as making a cinematic and immensely entertaining movie goes, Rocketman hits the nail right on the head with this.
Blending fantasy with reality, non-diegetic music with diegetic music, and everything in between, the way that this film uses the songs is like very few others. The musical breaks are never jarring interruptions in the narrative flow, and fundamentally help to develop and advance the story while they’re happening too. Unlike Bohemian Rhapsody, Rocketman isn’t interested in hamfistedly forcing in a hit or two when the chronology warrants it, but it instead celebrates the brilliant music and energy of its subject, with passion that dances off the screen and wraps you up into an exhilarating whirlwind.
Taron Egerton too, mirrors the film’s brilliant energy and passion, portraying Elton John not only in a convincing and likable manner, but fantastically blending the singer’s lively stage persona and real-world troubles into one, something that’s so hard to do in such sleek and engrossing fashion. And of course, Egerton is doing the singing himself here. It’s not dubbing, he emulates John’s voice and sings the songs himself, an incredible achievement that makes his performance all the more exhilarating and impressive to watch.
And finally, a word on director Dexter Fletcher, who somehow manages to bring everything in this fantastic whirlwind of a musical biopic under one roof. Blending the music together with orthodox drama in incredibly slick fashion, the film runs at an electrifying pace throughout, running to the beat of its fantastic soundtrack, all the while engrossing you all the more in the story at hand.
Fletcher starts the film off with exhilarating energy, but even when things do take a darker turn in the story, he somehow manages to keep that delightful, vibrant fun factor at play, with the atmosphere bouncing wildly between darker personal drama and euphoric musical energy. And yet, that total inconsistency and almost insane range of atmopshere only adds to the immense passion and energy of the film as a whole, keeping its feverishly entertaining vibes at top pitch all the way to the finish.
Overall, I absolutely adored Rocketman. Not just your average music biopic, it tells a riveting story that’s accentuated by dizzyingly entertaining musical energy, vibrant visuals, electrifying pacing, and a truly brilliant lead performance, all somehow brought together by director Dexter Fletcher, and that’s why I’m giving it an 8.5.