Judey Reviews: Rocket Man


Dexter Fletcher’s Rocketman is a marvelous spectacle of cinema and does a great job of portraying the life of rock legend Elton John.
As a rock enthusiast and self-righteous film reviewer, I can say that the uptick in movies about music icons in recent years has been most exciting. Movies like Mötley Crüe’s The Dirt and Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody were pretty enjoyable and seeing the lives of my favorite musicians be adapted to film is nothing short of epic. I must say though, 2019’s Rocketman was easily the most creative and awe-inspiring musical biopic I have ever seen.
Rocketman is a fantasy musical that recounts the life and career of musical prodigy Reginald Dwight (played by Taron Egerton) who aspires to be a famous rock and roll musician. His pursuit of success leads him to change his name to Elton John and his partnership with songwriter Bernie Taupin (played by Jamie Bell) and manager/romantic partner John Reid (played by Richard Madden) skyrocket him to stardom. However, as the weight of his fame grows heavier, Elton begins to feel alienated and turns to numerous vices to numb himself from the harsh show business lifestyle as well as from abuse from John R. His relationships with other people begin to feel more like transactions and as he relies more on alcohol and drugs, Elton isolates himself from his longtime friend Bernie as well as his parents. After two drug-related hospitalizations, Elton realizes how lonely his life has become and decides to ditch a performance at Madison Square Garden to check himself into a rehabilitation center. From there, Elton sobers up and makes a triumphant comeback with Bernie after making amends.
Not only does this film make you feel every high and low Elton goes through with its raw performance from Egerton, but it is accentuated not just by its musical numbers throughout, but also its recurring overture of “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”. Numbers and sequences like “Crocodile Rock”, “Honky Cat”, “Rocket Man”, and especially “I’m Still Standing” are so masterfully choreographed and well-shot, you cannot help but at least nod along to the songs’ cadence.
What sets this film apart from a music biopic like Bohemian Rhapsody is the film’s originality and unique take on the genre. With Bohemian Rhapsody, each Queen song featured in the movie does include vocals from Rami Malek, the actor playing frontman Freddie Mercury, but is also dubbed over with Freddie’s original vocals as well as Queen Extravaganza vocalist Marc Martel’s. In addition, Bohemian Rhapsody feels like it rushes through certain scenes to get to another band performance so they can showcase another Queen song. However, in Rocketman, Egerton sings all of Elton’s songs himself and each song used in the movie either has a reason to be playing or directly moves the story forward; Egerton even sang with the real-life Elton in an original song created for the film’s release (which rightfully won an Oscar for Best Original Song). While Bohemian Rhapsody takes the typical expository biopic route, Rocketman incorporates showtune elements and fantastic mediums to elevate the audience’s experience.
Like most biopics, the film does take some creative liberties with the storytelling of certain events and the creation of certain songs, but it doesn’t totally take away from the captivating narrative.
Overall, Rocketman is the quintessential rockstar biopic, complete with extravagant costumes, a killer soundtrack, and a true heartfelt journey.