Rocketman (MOVIE REVIEW)
I genuinely don’t know if it’s just me, or have we just had a recent resurgence in the whole “Music” genre of movies? It seems as though since Straight Outta Compton hit the scene in 2015 and proved that telling the life stories of famous music artists could be lucrative as hell, we’ve been seeing groups of these movies come about to exploit on their success. Of course we just recently got Bohemian Rhapsody in 2018 which was seemingly welcomed with open arms by casual moviegoers, but looked upon with some sour taste by critics for just how unbelievably dull the whole thing was if you took away Rami Malek’s amazing performance and Queen music. This was something that made me slightly worried for “Rocketman”. Being a biopic of the life of Elton John during his rise to stardom in the 1970s and 1980s seemed to have the potential to be something truly special to behold much like the exuberant man’s wonderful music, but after Bohemian Rhapsody proved that it didn’t really matter how much real effort they put in to win over audiences, I was scared this would end up being possibly entertaining for the music and spectacle, but thematically dull from a filmmaking and storytelling standpoint. But you know what? I was wrong here, this movie was a genuine pleasant surprise.
Set between the 1950s all the way up to the 1980s, the film follows Elton John as he reminisces over his life during a time where he’s going through a severe identity crisis during the heights of his career. From his rocky childhood, to his relationship with his neglectful father, his time as a prodigy in the Royal Academy of Music, and during the times of which his career was starting to blossom along with his collaboration with lyricist, Bernie Taupin. Through these tribes and tribulations, we see Elton as he comes to terms with the person that he wants to be along with his depression, drug addiction and acceptance of his own sexual orientation.
“Rocketman” from a storytelling level on the surface doesn’t seem much too different from Bohemian Rhapsody in the sense that it’s basically telling the audience behind the story of a British, gay Musician and their emotional journeys they face as their careers grow larger. However, what genuinely sets “Rocketman” apart from it’s slightly more blander cousin is how it’s executed. The film is less like a biopic and more like a Comedy-Drama with some Fantasy elements. The film doesn’t shy away from telling its audience right out of the gate that it’s all within the perspective of Elton John’s own imagination. One scene, you could have a fairly standard conversation with a family member or good friend, and almost immediately after we could be sporadically introduced to a all-singing, all-dancing musical sequence to a Elton John track as we start to uncover just how unbelievably wicked and gifted this man is and how much of a lovable big kid he was. Anyone who has had a deep living passion for something or had any real creative edge will find some way to relate to Elton in this movie because the film does such an excellent job of getting to let us know him much more from a visual-audio perspective that would feel quite beneficial considering that he is a musician, and a damn good one! Thankfully, a lot of this comes to some generally great filmmaking. The cinematography is very strong thanks to some wonderfully fluid movements that capture the musical action from tons of different perspectives, and the choreography is absolutely brilliant with the general scale of some of these scenes being positively overwhelming at times. I also like how the film clever uses some colour shading and saturation to help distinguish what aspects come from the real and what comes from Elton’s imagination. It’s little, subtle details such as these that can help a film like this feel just that little bit more entertaining to watch, especially since not many filmmakers these days take little creative choices like these into consideration if it means bringing a bit more of a worthwhile experience.
Also, thankfully from a screenwriting perspective, "Rocketman" is also very strong. Even as someone who isn’t terribly familiar with Elton John’s life, I could tell there were perhaps some areas where some scenes are slightly changed or dramatised more for helping this story flow together better generally for a 2 hour runtime, but after some basic research following viewing, I could tell more creative liberties were made to make this more faithful to Elton’s legacy than Bohemian Rhapsody which changed some things to borderline insulting levels that anyone could tell was fabricated for the big screen if they thought about it long enough. Thankfully, in this film’s case, along with being a visual marvel, we are able to logistically and emotionally understand Elton’s personal journey and what has led him to where he is. Elements regarding his Sexuality are touched upon in a thankfully non-pretentious way where we understand his inner-struggles considering the world of the 1970s isn’t exactly as politically correct or as accepting as the world we are living in today, and seeing this character slowly succumb to his deep depression as he slowly realises that he feels desperately lonely with no one to live despite the huge fanbase he’s generated will likely be relatable to some audiences. I also liked how the film brought some solid attention to Elton’s family and friends. I like how they gave his lyricist, Bernie Taupin, a solid role in the story and showed him more as the grounded songwriter alongside the more out-there and exuberant Elton, and seeing his relationship with his Mother grow and evolve but also slowly degenerate will also be seen as something that could hit home with some people. It’s a very human story first and foremost and that’s what I think is its strongest asset. Outside of the glitz and glamour of the whole movie, it still manages to be grounded and tasteful with its themes, and the way everything can transition beautifully between emotional drama and wacky, comedic musical performances at something kind of hard not to admire. It balances tone so remarkably well that it should find some way of pleasing everybody when they leave the cinema.
But the major star of the show that really brings “Rocketman” to new heights is Taron Egerton. Though it could be argued that Rami Malek made the greater transformation into Freddie Mercury thanks to impersonating his own look and general form of speech, I personally feel Edgerton accomplishes more here as a general actor. This dude has come quite a long way from his days as a young spy in Kingsman and seeing him portray another inspiring legend like in Eddie the Eagle feels great to see. His range in the movie is impeccable, managing to balance some terrific comedy and musical performance to a lot more of the dramatic heft the the film needs to portray Elton’s drug addictions and eventual depression. He brings a lot of life to this character and despite not really looking that much like the musician himself, I could feel lost in his performance to buy into who he’s playing, which I feel is likely the most crucial element to making a performance work. Outside of the other aspects of the movie, the Music Score by Matthew Margeson is solid, if a little underwhelming against the array of Elton John music, but still uses a variety of the song’s themes to bring to life some music that fits naturally into the story at hand.
“Rocketman” at the end of the day is something I feel Bohemian Rhapsody SHOULD HAVE BEEN. It’s a very fun and inspiring movie that is able to balance the crowd-pleasing music and fun that audiences will be desiring out of a film of this caliber, but also manages to balance it out with a genuinely satisfying storyline about a man’s love for music and how the life of fame and riches can sometimes generally get the best of you. It’s the kind of movie that should please the casual crowd and the more critical one at the same time which is something I can’t say for most movies. Taron Egerton brings a lot of life and emotion to this legendary musician and though I suppose you could argue some of it is somewhat overly dramatised to a point there might be a disconnect to this man’s life, it’s still a wonderfully remarkable movie and one that deserves the love it gets. Now if you excuse me, I got to begin planning the BMU (British Musician Universe), starting with the next instalment: Bohemian Rhapsody 2: Electric Killer Queen Boogaloo.
FINAL RATING: 9/10 (EXCELLENT)