The great thing about rock and roll is that someone like me can be a star.
What Is Rocketman
In this film review I discuss the 2019 Elton John Biopic Rocketman. The film charts the the life of British musician Elton John and is directed by Dexter Fletcher. Production is handeled by New Republic Pictures, Marv Films, Rocket Pictures, with distribution sorted out by Paramount Pictures.
The premise of Rocketman intrigues me as does its director. I was first introduced to Dexter Fletcher in 1989 through the Children’s TV show Press Gang. Fast forward 30 years, and more than 100 screen credits later, and Fletcher has transformed into an award-winning director as adept at directing as he is acting, it is no fluke that Rocketman has gone on to win 21 Awards including 1 Oscar!
Rocketman is a Biopic that provides us (the viewer) a glimpse into the transformation of a child named Reginald Dwight into the pop icon that is Elton John. The movie charts his troubled formative childhood years that show glimpses of his genius, through to teenage years and then onto young adult angst. It shines a window on key life events such as his coming out, drug, substance, and sex addiction, introduces us to the brilliant Bernie Taupin. All this is cleverly framed around Elton’s epic songs.
While the film was in pre production, it is reported that Dexter and Elton talked extensively about his upbringing and younger years. This is important because the screenplay does not hold back. This results in a nothing is off-limits, approach at storytelling – something that Elton was very keen make happen.
Too often biopics get watered down by studio politics so much, they become staid and boring. This film however, has been injected with a massive jolt of Elton’s flamboyant personality and you get the sense you are watching a very personal history unfold on screen.
Stand Out Casting
Taron Egerton as Elton John.
Back in 2013 Rocketman was stuck in development hell, Tom Hardy was signed on as a ‘lip syncing’ Elton and production had stalled. Producer Mathew Vaughn offered to help and out went Tom Hardy and in came a rather enthusiastic non-lip-syncing Egerton. Egerton had apparently impressed Vaughn, Elton and Elton’s and husband David Furnish with his appearance in SING!
Elton John is arguably one of the biggest names on the planet and you would excuse Egerton of showing nerves on screen, Egerton though has other ideas and pulls out a performance that is nothing more than flawless. Egerton captures subtle nuances on facial expressions and then can switch to a bombastic on-stage performance complete with spot on references to iconic moments captured on film. His performance is not strained and looks effortless. Watching his live performance standing next to Elton shows a taste of how good he really is.
Jamie Bell as Elton’s long-time lyricist and writing partner Bernie Taupin.
The Billie Elliot star has had something of a metamorphosis of late and he has won high praise for his portrayal of Bernie. I had no idea who Bernie was as a person before watching Rocketman. Bell brings Bernie to life and more importantly as a viewer I totally believe what I am seeing on screen. The chemistry between Bernie and Elton is tangible. Bell seems to be revelling in playing Bernie Taupin and it is a treat to watch.
Richard Madden As Elton’s first manager, John Reid.
The movie is not cantered around John Reid, but surprisingly Reid crops up a lot. A driving force behind both Elton’s personal life and career professional choices. This gives Madden gets a lot to do in short scenes. Having to deal with slanging matches, drug abuse, intimate Sex scenes and politics in play at the time. Oh, and joins Elton is a singsong. Just like the rest of the cast Madden brings his A-Game to the screen and he looks like he is having a ball playing the ‘tender bastard’. (he said that not us!) Madden is visceral, gritty, and charming in equal measure.
Bryce Dallas Howard as Elton’s Mother Sheila Farebrother.
Everything is a surprise in Rocketman none more so than Elton’s apparently toxic relationship with his Mom. Bringing Bryce on board is an inspired casting choice and it totally works. Howard brings to the screen a totally selfish character who is completely at home with telling her son his homosexuality will never make him a pop star. It is hard to watch at times and credit must be given to Howard for making it all look real the emotion and body language in play is superbly acted.
Taron Egerton Live
Rocketman Production Values
Two things absolutely gel together in this film, Matthew Margeson’s fabulous score and Director Fletcher’s adept use of Elton’s songs to tell his story.
The Songs have been handpicked by Elton and Fletcher with some being reworked specifically for this film and they are an absolute treat. At times Margeson’s score blends seamlessly into song and a few other times the score hints at an Elton song and then turns into something else entirely. Is audio magic!
The songs used are not chronologically correct. They support the narrative of the story not only that, but the way they are used, highlights the raw emotion embedded into their lyrics, that otherwise just become radio fodder to sing along to.
I am happy that Rocketman is provided in ATMOS. This sound format really suits such a fabulous score, with Egerton and Elton’s vocals crystal clear and a superb LFE mix thrown in. Vocals bounce around the room as much as Egerton bounds around the screen.
A slight disappointment and I mean very slight is that 4k video has been created from a 2k digital master, itself created from original 3.4k filmed footage. I mention this as the 4k disc in not using a true 4k image but my does it look stunning and vibrant. The 4k release is also treated to HDR10 and Dolby Vision and it is a great transfer. The videography is top notch with some excellent visuals. The stadium scene is the most stand out. I am also glad to see that they have not gone for stupid colour grading as found on some home releases.
Julian Day is the costume designer on Rocketman and oh boy hasn’t he done a sterling job. You want a Lycra suit – it is on screen, you want it in orange with flames creeping up it, fiery red feathered wings, a cap sprouting horns, heart sunglasses and glitter-strewn platforms, plus 140,000 hand-sewn crystals, it’s on screen. No matter what the character Julian Day produces costumes that simply look amazing and pop to life on screen. Some are a reimagining of Elton costumes other are creations inspired for the film. I look forward to seeing what Julian brings to his next production whatever that may be. (it at was Tomb Raider 2)
Rocketman is as bombastic as it is bonkers look at. The screenplay is well handled, and the film moves at pace and suffer no middle act drag. Each scene works to further the next. The characters – sorry – the people are treated with respect and nothing is off the table at being portrayed. Even minor characters are important to the screen play and well treated,
After watching the film my first reaction was ‘How is that man still alive?’ The drug abuse on show is graphic and how it managed to sneak a 15 rating from the sensors is quite something. Still, you get the sense that what is shown on screen is only a tiny fraction of what actually went on.
The song ‘I’m Still Standing’ inter-cut with actual photos of Elton. If that doesn’t make you smile, I don’t know what will.
Is Rocketman Any Good?
In a word YES. The movie harks back to the golden age of musicals. Those big and brash 1950’s films that had ambition and didn’t mind looking over the top. Whilst being a visual spectacle it does not stray far from its source – Elton himself. I was aware of Elton’s songs but Rocketman has given new context around them, thanks to Egerton’s performances bringing the songs to life.
Age Rating 15
Release Date 16 May 2019
Director Dexter Fletcher
Runtime 121 Mins
Budget $40 Million
Box Office $195.2 Million
Editor for Silver Hedgehog JJ
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