Jacob Richardson | 3/06/2019
A gloriously fun extravaganza.
Chronicling the life of Elton John (Taron Egerton), Rocketman starts with a young Elton (Matthew Illesley and Kit Connor) discovering his musical talent. He partners with Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell) and starts to create some real hits. When he travels to the US, he meets music manager John Reid (Richard Madden), and their relationship, coupled with the wild excess of Elton’s partying, begins to send him into a spiralling depression that leads to near-drownings, musical decline and the pushing away of his closest friends.
Dexter Fletcher does wonders with this source material. Given the quality of this film, it makes you wonder just how bad Bohemian Rhapsody was before he stepped in. With Rocketman, Fletcher takes the music of Elton John and crafts it into the tale in a similar, but much more effective, fashion as Mamma Mia! There are few if any concert performances to be seen here, and even when they do appear, Fletcher throws some visual extravaganza in there to make it more than just a concert film. These moments actually tend to be the most creative and engaging; whether it is a whole room floating weightlessly during Crocodile Rock, or Elton blasting off into space during a rendition of Pinball Wizard.
The film has a cast of incredible versatility. Richard Madden plays ostensibly the bad guy, but he never loses his attraction or allure. In many moments, one sympathises with his plight having to deal with the drug-addled Elton. Bell, meanwhile, also stands out as the understanding Bernie.
However, they all pale in comparison to the spotlight-hogging, all out performance from Taron Egerton. Egerton not only brings to the screen the singing voice of Elton John, but also the excitement, depression and sheer energy and enthusiasm of the man. It’s a performance that is in every respect more deserving of a Best Actor Oscar than Rami Malek’s Freddie Mercury.
In the end, Rocketman manages to craft a film that is beautifully layered. Characters aren’t cardboard cut-outs; there is no black and white good or bad here, but rather layers of gray. Fletcher combines this with perfectly selected segments of Elton John’s work, amongst a visually stunning and frequently exciting screenscape.
An incredibly fun musical biopic.