Review – Rocketman
Taron Egerton stars as Elton John in this hugely enjoyable fantasy biopic and musical extravaganza – perfectly in keeping with the star himself.
Rocketman was released in 2019 and sees Taron Egerton (Kingsman films, Eddie the Eagle) taking on the role of superstar Elton John. The film was written by Lee Hall (who amongst other films, wrote Billy Elliot) and was produced by Matthew Vaughn and David Furnish, Elton John’s husband.
Rather than trying to simply replicate the story and music, what makes this film so special is it’s confidence in embracing the character as an unreliable narrator and through this, telling the story that they want to tell. John’s music is not presented in chronological order, more used as a tool as much as lighting or costumes when the moment is right, to build meaning in the scenes.
Given Fletcher’s previous involvement, Bohemian Rhapsody inevitably becomes a point of comparison (Fletcher stepped in as director following Brian Singer’s sacking). However, whereas the Queen film sought to retell the story of the band accurately and re-enact key moments, this film seeks to create a fantastical musical re-visiting of the story.
Opening with Egerton striding into a rehab meeting of addicts, wearing a bright orange devil suit, the film is structured around a series of flashbacks as he recounts his tale to the group. We see him as a young boy, through his early years, to his well known battles with drink, drugs and of course shopping.
Egerton’s performance is bold, confident and captures the star remarkably well. Vocally he is clearly talented and the interpretations of the famous songs throughout the film (created under the stewardship of Giles Martin – both son of Beatles producer George Martin but himself an accomplished musical producer) speak to the desire of the film to deliver an interpretation of the story rather than an attempt to simply replay it.
The narrative of the film revolves around John’s relationship with 3 sets of people as we see him moving through the early years of his career. The first – with his parents (a distracted mother and distant, emotionless father), with co-writer Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell), and former lover and manager John Reid (Richard Madden). Madden’s Reid is clearly positioned as the villain of the piece, Bell’s Taupin as the nearest thing to a good guy.
As he currently works his way through a farewell tour, there seems to be a new wave of appreciation for Elton John and both his musical abilities (which feel almost like a superpower in the film as we see him crafting songs based on Taupin’s lyrics) and his canon of work. The film feels like a real reflection of this, and a view on both his journey but also the messages that he wants to say to those that have been key parts of it.
It is glorious spectacle of a movie that brings all the elements of the star’s life – the music, the costumes, flamboyance – to deliver a very well crafted cinematic experience, perfectly in keeping with the star himself. You don’t need to be a fan to enjoy it, but by the end you will very likely be a fan anyway.