Cast: Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell, Richard Madden, Bryce Dallas Howard
Director: Dexter Fletcher
After the massive financial success that was Bohemian Rhapsody, it looks like many major studios will try to capitalize off that success and release their music-inspired biopic this year. I thought Bohemian Rhapsody was a solid movie, but it didn’t deserve the resounding praise it got during Awards season. With Dexter Fletcher yet again directing a musical biopic, Rocketman should follow a similar formula as Bohemian Rhapsody and be a solid piece of entertainment that will get accolades that it probably doesn’t deserve. Fortunately, Rocketman is an upgrade from Bohemian Rhapsody with a better lead performance and a more authentic look at the life of the subject, but still suffers some of the same issues that a drawn-out biopic will.
The film follows a distraught Elton John (Egerton) as he first enters a rehabilitation facility and reflects on how he got to where he is in his life. Starting as a small child named Reginald Dwight (Kit Connor) growing up in an emotionally abusive household to his partnership with songwriter Bernie Taupin (Bell) that leads to Elton becoming one of the most popular musicians in the world, Elton has created a world for himself where he is adored by millions but feels lonelier than ever and copes with it in unhealthy ways. Since this movie will constantly be compared to Bohemian Rhapsody, I think it’s important to distinguish what separates Rocketman from Fletcher’s previous film. For one thing, Egerton’s performance is miles ahead of what Rami Malek gave us last year. The main reason is Egerton is performing all of Elton’s songs while Malek was lip-syncing all of Queen’s music. This makes Egerton’s performance feel more authentic as he has to emulate every part of Elton’s life and not just the more emotional parts. Speaking of emotion, the script was much stronger in Rocketman and allowed us to see the complexity of Elton’s life and presents it in a very empathetic light. In Bohemian Rhapsody, we never really see much depth to Freddie Mercury and it serves more as a way for audiences to listen to Queen music for 2 hours and less about giving the characters any real emotional material. Rocketman is also aided by supporting performances by Madden and Howard and they provide a sense of context to the movie that was otherwise unknown. Madden as Elton’s manager and lover John Reid and Howard as Elton’s mother Sheila are two of the toxic people that shape Elton’s path and serve as both an outlet for his creativity and a catalyst for his poor decision-making. Rocketman’s main issue comes in the form of its sluggish pacing and inability to find the perfect spot to end the film. It’s only a 121 minute movie, but compared to Bohemian Rhapsody’s 132 minute runtime, Rocketman feels significantly longer. Since Elton’s life is very well documented and incredibly public, most of the viewers know how his life will turn out since we can see it to this very day. The interesting parts of the movie come in the first two acts where we see details of Elton’s life that maybe weren’t as well-known and the creation of his most popular songs, but with the slow pacing towards the end, it gets a little too sappy for my liking. Still a very solid movie that Egerton should get every ounce of praise for leading, Rocketman hasn’t made the full evolution from Bohemian Rhapsody to become something truly special.
Overall, Rocketman is a true crowd-pleaser, because who can honestly say they don’t like Elton John’s music? Egerton gives us an early contender for best lead actor of 2019 and without him in that role, I have a hard time believing that this film would’ve been as successful as it was. If future music biopics can learn from the mistakes of movies like Rocketman while also maintaining the things that it does well, then I think the next installment of the Musician Cinematic Universe (the other MCU) could be something truly groundbreaking to everyone watching.
Overall Score: 7.5/10