A remarkable life requires a remarkable film. From the moment Elton John became famous, and his incredible song-writing partnership with Bernie Taupin propelled him to worldwide superstardom, his life became a wild and surreal journey. What a dreadful shame it would be if the film about his life was just another drab and traditional musical biopic. Thankfully, Rocketman is anything but drab and traditional.
Director Dexter Fletcher’s brilliant approach to the film ensures that storytelling trumps fan service in every way. Instead of just running through Elton’s greatest hits one after the other, Rocketman plays out as a musical fantasy, using his songs to externalise the internal emotions of the characters. Yes, it means that songs pop up in the chronology of the film decades before they were written, but it works like gangbusters.
If you prefer the more straightforward, Bohemian Rhapsody style approach to rock biopics, you might be caught a little off guard by Rocketman. In the first five-minutes, Elton (a terrific Taron Egerton) walks off stage dressed in a flamboyant and sequinned Devil outfit, and proceeds to check himself into rehab. He then hallucinates a younger version of himself singing The Bitch is Back, which transports us back to his childhood in 1950s London. It’s funny and inventive, and an amuse-bouche of what the rest of the film has to offer. It won’t be to everyone’s taste, but it brings something new and exciting to a story we’ve seen so many times.
The film covers his childhood and early flirtations with the Royal Academy of Music, before falling in love with rock music. We follow his journey from a session musician, to meeting Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell), and going on to conquer America with his thrilling live performances. Fletcher uses the songs (all absolute belters) to great effect, filling the exposition gaps so the music helps to tell the story. So Honky Cat becomes a seduction into the wild and addictive lifestyle of rock superstardom, and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road becomes an emotional plea from Bernie to Elton – “when are you gonna come down?”
Taron Egerton is sensational as Elton John, and if there’s any justice in the world he should have a very busy awards season. In much the same way he approached Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards, without ever looking like or sounding much like the person he is portraying, and without ever resorting to doing an impression, he just completely captures Elton. It is incredible. And because he does it so well, he weirdly enough does start to look like him. There are a few moments where it is truly uncanny, and it’s all down to the texture and layers that Egerton brings. And of course the excellent hair and make-up. It certainly doesn’t hurt that he’s also a bloody good singer.
However, Dexter Fletcher is arguably the real star of the film. Wholly committed not just to the musical style, but also the wild excesses of Elton’s life, he stages Rocketman with extraordinary confidence and exuberance. The film is a kaleidoscopic delight, with more than a few flourishes of visual genius. The Crocodile Rock sequence at the Troubador in LA being one such example. Even watching it again at home I thought I was going to float out of my seat as well.
Befitting such a fabulous film, the disc for the Blu-ray release is packed with fabulous bonus content. There are extended musical numbers for The Bitch is Back, Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting), Breaking Down the Wall’s of Heartache, and the showstopping rendition of Honky Cat. These all come with an introduction from director Dexter Fletcher.
There’s 20-minutes of deleted and extended scenes, again with an intro from Fletcher. Then we’re into the behind the scenes features, kicking off with It’s Going to be a Wild Ride, a short featurette about the process of bringing the creative vision of this film to the screen. All the main cast and crew, including Sir Elton himself are featured here.
Becoming Elton John is another behind the scenes piece looking at the remarkable work done by Taron Egerton to portray Elton John. Larger Than Life goes on to explore the stunning production design and costuming in the film, all of which fed into Egerton’s incredible portrayal.
Full Tilt takes another peak behind the scenes to show how the filmmakers set about staging the fantastical musical numbers. Music Reimagined is a terrific little segment looking at how they set about re-interpreting the songs for the film, creating new musical arrangements, and having Egerton and the rest of the cast singing the songs. I think we can all agree the end result is so much better than having them mime to the original recordings.
There’s the option to watch the film in sing-along mode, where the lyrics appear on the screen as you’re watching. Alternatively, you can just watch the songs with the lyrics on screen. Finally, there’s the Rocketman Jukebox, which allows you to watch the film with just the musical numbers.
Cast: Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell, Richard Madden, Bryce Dallas Howard Director: Dexter Fletcher Writer: Lee Hall Released By: Paramount Home Media Certificate: 15 Duration: 121 mins Release Date: 30th September 2019