Rocketman Review: Elton John Musical Really Takes Off

Hot off the heels of his box office smash Bohemian Rhapsody, director Dexter Fletcher delivers another toe-tapping spectacle with Taron Egerton-led Elton John musical Rocketman.

Rocketman film review - Elton John musical

Taron Egerton as Elton John in Rocketman (Image: Paramount Pictures)

Rocketman, named after Elton John’s 1972 hit, takes audiences on an exhilarating adventure through the thrilling – and troubled – life of the iconic rock star.

Less a biopic and more a fantastical ride through key chapters of John’s life, Rocketman puts the music at its forefront.

The musical numbers in the film don’t fit the real-life timeline of John’s career, but rather feature in order of relevance, and are used – as is the case with most musicals – to help further the ‘plot.’

Written by Lee Hall, with Dexter Fletcher sitting in the director’s chair, Rocketman sees Taron Egerton take the lead, successfully channelling John in all of his frantic glory.

The film also boasts Jamie Bell as John’s long-time songwriting partner Bernie Taupin, and Richard Madden in the (somewhat villainous) role of John Reid, John’s one-time manager and love interest.

Rocketman film review - Elton John musical

From left: Jamie Bell as Bernie Taupin and Taron Egerton as Elton John in Rocketman (Image: Paramount Pictures)

The real stars of the show though, are the people behind the camera, with Fletcher proving that he is more than capable of re-energising the genre.

Relishing in its non-biopic route, which allowed filmmakers to take a more playful path, production designer Marcus Rowland told Variety:

“It liberated us from being too hung up on period detail and the accuracy of every scene.”

Rocketman film review - Elton John musical

Rocketman film review - Elton John musical

It’s just as well too because one of the most enjoyable aspects of Rocketman is its boundary-pushing musical numbers – namely an emotional scene that sees John high on drugs plunging into a pool at his own house party.

While John has confirmed that a similar incident occurred in real life, Rocketman’s exaggerated depiction is a performance of the films namesake track that sees John’s younger self-playing piano at the bottom of the pool, followed by the dramatic appearance of some choreographed swimmers who eventually drag him to the surface.

Rocketman musical scene (Image: Paramount Pictures)

Rocketman musical scene (Image: Paramount Pictures)

Another standout aspect of Rocketman is the exuberant costumes, with costume designer Julian Day doing John all kinds of justice by staying true to his iconic eccentric style.

Day studied the work of Bob Mackie, who designed a number of John’s most outlandish stage outfits, and eventually took inspiration from outfits seen at carnivals in Rio and Venice.

One of the most ostentatious costumes of the film makes its debut at the very beginning, as John storms through the doors of a rehab facility (where he goes on to divulge the details of his awe-inducing life) wearing a fittingly flamboyant feather-winged, bright orange costume.

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Taron Egerton as Elton John in Rocketman (Image: Paramount Pictures)

Taron Egerton as Elton John in Rocketman (Image: Paramount Pictures)

Playing with the relationship between fashion and identity, Day matched John’s ever-changing style to his altering mental state, telling Variety:

“The idea was that as the excess increased, the clothes became more exaggerated.”

Elton’s well-known love of statement glasses is also more than adequately showcased, and I’m subsequently on the hunt for the perfect pair heart-shaped specs.

Ultimately, with Elton serving as executive producer, you would expect nothing less than a picture-perfect representation – and that’s exactly what you get.

While Rocketman didn’t shy away from pursuing an in-depth exploration of John’s relationship with sex, drugs and rock and roll, the LGBT+ community was less than impressed with the film’s depiction of the gay music icon from the get-go.

Many found the casting of Egerton, who identifies as heterosexual, to be yet another example of Hollywood’s long history of ‘straight-washing.’

However, since its release, the LGBT+ community has seemingly indulged Rocketman’s unapologetic realness and R-rated examination of John’s sexual relationship with Reid.

Elton John musical film

All in all, it’s Rocketman’s fantasy-esque storytelling and filmmaking that sets it apart from (and above) the likes of Bohemian Rhapsody, not to mention its relatively uncensored investigation into John’s sexuality, struggles with drug-use and subsequent health problems.

The film takes audiences on a wild, colourful and fiercely enjoyable ride that they won’t forget any time soon.

What did you think of Rocketman?

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Text: Jo Bentham

Images: Paramount Pictures

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