As I’ve stated many times before, some things are hard to review. As I’ve also said on a few occasions, optimism is over-rated.
I really hope that doesn’t give my opinions away too soon on Rocketman, in many ways, I’m still building a full picture of it, but on others I feel like I have strong feelings one way or another.
I’m conflicted, in other words. As an Elton fan, and part of the critical minority who actually liked Bohemian Rhapsody, Rocketman was one of the releases I was most looking forward to. Elton has a story that seems ready-Made for the big screen, and given Dexter Fletcher’s experience on BoRap, and the choice of leading man, it all seemed like a natural fit, but enough rambling, let’s get on with the review.
Telling the story of the life and career of Elton (Hercules) John, we follow him from being a neglected young boy to a brilliant, yet troubled rock star.
There are many standard trends in certain films, a biopic can be one of the most predictable methods of story-telling, you just tell the story of whoever the film is about, but there are some who find this wearisome, so it was only natural that someone came along to shirk this trend.
Rocketman is not your conventional biopic, it’s part fantasy, part big budget musical, working in Elton’s hits into big production numbers, as opposed to relegating them to the background, the music is front and centre, and this is one of the film’s major plus points, Elton’s back catalogue is so vast that it’s easy to find a number of songs that will please audiences and help the story.
I’m also a big fan of the choice of actor for Elton. I’ve been a fan of Taron Egerton since his star-making turn in the first Kingsmen film, and he really carries the bulk of the film for me, handily portraying Elton’s ever-changing personality, he’s captivating, sympathetic, and believable, and he never strays into feeling like an Elton tribute act, he performs the songs extremely well without trying to sound like Elton, which works in his favour, as no one can truly sound like Elton John.
In truth, I am a little disappointed in Rocketman. I didn’t hate it by any stretch, but I also can’t shake the feeling that it could have been more.
For one thing, it takes an awfully long time to get going. Lingering a little too long on Elton’s childhood for my liking. The focus on his differences with his father in particular don’t seem to hit their desired mark. It also struggles to build a consistent pace and momentum throughout the film. I like the concept of the fantasy edge, but there are times when it felt like it ground the pacing to a screeching halt.
There are times when it feels like the plot is gathering pace and emotional weight, only for the momentum to be slowed by its own grand intention to be something more than a regular biopic. The story at the heart is enough to carry it, and in the end it feels weighed down by its own ambition.
There are, however, things I like about the film. As I mentioned, both the soundtrack and Egerton’s performance are excellent. I found myself enjoying the scenes that focused around Elton in the real world rather than Elton in his fantasy world.
Would it have been improved by sticking to conventional film making tropes? Probably not, besides, it is much better to be tripped up by one’s ambitions than held back by your blandness, and for all its faults, it certainly isn’t bland. A little slow, and missing the change into a higher gear maybe, but when it is good, it achieves its aim of portraying Elton’s downward spiral, with admirable gusto. I think it may be a case of them not seeing the forest for the trees.
At the end of then day, I am not mad that it isn’t what I expected. If everything was as I expected then these reviews would be bloody boring, but I can’t help but shake the feeling that Rocketman had the potential to be much more. There are great moments and ideas in here, the concept of making the biopic a full-blown musical was a great idea, but it gets lost amidst the clutter of the films other ideas, and that’s a real shame.