Blasting off into theaters, Rocketman, the boisterous fantastical musical of Elton John’s early professional life, has awed audiences across the globe. Receiving critical acclaim at both its world premiere at Cannes and when the film was finally released to the mass public, Dexter Fletcher’s directing feat is regarded as easily one of the best films of the entire year, joining the ranks of the similarly acclaimed Booksmart, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and of course, Avengers: Endgame. It’s regarded as one of the boldest biopics to ever hit the genre, taking creative liberties with no hesitation to put on a truly thrilling display of showmanship. Having just released on digital for the rolling out of its home video campaign, there’s never been a better time to revisit Rocketman and find out what makes it soar just so high even months after its release.
At the forefront of its success and praise is undoubtedly the very man behind the “Rocketman” himself: Taron Egerton. Coming off multiple respectable yet bland roles in the Kingsman franchise, last year’s disaster Robin Hood, and in the animated Illumination Entertainment production Sing, it’s obvious that this is the first step for him into dramatic works that never cater to its audience. What I mean by that is all of the films I mentioned, while having merits in their own right, all had to specifically appeal to a certain demographic. The two Kingsman films (The Secret Service and The Golden Circle) both had to appeal to the hardcore action fan who would have been clamoring for something even remotely close to the highs of John Wick and its sequels and the Mission: Impossible franchise. Robin Hood had to appeal to a young adult audience who would have (probably) taken interest in its gritty depiction of the family-friendly tale. And finally, Sing had to cater to its younger audiences and be careful that not a single-family could be potentially offended by it. Rocketman takes all of these decisive restrictions and chucks them out of the window.
Dexter Fletcher and company are insistent through the film’s entire runtime that neverRocketman be regarded as just another “musical biopic.” While the conventions of the genre would have been a comfortable rest for Fletcher to lean on (and at times, the film does add those beams of support), Rocketman instead turns in a hard R-rating with drugs, sexual content, profane language, and a mature, adult story. It’s nothing new for the genre, but the way that Rocketman tackles it is instinctively impressive. Instead of being a dreary and depressing affair or a joyful roller coaster, it strives to be everything, and I quite mean everything. It has some of the most delightful and heartwarming sequences of the entire year found primarily in its excellently framed musical numbers such as “I’m Still Standing” and “Your Song.” But then complementing it on the flip side are scenes where not a single punch is pulled. It throws a sharply realistic light on the film’s events, depicting all of the characters, including Elton John himself, with some sort of negative tone at some point or another. It grounds the film in a profoundly realistic foundation, and even when John starts flying, it still remains believable.
In the end, there’s no denying that Rocketman was a success when it launched into theaters this past Memorial Day weekend. And after several months, it’s still just that. Juxtaposing soulful and heartfelt musical numbers with a grounded plot that pulls no punches, Rocketman is perhaps the strangest combination of factors out of any film released in recent memory. It honestly shouldn’t work as well as it does, but it somehow does. Somehow. And it’s just as outstanding as Elton John’s career itself.