Rocketman failed to lift off

Taron Egerton shines in Rocketman, but the film is still lackluster. Photo courtesy of IMP Awards

Taron Egerton shines in Rocketman, but the film is still lackluster.
Photo courtesy of IMP Awards

Elton John makes the year’s worst biopic

Trailers for Rocketman looked promising. Rather than a traditional rock star biopic, director Dexter Fletcher promised a musical fantasy, in which Elton John’s popular songs were integrated throughout his life story like a Broadway musical. With John’s colorful life (and costumes), this approach seemed tailor-made for his life story.

Unfortunately, this innovative approach to storytelling was badly executed. Fans of John pointed out that his hits weren’t performed in chronological order, and yes, it’s bizarre seeing child Elton John sing one of his hits from later in life. However, the real issue is that the songs performed in various sequences often have nothing to do with the plot. At times, the songs don’t fit with the tone of the scene either, like the fun, upbeat “Bennie and the Jets” being used to depict John’s drug addiction spiraling out of control.

Additionally, despite being billed as an unconventional biopic, the film still hits the same clichéd plot points many musical biopics are mocked for: being underestimated by record labels, developing a strained relationship with his family due to his unconventional lifestyle, bickering with bandmates (or, in John’s case, his cowriter and managers), and using drugs and alcohol to cope with the pressures of fame to later see the error of his ways.

This plot could describe nearly every recent musical biopic from Walk the Line, to Ray, to Bohemian Rhapsody. Rocketman is the same thing, just with “surreal musical fantasy” dressing.

Despite the often-distracting musical sequences and formulaic plot, Taron Egerton’s performance as John is surprisingly natural, especially given that the actor is mostly known for Kingsman. The sets and costumes are beautiful as well, especially in the “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” and “Honky Cat” sequences. 

Unfortunately, the film failed to utilize their creativity in production design for the film’s title track—for some reason using “Rocketman” at a pool party of all places. For a surreal fantasy, it’s inexcusable that no one thought to put Egerton in a space suit floating in zero-gravity as he belted “I’m a rocket man!”

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