Visualize: You are the Apollo 11. Your feet spit fire loud enough to launch you way, way high. You look down. You cannot distinguish the buildings. Suddenly, you see only clouds. Then, you see only stars. Too many to count. Days pass. Weeks pass. You must land on the moon. You must time the landing pads beneath you just right. The similar type of rough trip expressed by Rocketman drops you into what Elton John survived to semi-successful results.
If looking at this very okay movie based on its mixture of daydream and reality, it succeeds. But if looking at it based on how somewhat hopeful it achieves, it fails for the most part because of the terrible kid actors who never take off as tolerable to watch. The emotionally distant family setup around Elton John as he grows up reaches the point when the mom doesn’t even age at all over the many years depicted. There could have been a neat opportunity to utilize these traumatic flashbacks as context for his horrific concert costumes, but it was never taken.
Not to mention some brief moments suggest subliminal political incorrectness as if this movie was made back in the 1970s; the Blacks are portrayed as a group of people who exist only to lift White people higher, while an image of gemstones falling to the floor suggests inferiority of therapists compared to fame. But hey, at least the moment soars when he’s kissed by a guy to introduce his sexuality, while the lifestyle is objectional to some, at least that community is respectfully portrayed.
The cast does an alright job at acting like the influencers of him wanting to kill himself in order to change, but that’s no thanks to the producer’s influence. The product they give doesn’t know whether to be inspiring or depressing, but ultimately condescends to the viewer between the newspaper-fade editing and the slo-mo before his first live concert. Both of these overused filmmaking techniques end up increasing the emotional distance between the filmmakers and the audience.
Although this is still way worth the investment more than the tonally inconsistent Endgame, Rocketman knows not to win over the audience through stupid humor like Marvel immaturely resorts to. This is unfortunately one of those works of art downsized by the Disney franchises that rule the current box office, and deserves more attention than it got compared to what’s actually successful right now. Plenty of crowd-pleasing instances here succeed better than Marvel; the authenticity of its retelling about Elton John happens when he rocks out and everyone levitates, elevator boots brought up into the air. The fantasy imagery works particularly after his admittance of being an alcoholic, drug addict, and has a short fuse, which in another project would come off as gimmicky and cheesy.
After seeing how much Elton is shunned by his hateful parents who tell him he will never be loved, it excites even more to see the camera rotate around him on a piano for millions of adorers. By Mr. John’s side, Jamie Bell gives a performance that humanizes the dull hues to the childhood home, all blue and white without red.
Then those El Salvador colors transfer onto Mr. John’s epic glittering baseball uniform in a stadium that suggests a mastery over past pain. It echoes a childhood fantasy when a piano lights up Elton’s room for an orchestra, inspiring the purchasing of these Hermes boots when he’s older to fly past any competition. But none of these surreal images are quite as impactful as an underwater hallucination carrying the audio of outer space. Director Dexter Fletcher paces these events almost as if slowly inspiring the title song, right at the cold desaturated childhood neighborhood dance number while he flames red. For an affective attention to color, Fletcher could hold an Oscar sometime soon!
Still though, the blue steam on stage is no different than the basic imagery of other musician biopics. It attempts appeal to the homosexual community, but may not succeed to entertain either them or heterosexuals across multiple viewings because no one in the cast looks comfortable while singing. It also attempts to find common ground in appealing to older nostalgic audiences as well as younger folk, starting with the gripping intro of his backlit devil costume, a misfit. But odds are neither side will be attentive for long, as even one song that’s performed in a carnival gets pretty boring.
Now, visualize again: you fly back home from Luna. You finally land. You wonder, would putting a person on Mars really enhance humanity? Would extra-terrestrials come visit earth? Maybe they would, maybe they wouldn’t, it depends on whether they think Rocketman sets their line of priorities right. But there is one thing they will conclude for sure: while Elton John had a tremendous album of singles, the communication method taken here is not the answer to life’s questions.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
Elton John. Sennep. Web. <https://www.eltonjohn.com/>.
Lifton, Dave. “Elton John’s ‘Rocketman’ Movie: Fact vs. Fiction: Spoilers.” Ultimate Classic Rock. 28 May 2019. Web. <https://ultimateclassicrock.com/rocketman-fact-fiction/>.
“Rocketman (Cert TBC).” Digital image. Kirkgate Arts. Web. <https://www.kirkgatearts.org.uk/events/rocketman/>.
Stein, Ellin. “What’s Fact and What’s Fiction in Rocketman.” Slate. Graham Holdings Company, 29 May 2019. Web. <https://slate.com/culture/2019/05/rocketman-fact-fiction-elton-john-movie-accuracy.html>.