WHAT I LIKED: Dexter Fletcher's Elton John biopic 'Rocketman' has not infrequently been compared to last summer's 'Bohemian Rhapsody' (which Fletcher also had a hand in making) and frankly it's not hard to see why. Both films follow glam-rock icons rise to fame whilst taking great liberties with the truth in pursuit of more powerful storytelling, both portray the dizzying heights and the terrible lows that come with their respective icons' lifestyles, and both feature dazzling tune after dazzling tune executed wonderfully by truly uncanny central performances. Those are all very appealing things especially when both Queen and Elton John are such universally beloved musical icons, but where Rocketman actually differs greatly is in its execution.
Yes, rather than going down any kind of introspective or sensitive route, Rocketman really plays out like a bombastic stage musical where everything is turned up to eleven and the songs do the majority of the storytelling themselves through creative dream-sequences and dance numbers. This means on the one hand that many will take things less literally and forgive the liberties that the narrative is taking as highly-dramatic license, but most of all it means that Elton's songs do the majority of the heavy-lifting and are truly thrust into the limelight. As a result, you may well find that your attachment to the records somewhat affects the overall dramatic punch, but regardless of that the musical sequences do brilliantly translate the joy, heartache and pain that Elton is feeling at different stages of his life - even serving as vehicles to explore his relationships with different characters through dreams and flashbacks - albeit in a very campy and stagey way.
In fact, 'campy and stagey' is really what this film is all about, and when you think about it, that does seem like a thoroughly appropriate approach for a film about such a flamboyant figure. The costumes are extremely glamorous, the sets and lighting are brilliantly dazzling, the sex and drug-use is showcased to the nth degree, and even the humour in the script perfectly nods and winks at the audience to an extent that someone shouting "it's behind you" half way through wouldn't have come as much of a surprise.
It would also be criminal not to mention Taron Egerton's central performance which nails the physicality of the character and delivers the musical numbers with incredible showmanship and surprisingly brilliant vocal work too, but in the end Rocketman is basically properly bold, theatrical, musical entrainment, and that's both an entertaining and appropriate approach for a film about this glamorous musical legend.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: The problem with all of that overt theatricality is that any gentle humanity is hard to unlock. It's all very on-the-nose (the dialogue in between the songs is often quite clunky in fact) and the in-your-face nature of the whole thing can start to feel a little relentless at times.
VERDICT: A campy, stagey, musical portrayal of Elton John's interesting life, Dexter Fletcher's 'Rocketman' turns everything up to eleven just like its central star did, and that's both a good and bad thing.