Rocketman UHD Review

A brilliantly realized musical 4.5 Stars

The sensational rise, emotional and drug-fueled setbacks, and triumphant success of Elton John are explored in Rocketman, a brilliantly realized musical filled to the brim with stellar performances, toe-tapping hits, and an earnest, honest peek behind the curtains of the legendary singer’s life. This isn’t a musical biopic, which, according to director Dexter Fletcher, would have hemmed them in with facts and chronology, but rather a musical informed by Elton’s memories and recollections. And it’s spectacular.

Rocketman (2019)
Released: 31 May 2019
Rated: R
Runtime: 121 min
Director: Dexter Fletcher
Genre: Biography, Drama, Music, Musical
Cast: Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell, Richard Madden, Bryce Dallas Howard
Writer(s): Lee Hall
Plot: A musical fantasy about the fantastical human story of Elton John's breakthrough years.
IMDB rating: 7.4
MetaScore: 69

Disc Information
Studio: Paramount
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution: 2160p HEVC w/HDR
Aspect Ratio: 2.39.1
Audio: Dolby Atmos, English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD, Spanish 5.1 DD, French 5.1 DD, Other
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French, Other
Rating: R
Run Time: 2 Hr. 1 Min.
Package Includes: UHD, Blu-ray, Digital Copy
Case Type: Standard 4K with Sleeve
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: A
Release Date: 08/27/2019
MSRP: $27.73

The Production: 4.5/5

“There are moments in a rock star’s life that define who he is and how people perceive him as he ascends into the heavens. You lit the blue touch paper. Now we can all see you shooting light and color into the night sky. Where there was darkness, there is now… you, Elton John. You could do anything you want. You can be anyone you want. And it’s going to be a wild ride.

Elton John, fully outfitted in one of his onstage costumes, enters a room filled with people in the midst of group therapy and begins a recollection of his life, from a young boy with a gift on the piano who seeks the affections of his cold and distant father and his cold and selfish mother, to the decisions that lit the match and exploded his life onto the world stage as a preeminent performer and legendary popstar. During this “therapy session,” Elton, who was born Reginald Dwight, recalls meeting his eventual longtime writing partner, Bernie Taupin, and how they would form a creative union and together give the world some of the best songs ever written. Elton’s struggle with his sexuality, his fraught relationships, alcoholism, and the balance of confidence and debilitating self-doubt that gave rise to his career highs and personal lows are all laid bare.

Rocketman is a biopic or sorts told through the glorious prism of fantasy. It’s a delightful dalliance with the conventions of a traditional musical, as characters burst into wonderful musical numbers with invention of choreography and staging, but it isn’t a traditional musical. Director Dexter Fletcher launches us through important moments in Elton’s life, a series of defining moments in the legendary singer’s life of great importance and influence in molding the man and singer he would become. It is the expressions of memory and history through fantasy that allow the film to become something staggeringly entertaining and remarkably absorbing.

What makes Rocketman such a standout is the use of Elton’s songs to express and explain emotional journeys and milestones in his life. It’s a treat and offers a more compelling experience. Ultimately, Rocketman is a therapy experiment and a personal catharsis for the singer, brimming with the results of choices made and how we deal with the raw cards life can deal us. Director Fletcher, who oversaw the completion of last year’s excellent Bohemian Rhapsody when the original director, Bryan Singer, left the production under unusual circumstances, is phenomenal behind the camera. The quality of direction in Rocketman, with wonderful choices in close-up, musical number staging, and when to hold for performances to seep effortlessly upon the screen, ups the belief that his clever hand was far more important to last year’s Rhapsody that merely wrapping up the last bit of shoot on that film.

The cast is a delight. Each performance is expertly crafted, with performers working with a well-crafted script (from screenwriter Lee Hall). Taron Egerton is a revelation as Elton. An actor of obvious talent, as we’ve seen in films like Kingsman and even the ill-received Robin Hood (2019), Egerton’s vulnerability and leap-of-faith embrace and embodiment of Elton John here, along with a brilliant vocal performance to boot, are bold and terrific. Jamie Bell portrays Bernie Taupin and is solid. Understated, imperfect, unusually gifted, and mostly modest, Bell captures a man swept up in benefits of Elton John’s absurd global fame without ever really sacrificing his core. Bell has always been a fine actor and his casting here was a gift. Richard Madden’s portrayal of the bad influence, John Reid, is memorable. A villain of sorts in Elton’s life, Madden exudes charm and power without anger or regret. As Elton’s parents, Bryce Dallas Howard and Steven Mackintosh are very good. Howard inspires disdain and sadness in the way she cuts cold with her words, and Mackintosh conjures a different kind of anger in the way he builds a wall between himself and his son. Other supporting players deliver nicely, especially Tate Donavan as Doug Weston, owner The Troubadour, LA’s famous nightclub where Elton, in his first American performance, sets the stage, and world, ablaze!

Rocketman is intimacy without melodrama, and a fascinating, if not always detailed, biography of a compelling, inordinately talented soul.  The film’s ability, thanks in no small measure to Lee Hall’s lean and effective screenplay, to condense Elton’s explosion of fame, wealth, drug abuse and emotional wreckage into scene expressions and sequences fleshig out the details of his life without extra weight, is captivating.

Absolutely one of the best films of the year.

Video: 5/5

3D Rating: NA

Rocketman, presented in its original theatrical aspect ration of 2.39:1, is delicious. Filmed with Arri Alexa Mini, Panavision G-Series Lenses (according to IMDb), Rocketman is a pleasure from the outset to look at, with a wonderful film texture with strong detail, but not unnatural detail for the period. Per Director of Photography George Richmond, BSC, he “work[ed] with the Super 35 chip of the Alexa Mini shooting ARRIRAW 2.8K for the anamorphic and open gate 3.4K for the VFX spherical footage.” It looks brilliant with the bold colors of costumes and the muted but still bright colors of 70’s décor becoming defining elements within the frame. Elton’s costumes, like the burning red and orange devil costume, become standouts within scenes, drawing our gaze and punctuating those moments. The added HDR grading, Dolby Vision and HDR 10, saturate these colors more deeply, giving the colors within the frame a richer feel. Blacks and shadows are richer, too, and there’s an even more magical, or mythical, feel to the film for this 4k presentation.

A few moments using original music video footage (with Taron digitally inserted) are obviously faithful to their limited source.

Audio: 5/5

With a Dolby Atmos track for those so equipped, and an audio that defaults to Dolby TrueHD 7.1 for those who aren’t, Rocketman is an audio delight. This musical adventure of a film takes advantage of the audio for deeply immersive sense, with sounds flying throughout the surrounds, dialogue perfectly balanced, and a clarity in the separation bringing you into the film. The large number of musical numbers means there’s many standout moments for this audio. You could almost close your eyes and enjoy simply listening to this entire film.

Special Features: 3/5

The special features listed here can be found on the included Blu-ray (there’s nothing but the film on the 4K disc), and it’s geared towards celebrating the music. The karaoke versions of key songs in the film could make for some good fun for fans, and between the 15 or so minutes of extended musical numbers and the almost 20 minutes of deleted scenes, there’s some good ‘extra’ material from the film that pads or extends out what we’ve seen in final film.

The more traditional special features, behind-the-scenes stuff is disappointingly light. For example, Full Tilt: Staging the Musical Numbers runs about 10 minutes and speeds by so quickly when you could easily spend 10 minutes on each of the major musical numbers in the film.

Special Booklet: A Message from Elton John

Extended Musical Numbers:

  • Introduction by Dexter Fletcher
  • The Bitch Is Back
  • Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting)
  • Breaking Down the Walls of Heartache
  • Honky Cat

Deleted and Extended Scenes:

  • Introduction by Dexter Fletcher
  • I Love Rock And Roll
  • You’ve Got to Kill the Person You Were Born To Be
  • Arabella
  • Elton in the Gas Oven
  • Stylish Boots
  • You’re Not the First Closet Queer with a Mummy Complex
  • The Blood Test
  • The Heart Attack
  • The Launderette
  • Do You Want Anything?

It’s Going to Be a Wild Ride: Creative Vision

Becoming Elton John: Taron’s Transformation

Larger Than Life: Production Design & Costuming

Full Tilt: Staging the Musical Numbers

Music Reimagined: The Studio Sessions – Behind the scenes in the recording studio with Taron & Elton

ROCKETMAN Lyric Companion: Sing-Along with Select Songs (English only):

  • The Bitch Is Back
  • I Want Love
  • Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting)
  • Your Song
  • Crocodile Rock
  • Tiny Dancer
  • Honky Cat
  • Rocket Man
  • Bennie and the Jets
  • Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me
  • Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word
  • Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
  • I’m Still Standing

ROCKETMAN Jukebox: Jump Straight to the Music

Disc 2:

Blu-ray Version of the film

Digital copy of the film

Overall: 4.5/5

The sensational rise, emotional and drug-fueled setbacks, and triumphant success of Elton John are explored in Rocketman, a brilliantly realized musical filled to the brim with stellar performances, toe-tapping hits, and an earnest, honest peek behind the curtains of the legendary singer’s life. This isn’t a musical biopic, which, according to director Dexter Fletcher, would have hemmed them in with facts and chronology, but rather a musical informed by Elton’s memories and recollections. And it’s spectacular.

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Published by

Neil Middlemiss

editor,member

6 Comments

  1. My problem with the film is my age. I was a 13 year old fan from 1973’s ‘Don’t shoot me’ album, and I poured all over the cartoon story from the ‘Captain Fantastic’ booklets, so I felt I knew the early story well. This is my problem: it is difficult to be entirely objective when what is on screen seems so true and familiar. But what an explosion of fun and exhilaration the songs release – and they feel so less ‘shoe-horned in’ than many jukebox movies. The story may sag a bit towards the end, but it still delivers a great piece of entertainment. The 4K disc also looks and sounds great on my system.

    I prepared last night’s meal with ‘Captain Fantastic’ on the kitchen stereo, Elton’s book ‘Me’ is on the bedside table. This fan is very happy!

  2. Thanks, Neil. I am a big fan of Elton's music, but largely ignored this film because it came out so soon after Bohemian Rhapsody — it seems like just another Hollywood copycat film. Your review convinced me otherwise, though, and I just added it to my wish list, I will pick it up once the price drops, either on disc or via iTunes.

  3. Scott Merryfield

    Thanks, Neil. I am a big fan of Elton's music, but largely ignored this film because it came out so soon after Bohemian Rhapsody — it seems like just another Hollywood copycat film.

    As much as I disliked "Rocketman", I'll defend it there, It was in production well before "BR" became a hit, so it's no "copycat".

    Might be a "Honky Cat", though! 😀

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