Following the extravagant yet guilt-ridden personal life of Sir Elton John, ‘Rocketman’ is going to get a lot of comparisons to ‘Bohemian Rhapsody‘ come next Oscar season. As the movies are quite identical. Both featuring an extravagant British rockstar — who were closeted homosexuals at different points in their lives — and a cast of distinct and loving supporting characters. Who all seek to help their best friend recover from isolation and addiction in the 70s, to rise to the level of greatness that we the audience, know they’ll eventually achieve — given the infamous reputation that precedes them.
‘Rocketman’ is set up the exact same as ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’
Unironically, this is because both movies feature the same director: Dexter Fletcher. Fletcher had taken over directing duties on ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ for Bryan Singer once Singer’s past abuse scandals came to light. The movies, as a result, became spitting images of each other. The exception being that in an ironic twist, ‘Rhapsody’ was PG-13, while ‘Rocketman’ was rated R (who knew Elton John had a crazier Rockstar life than Freddie Mercury?) In fact, because Fletcher helmed both movies, that were both set around the same time period, there was actually a small chance Rami Malek’s Freddy Mercury could’ve appeared in this movie. As movies based on beloved music icons are having their own renaissance of sorts (Love and Mercy, Miles Ahead, Straight Outta Compton, A Star is Born), and hot ticket cross-overs like the Avengers, are making movies that bridge universes rather financially appealing (Maybe all these Rockstars will perform at the infamous Live-Aid concert?). The decision not to was simply out of the director’s avoidance of cinematic universes as he felt it would be too on the nose (though given the success both film’s have, it wouldn’t surprise me if studios took wind and tried it anyway).
Surprisingly, John Reid is portrayed by two ‘Game of Thrones’ Former Cast Members. Seeing Robb Stark grow up to become Littlefinger
Likewise, a film cross-over would also have been complicated because both movies feature manager John Reid, who unironically also plays a villain of sorts in both stories. In ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, he is played by Aiden “Littlefinger” Gillen, as a misguided manager who tells Freddie Mercury to go solo — who even negatively comments that a six-minute song (Bohemian Rhapsody) was far too long to ever be successful. In ‘Rocketman’, he is played by Richard “Rob Stark” Madden, a secretly uncaring manager who wooed Elton John and became his lover, though mostly for his own profit.
Both movies focus in on Natural Talent
Regardless of the could have been cross-over or sequel, both films are excellent in their own regard, structured in a very ‘monomythic‘ fashion that focuses on raw talent. Focusing in on both Elton John and Freddie Mercury’s natural gifts at an early age. Freddy Mercury, with abnormal extra teeth leaving ‘alleged’ room for extra octave vocal range, and Elton John with apparent perfect pitch: an ability to listen to any tune and recreate it on the piano. It should be noted that both these performers are technically portrayed to be superhuman, which fits the monomythic structure rather nicely.
Yet ‘Rocketman’ takes it a step further. Whereas Elton John is shown to be a naturally gifted performer, who various times throughout the years could transpose and even improvise a tune or melody, it also delves into his relationship with his co-songwriter who’d written all his lyrics for him throughout the years: Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell). The movie does a great job showcasing how important Bernie is throughout Elton John’s life, showcasing him as a creative partner, brother, and friend. Which makes sense, given that Elton John served as executive producer for this movie, and Elton John’s husband, David Furnish, had spent over a decade trying to get this movie made — both of whom, knew Bernie personally.
‘Rocketman’ is a much Rawer Film
It should be stressed that this movie is rated R for a reason. As it’s a lot more graphic, and Elton John’s copious drug use and addictions are things he himself didn’t want to shy away from in the movie. Likewise, Rocketman was banned in Samoa over its gay love scenes. Which is surprising, as it’s not a graphic nudity scene, yet still showcases how uncomfortable people even now can be with adult material. Especially, given the parallelisms to the Oscar-winning ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and its surprisingly family-friendly nature in comparison.
Likewise, a lot of this is because Taron Egerton, who both acts and sings in this film, excels in giving a performance that’s convincing yet also very vulnerable. As it’s these moments of Elton John’s fragility behind the scenes, that make-up 2/3rds of this movie. Likewise, the climax and conclusions from Taron’s performance portray this as a man who’s come to term with his origins and past, in a very similar story structure to Freddy Mercury’s. With the exception, that Elton John has to find acceptance about who he is in this movie.
Not just with his homosexuality but with himself, his guilt, and his years of avoiding his problems by masking it behind the performance. And although it’s similarly powerful as Rhapsody, It doesn’t hold the same power in the performances, nor does the film stick the ending in my opinion. As I was honestly falling asleep during the end of the movie, given how many times we’ve seen stories about rockstars overcoming addictions.
Final Score: 8.9/10 (Which is what I would’ve also given Bohemian Rhapsody)
You can watch ‘Rocketman’ in theatres right Now