In Rocketman, during Elton John’s triumphant debut at Los Angeles’ famed Troubadour, as John blasts out “Crocodile Rock,” gravity ceases to exist as John and the crowd start floating toward the ceiling. In another scene, as John performs “Rocketman,” he literally transforms into a human rocket and blasts off into space.
My point here is Dexter Fletcher’s Rocketman isn’t super concerned with “facts.” No, gravity still existed at the Troubadour that night and, as far as I can tell, and Elton John has never self-propelled himself into space. This is a technique that works well to allow us to suspend belief about one of the most famous people in the world and just go where this movie wants to take us. Which was a huge problem with Fletcher’s last film, Bohemian Rhapsody.
Ah, yes, Bohemian Rhapsody, a movie that would win Rami Malek an Oscar, but was also savaged for its disregard for anything approaching a factual representation of events. Fletcher was famously brought in to finish the film after Brian Singer “parted ways” with the project, though it was still Singer who would get the directing credit.
So, yes, it’s almost impossible not to compare these two movies about famous rock stars, with voices straight from the heavens, fighting demons and discovering their sexualities. And, again, both play fast and loose with the facts, but in one case it’s all presented as fact (with Mercury not around to dispute any of it) and another presented as fantasy with John very much alive and very much involved.
In the very first scene, we see John (Taron Egerton, who is excellent), dressed as a horned, glittery beast, slamming through the doors to his first day of rehab. He then promptly admits he’s an alcoholic, addicted to cocaine, and goes through a laundry list of his vices — as almost to announce, yes, the real Elton John is involved but he’s not here to sugarcoat his past. Yes, he was a mess, and this is his story.