Rocketman First Reviews: Taron Egerton Is a Force in "Goosebump-Inducing" Elton John Biopic

The very first reviews from Cannes say Rocketman one-ups Bohemian Rhapsody, with fabulous performances and show-stopping musical numbers.

by | May 17, 2019 | Comments

Rocketman star Taron Egerton was teary-eyed following the world premiere of the much-anticipated Elton John biopic at the Cannes Film Festival; as the credits rolled and he embraced the man he played on screen – sporting a jacket with the words “Rocket Man” bedazzled across the back – the tough Cannes crowd rose to its feet to deliver a rousing standing ovation. But are the critics as impressed as the first-night audience with Dexter Fletcher’s fantastical take on John’s life, which has been described as a “full-on bio musical with 20 songs”? Among the very first reviews coming out of the French Riviera – a handful of raves and some slightly subdued thumbs-ups – one thing was consistent: Egerton had given a star-making performance. The movie is currently Fresh at 86% with 22 reviews (as of 7pm ET). We’ll be updating this page as more reviews come in.

Here’s what critics are saying about Rocketman:

So, it’s kinda great?

“Thrilling, intoxicating.” – Robbie Collin, The Telegraph

“An incredible feast for the eyes.” – Halina Watts, The Daily Mirror

“It’s a biopic and a jukebox musical and a romance, and also a movie about addiction, all crammed into a frenetic, jewel-studded ecstasy of a movie.” – Alissa Wilkinson, Vox

“A rousing and emotional affair with an operatic sweep.” – Geoffrey Macnab, The Independent

Rocketman is shameless in its ambitions…the overkill, and the narrative predictability, eventually just becomes overwhelming.” – Tim Grierson, Screen International

Rocketman is a hugely exhilarating picture…an intoxicating musical.” – Brian Viner, Daily Mail


(Photo by @ Paramount Pictures)

Will musical fans enjoy it?

Rocketman is a turbo-charged rock fantasia that pushes hard against the boundaries of the medium.” – Phil de Semlyen, Time Out

“An old fashioned musical with superb songs and goosebump-inducing acting.” – Dan Wooton, The Sun

“Rousingly good natured… Rocketman is a sucrose-enriched biopic-slash-jukebox-musical hybrid.” – Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

“It’s all grand and fun and corny, a musical fantasy that reaches for the sky and gets there often enough to make it diverting but also frustrating.” – Steve Pond, The Wrap

Rocketman is an out and out musical, full of sensationally choreographed numbers.” – David Sexton, London Evening Standard

How is Taron Egerton’s portrayal?

“Taron Egerton excels as Elton to the point he seems to become him…bringing new life to classics like ‘Your Song’ and ‘I’m Still Standing.’” – Dan Wooton, The Sun

“Taron has perfected the portrayal of Elton…[he] is an incredible screen force with endless charisma and charm.” – Halina Watts, The Daily Mirror

“He does a fine job that isn’t an imitation. (If it were, it wouldn’t be a good one – he does the songs well without capturing the specific tone of Elton’s voice.)” – Steve Pond, The Wrap

“Not only does he have Elton’s look and mannerisms down to an uncanny degree, he also taps into his signature showmanship to give a performance that’s as at peace with its own preposterousness as, say, Jane Russell’s in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.” – Robbie Collin, The Telegraph

“I felt he never quite delivers John’s woundedness when those he loved let him down…I found myself wondering what Bell would have been like in the role.” – Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

“He’s brilliant, an electrifying presence. Helpfully, he can really sing, too.” – John Nugent, Empire Magazine

“He doesn’t disappear into the role, exactly, but he accomplishes something nearly as remarkable, which is to locate subtle depths of feeling in a character we first see wearing a devil-horned chicken costume.” – Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times

“Egerton occasionally veers into a goofy caricature just a few shades shy of Austin Powers.” – Eric Kohn, IndieWire

Taron Egerton as Elton John in Rocketman from Paramount Pictures.

(Photo by @ Paramount Pictures)

How does it compare to Bohemian Rhapsody?

“Of course, Rocketman resembles the Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody in a dozen different ways, although these are arguably genetic music-biopic standards.” – Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

“If Bohemian Rhapsody were the cheeseburger of music icon biopics, then Rocketman is the sirloin steak – with lobster on the side.” – Dan Wooton, The Sun

“There is no comparison. Contrasting them would be like conducting a taste test between a porterhouse steak smothered in tomato ketchup and a smoldering old shoe someone pulled off a bonfire.” – Robbie Collin, The Telegraph

“Any thoughts of Bohemian Rhapsody fade away in a few short minutes. Fletcher…saved all his good stuff for Rocketman.”- Phil de Semlyen, Time Out

“The two films are dramatically different in ways that for the most part are good for Rocketman.” – Steve Pond, The Wrap

“What sets it apart from the Queen biopic is Elton’s ability to expose the uglier side of his character.” Halina Watts, The Daily Mirror

Rocketman is more a tale of recovery, mapping out how John found sobriety and contentment later in life. Also, this film is far more impressionistic.” – Tim Grierson, Screen International

“The difference between that movie and this one is basically the difference between a tissue of cliches and a straightforward drama.” – Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times

Does it do justice to Elton John’s legacy?

“Rocketman is an honest, heartfelt tribute to Elton John’s music and his public image.” – Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

“It was co-produced by Elton John’s company Rocket Pictures, but there is no sense that it is trying to airbrush his past.” – Geoffrey Macnab, The Independent

“Sure, Elton John purists will be here until Christmas pointing out the flaws in the chronology and the liberties taken with real-life events, but they’ll be doing it dancing in the aisles.” – Phil de Semlyen, Time Out

“I can respect a biopic that announces from the start that it’s not to be taken seriously as an account of what actually happened.” – Steve Pond, The Wrap

Rocketman emphasizes John’s legend over his humanity, which makes it hard to feel closely connected to him.” – Tim Grierson, Screen International

Rocketman seems mostly preoccupied with the surface idea of Elton.” – Peter Debruge, Variety

Taron Egerton as Elton John in Rocketman from Paramount Pictures.

(Photo by @ Paramount Pictures)

And does it honor his sexuality?

“Explores Elton’s sexuality with a highly charged scene between Elton and his first manager John Reid…It would be foolish not to claim that as one of the highlights.” – Halina Watts, The Daily Mirror

“A sex scene between Elton and Reid…doesn’t just lapse into coyness. It feels like a progressive moment, a significant step forward in this retro rush of a musical.” – Phil de Semlyen, Time Out

“Even though Rocketman doesn’t hide his homosexuality, his romantic relationship…despite some mildly titillating love scenes, feels underexplored.” – Tim Grierson, Screen International

“I didn’t think this is a case of straightwashing: more unenjoymentwashing, a refusal to portray hedonism in any terms other than doomy disapproval.” – Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

“[The] sex scenes are brief and isolated, though the mere fact that they exist at all…will probably earn the movie more praise for candor than it deserves.” – Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times

What about the rest of the cast?

“Jamie Bell is typically terrific.” – Phil de Semlyen, Time Out

“[Jamie Bell is] superb.” – Robbie Collin, The Telegraph

“The hero of the piece is his songwriting partner Bernie Taupin — portrayed with an honest sensitivity that should see Billy Elliot star Jamie Bell win awards.” – Dan Wooton, The Sun

Rocket Man

(Photo by @ Paramount Pictures)

How fabulous are the musical numbers?

“One of the most memorable is Elton’s first performance at the Troubadour in Los Angeles – a set so full of emotion and energy that the audience takes off.” – Geoffrey Macnab, The Independent

“When Elton first performs ‘Crocodile Rock’…it induces a mass levitation in the audience, and I could swear I felt myself rising an inch or two out of my cinema seat.” – Robbie Collin, The Telegraph

Rocketman’s fantasy elements elevate it further – the underwater sequence during the title song following Elton’s desperate suicide attempt somehow becomes beautiful, with astounding choreography.” – Dan Wooton, The Sun

“A strong set piece involving John’s plunge into late-‘70s hedonism is scored to ’Bennie And The Jets’, as Fletcher cleverly turns the hit into a sexy Bob Fosse-style routine.” – Tim Grierson, Screen International

“The movie is filled with vividly choreographically, imaginatively staged, wow-isn’t-cinema-great moments.” – Phil de Semlyen, Time Out

“What you may not always anticipate is the wit and imagination of the staging…you always want more of the music rather than less.” – Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times

“Closer to Broadway than Hollywood in their willingness to dive into fantasy, [they] foreground the tunes while disguising subpar choreography with flashy camerawork.” – Charles Bramesco, Little White Lies

Are there any complaints?

“At times, Rocketman risks turning into a chronicle of woe…it can become tiresome to hear him say yet again how much he hates himself.” – Geoffrey Macnab, The Independent

“Sometimes feels like it should be on the Broadway or London West End stage – and very possibly will.” – Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

“Fletcher throws so much filmmaking trickery at the screen that he often buries the opportunity to assess the singer’s creativity outside of its historical baggage.” – Eric Kohn, IndieWire

“For all Fletcher’s sincere efforts to distinguish Rocketman from the countless other musical biopics that have come before, it’s a film that hits too many familiar beats to ever truly dazzle.” – Jordan Farley, Games Radar

Rocketman opens in theaters May 31, 2019. You can also see it at a Fandango Early Access screening May 18.


Rocketman (2019)

Adjusted Score: 105.673%
Critics Consensus: It's going to be a long, long time before a rock biopic manages to capture the highs and lows of an artist's life like Rocketman.
Synopsis: ROCKETMAN is an epic musical fantasy about the incredible human story of Elton John's breakthrough years. The film follows the... [More]
Directed By: Dexter Fletcher

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