Rocketman is director Dexter Fletcher’s (Eddie the Eagle) fantasy-musical-biopic about living pop legend Sir Elton John. The film doesn’t attempt to give a realistic look at John’s life, but instead offers up a surreal and often dizzying production almost in the style of Baz Luhrmann to tell the tale of John’s early career with his music – reinterpreted by producer Giles Martin, son of George Martin — as the driving storytelling device.
The story begins with young Reginald Dwight (Matthew Illesley), a shy young boy who has an unsettled relationship with his parents – an unloving father and cruel, cold mother (Bryce Dallas Howard). From there it moves on to his time at the Royal Academy of Music as young piano protégé before Reggie, changing his name to Elton John (played by Taron Egerton, who also does all the singing), is connected with brilliant young lyricist Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell) and the two begin writing a string of songs that will lead to Elton John’s stay at Los Angeles’ Troubadour, which will help thrust the young rock star into the stratosphere of the American pop charts.
Rocketman further goes into Elton John’s romantic relationship with his manager John Reid (Richard Madden), his spiral into drug and alcohol abuse, and a misguided though brief first marriage.
Though the film doesn’t shy away from the demons that stirred in Elton John, it doesn’t take any time to dwell on them or try to explain them. Even the lowest of the lows in John’s life are turned into lavish musical numbers in this film. During an episode where the pop star OD’s on pills and attempts suicide by diving into a swimming pool during a big party at his mansion, it immediately segues into a musical number with bodies angelically floating alongside John while a young Reggie appears at the bottom of the pool at a toy piano playing “Rocketman.” Similar moments occur at other points, such as when John has his heart attack, we’re treated to a big dance number.
All this is certainly a feast for the eyes and ears, but not exactly anything worthy of reflection or introspection – it seems more like John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album come to life. That said, this is a fantastically entertaining film, especially for fans of Elton John and his music, and Taron Egerton is a revelation as well. If people thought Rami Malek deserved recognition for playing the legendary frontman Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody, well movie over. Edgerton evokes the charisma of Elton John while also doing all of his own singing – and he does it well.
Rocketman was shot in 3.4K resolution and mastered with a 2K DI. It arrives on 4K Ultra HD framed at 2.39:1 in an HEVC 2160p (4K) encodement with Dolby Vision HDR. The image is one of the better transfers I have seen on 4K despite not being shot natively in 4K or using a 4K DI. There’s a filmic quality to the image that makes it look organic, but it also looks very clean and crisp, with lots of foreground and background detail. The Dolby Vision adds in an excellent amount of dynamic range that helps in the musical numbers that dazzle with an array of lights, flashy, glittery costumes, and lots of colors. The Blu-ray is also a solid performer in the video department with no evidence of banding or noise, although the highlights and colors don’t stand out as much as they do on the 4K.
Rocketman comes with an absolutely brilliant Dolby Atmos audio mix that appears on both the 4K Ultra HD disc and the Blu-ray. The music is spread throughout the channels, with the overheads being very active with discrete instrumentation and atmospherics in the musical numbers. Dynamics are quite natural, dialogue and vocals are clear, the lows are very musical and punchy, and high end is on the mark.
Paramount includes a heavy dose of bonus features with Rocketman. What I would have loved to have on this collection is an audio commentary with Elton John, but we will have to settle for the special booklet with a message from him instead — for now.
- Digital movie code
- Blu-ray with Feature Film and Bonus Features
- 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 w/ Introduction by Dexter Fletcher (2.39:1; 1080p; 00:19:39)
- I Love Rock and Roll
- You’ve Got to Kill the Person You Were Born to Be
- 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 (1.78:1; 1080p; 00:07:08)
- Becoming Elton John: Taron’s Transformation (1.78:1; 1080p; 00:06:52)
- Larger Than Life: Production Design & Costuming (1.78:1; 1080p; 00:08:55)
- Full Tilt: Staging the Musical Numbers (1.78:1; 1080p; 00:10:09)
- Music Reimagined: The Studio Sessions (1.78:1; 1080p; 00:11:33)
- Rocketman Lyric Companion: Sing-Along with Select Songs (English Only) – Play the movie or select songs w/ sing-alongZ
- Rocketman Jukebox: Jump Straight to the Music
The Final Assessment
An imperfect yet still dazzling and enjoyable rock and roll fantasy biopic about the legendary Elton John gets a superb transfer on 4K Ultra HD with Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos and a heavy dose of bonus features. Highly recommended.
Rocketman is out on 4K Ultra HD Combo, Blu-ray Combo & DVD August 27, 2019 from Paramount
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