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: 105.865%
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

Like this? Subscribe to our newsletter and get more features, news, and guides in your inbox every week.

Tag Cloud

Writers Guild of America Mary Tyler Moore disaster Legendary TCA 2017 Summer TNT FX San Diego Comic-Con films elevated horror SundanceTV richard e. Grant Amazon Studios Pirates 24 frames Musical TCA Awards VH1 Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Action laika CMT Sneak Peek indiana jones spider-man spinoff Winter TV Exclusive Video cooking Turner Classic Movies green book 71st Emmy Awards Acorn TV universal monsters vampires facebook Television Critics Association Opinion Disney+ Disney Plus Pet Sematary FXX Heroines award winner Syfy Mudbound 2016 superhero Mary Poppins Returns IFC Films E3 target cancelled TV shows mission: impossible MCU supernatural Tarantino Britbox mutant rom-coms Video Games 2019 game of thrones TV renewals Interview Amazon Prime Food Network indie 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards japanese classics Best and Worst TV Land HBO Go The Purge scorecard justice league ID Image Comics 2015 streaming movies adaptation aapi Turner Alien Song of Ice and Fire Nominations 20th Century Fox Year in Review Comedy festivals dark HBO Max dogs Funimation Lionsgate halloween hollywood finale nbcuniversal Amazon Prime Video obituary Superheroes boxoffice 2018 crossover stand-up comedy Nickelodeon CNN best cinemax Pride Month Academy Awards Music streaming Schedule sequel Starz BBC America Netflix Christmas movies Shudder Captain marvel hidden camera Mindy Kaling strong female leads See It Skip It all-time child's play Fox Searchlight international heist movie documentaries APB FOX archives witnail Comics on TV Broadway franchise Holidays The Walt Disney Company Creative Arts Emmys video on demand 21st Century Fox james bond zombies Tubi Disney Plus sag awards Adult Swim Oscars Crunchyroll crime drama Marvel Television Calendar RT History Logo popular BET Awards reviews 72 Emmy Awards MSNBC Dark Horse Comics space Kids & Family social media Amazon Star Trek comics Showtime blockbusters stop motion spanish GoT game show Pixar DC Comics spanish language documentary worst movies Sci-Fi Reality video Comedy Central Western south america BAFTA spain police drama First Reviews Superheroe 99% The Academy adventure dceu Film Festival slashers crime thriller anthology Red Carpet The Walking Dead Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt aliens TV One asian-american BBC One blockbuster WGN First Look free movies Paramount Network natural history Sundance TV revenge ABC Avengers USA El Rey technology travel batman football ratings cults Rocketman Christmas trailers what to watch casting TruTV Podcast Hulu Fall TV tv talk Apple TV Plus dc HBO A&E Rocky ESPN teaser Vudu Pop mockumentary Extras Country Film Classic Film new york VOD name the review breaking bad stoner crime TBS DirecTV Bravo jamie lee curtis pirates of the caribbean comiccon kaiju American Society of Cinematographers based on movie Cosplay Apple TV+ CW Seed telelvision rt archives docuseries Disney Channel cancelled TV series Emmy Nominations Trailer CBS The CW new zealand Hear Us Out Star Wars biography screenings french olympics Mary poppins fast and furious TCM saw Ellie Kemper Comic-Con@Home 2021 Wes Anderson golden globes YouTube Red concert suspense Masterpiece news TCA Spring TV Tokyo Olympics Thanksgiving psychological thriller PaleyFest Crackle monster movies live action SDCC Pacific Islander Cannes scary movies harry potter blaxploitation series Pop TV basketball Toys OneApp razzies Certified Fresh President Women's History Month Mystery Premiere Dates hist Stephen King parents Freeform Family Arrowverse WarnerMedia high school Awards deadpool Tumblr A24 Rock Peacock Character Guide OWN Hallmark die hard Grammys Set visit renewed TV shows 2021 psycho Discovery Channel FX on Hulu Elton John Ghostbusters canceled Valentine's Day docudrama nature ghosts lord of the rings talk show YouTube AMC criterion PlayStation Television Academy zero dark thirty 4/20 Lifetime GLAAD singing competition venice Nat Geo Rom-Com Teen Disney streaming service YouTube Premium movie Martial Arts dramedy chucky ViacomCBS know your critic Ovation kids king kong Black Mirror 45 TV cartoon fresh Animation Esquire Polls and Games robots Watching Series Columbia Pictures historical drama USA Network Super Bowl comic books 2017 Disney Photos cancelled television Reality Competition Quiz BBC a nightmare on elm street E! CBS All Access doctor who comedies IFC ABC Signature DC streaming service worst The Witch werewolf ITV foreign serial killer golden globe awards Tomatazos NYCC latino boxing political drama Horror DC Universe Spectrum Originals television period drama Lucasfilm spy thriller Universal hispanic Sundance Now romantic comedy Trophy Talk medical drama Travel Channel halloween tv Winners australia Epix SXSW Infographic Cartoon Network Marvel romance cars science fiction true crime toronto DGA Emmys children's TV zombie Netflix legend Endgame Paramount Plus diversity toy story TV movies Awards Tour rotten book adaptation Biopics book ABC Family discovery rotten movies we love TIFF RT21 japan Baby Yoda Black History Month Apple GIFs 93rd Oscars New York Comic Con dragons versus animated Marathons History Anna Paquin binge war comic Brie Larson cops black independent Chernobyl Shondaland satire sports Marvel Studios NBC Countdown kong 90s Lifetime Christmas movies National Geographic sitcom superman italian movies theme song politics critics anime X-Men marvel cinematic universe TLC women VICE Binge Guide nfl christmas movies joker sequels Fantasy wonder woman Trivia transformers remakes Drama cancelled Musicals Sony Pictures PBS YA adenture screen actors guild LGBT cats LGBTQ Holiday TCA Winter 2020 MTV 007 prank festival emmy awards Warner Bros. Comic Book BET king arthur NBA quibi thriller Walt Disney Pictures Fox News Hallmark Christmas movies reboot new star wars movies Election scene in color unscripted Spike 1990s godzilla Sundance jurassic park directors 2020 canceled TV shows Box Office miniseries Paramount The Arrangement composers twilight