Earlier this week, we got a featurette from Rocketman meant to sell us on Taron Egerton’s Elton John karaoke. Now, we have the first full trailer to get our best feel yet for Rocketman and its potential. I am most curious about the dance numbers and fantasy sequences, which are a bit more interesting than recreating famous concerts—those are all on Youtube, if you’re not portraying a musician dead and gone before the invention of film, don’t waste time recreating live concerts when we can watch the real thing—and also particularly fitting for Sir Elton, who has always sold this very fantastical image as an entertainer.
As I mentioned, the natural comparison here is Bohemian Rhapsody, which shares a lot of DNA with Rocketman. (They also partially share a director. Dexter Fletcher directs Rocketman, and he stepped in to finish Bohemian Rhapsody after Bryan Singer got fired.) At this stage, I don’t see a huge difference. I am more intrigued by the dance numbers in Rocketman than I was by seeing Queen’s Live Aid performance recreated, but overall, eh. Yesterday is still the best-looking jukebox movie coming down the pipe. But I will give Rocketman some credit—the marketing, so far, is not shying away from Sir Elton’s queerness the way the trailers for Bohemian Rhapsody did with Freddie Mercury. There are also a couple of unflattering moments where Sir Elton is snappish or mean, or so calculating as to be unpleasant (I didn’t know he stole a bandmate’s name!). So maybe Rocketman is interested in storytelling beyond that just meant to promote music back into the Top 10.
And it is easy to get carried away with this trailer. It was hard with Bohemian Rhapsody because it was apparent from the first that the movie was ashamed of Freddie Mercury’s sexuality, and that was an unpleasant suspicion weighing down the run-up to the movie (which then turned out to punish and demonize Freddie for being queer). That not being the case with Rocketman, it’s easier to give over to the fantasy elements, the colors, the dance numbers. This looks FUN. There is a nod to Sir Elton’s more unpleasant behavior, but for the most part, it’s rollicking music, a rags-to-riches fairytale, and lots and lots of glamorous costumes. Will this end up an awards contender as Bohemian Rhapsody (incredibly) has become? I don’t know. But Rocketman looks a helluva lot more fun.