Rocketman 4K UHD Review


Elton John Musical Biopic Is A Wild Ride

Director Dexter Fletcher, hot off his success with global smash Bohemian Rhapsody, takes an entirely different tact for the inventively surreal and R-rated Rocketman. The surprising musical biopic about Elton John flouts convention. It turns pivotal moments from his life and career into an extravagant Broadway musical vibe, brought to vivid life. Peppered with inventive fantasy sequences and a willingness to bend historical truth for storytelling purposes, Rocketman delivers a satisfying biopic that embodies Elton John’s highs and lows.

The daring creative choices pay off for Rocketman, capturing Elton John’s essence as a performer and rock star. The narrative arc takes Elton John from a young boy in England to his days as an international music icon, after becoming the first musician ever to have seven consecutive number one albums in the early ’70s.

A project that had been in development hell for years, Rocketman is epic musical fantasy that deftly weaves Elton John’s music into a fantastical capsule of vignettes from his personal life and legendary career. It’s gaudy, dark and often reflective about Elton John’s personal problems, including his noted drug and alcohol issues.

…encapsulating Elton John’s personality and life into a fresh tapestry of visually brilliant musical performances

The whole narrative is framed by John’s first visit to a 12-step group meeting, recovering from personal demons. Using retro flashbacks and a series of showstopping musical performances interspersed with both happy and sad moments, we get an honest glimpse of Elton John’s personality. Given Elton’s personal stamp of approval, one may even call it brave for a rock legend now in his seventies to bare his soul like this on the screen.

Taron Egerton (Kingsman) handles the title role and singing duties for Elton’s music heard throughout the film. Personally approved by Elton himself, Egerton successfully inhabits the performer’s personality contrasts, from brilliant performer to moody friend. It’s a bold choice that largely works albeit some fans are bound to be disappointed when they don’t hear Elton’s own voice.

Music producer Giles Martin produces Egerton’s serviceable renditions of such classic songs by the rock legend as “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” “Your Song,” “The Bitch Is Back” and other smash hits from his classic canon. Rocketman doesn’t stray far from Elton John’s most popular and enduring hits. The film’s musical highlights include visually ambitious takes on “Pinball Wizard” and “Rocket Man.”

The cast also stars Jamie Bell as Elton’s friend and longtime songwriting partner Bernie Taupin, Richard Madden as Elton’s first manager and eventual lover, John Reid, and Bryce Dallas Howard as Elton’s mother Sheila. Bryce Dallas Howard is a little young to play Elton’s mother but it’s clear they wanted a name actress on the marquee.

Rocketman’s script takes chances and gives a more candid accounting of Elton John’s life than the safer mainstream approach taken on another rock legend from the Seventies, Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody. Rocketman does take liberties with history – Elton John hadn’t even written “Crocodile Rock” when he performs it at the Troubadour in the movie.

It’s hard discussing Elton John without mentioning his songwriting partner Bernie Taupin. One of popular music’s most legendary songwriting teams, their partnership produced an impeccable run of music through 1976 that made Elton John a global superstar. Their enduring friendship lies at the movie’s heart, even as Elton’s poor relationship with his parents loom over Rocketman.

Rocketman is smooth Hollywood storytelling about a complex and misunderstood rock star with just a few small hitches along the way. It turns out far better than expected, encapsulating Elton John’s personality and life into a fresh tapestry of visually brilliant musical performances. The splashy visuals and great music make for an eccentric but entertaining biopic.

Video

Encoded with a fully 12-bit Dolby Vision meta-layer, Paramount’s UHD employs ample HDR highlights and interesting palette choices. The 2.40:1 presentation at 2160P resolution is derived from a digital intermediate at a finished 2K resolution, filmed using the Super 35 chip found in the ARRI ALEXA MINI camera. The flawless HEVC compression arrives on a BD-100, as the 121-minute main feature gets an entire UHD to itself.

The most saturated moments with the deepest colors in Rocketman are primarily reserved for Elton’s lavish stage costumes. His outlandish red devil outfit is splashed in subtle red and orange hues. Black levels are superb, showcasing UHD’s wider nit range with truly deep blacks and sophisticated shadow delineation.

Rocketman’s amazing set design, stupendous costumes and lighting of the fantasy musical sequences produce spectacular visual moments. Some of the source footage is slightly lower in resolution – the original “I’m Still Standing” music video from 1983 is blended in with a bluescreened Taron Egerton replacing Elton for the finale.

Rocketman isn’t quite up to par in depth and dimensionality with the very best UHD has to offer. The dramatic scenes have a restrained, almost period aesthetic that limit their pop and definition. However, it is a fantastic presentation for the movie. The enhanced HDR and bright highlights clearly improve over the relatively flat and dull Blu-ray by comparison.

Audio

What a spectacular and effective Dolby Atmos soundtrack! Rocketman pushes the envelope with a state-of-the-art surround mix that takes full advantage of the entire soundstage. Constantly engaging, channel placement and audio objects are creatively chosen in the showstopping musical performances.

Listen as Elton John’s piano rotates during “Pinball Wizard,” or he slips underwater into the pool during “Rocket Man.” It includes smooth, refined bass, beautifully mastered audio for maximum fidelity, and complete immersion. The intelligent audio design pushes the limits of Atmos technology.

The UHD has 32 different subtitle options! Optional subtitles from English SDH to Thai all appear in a white font, always inside the scope widescreen frame. There are fifteen different audio options, mostly lossy foreign dubs in 5.1 Dolby Digital, from Japanese to Russian. They are Czech, French (Canadian), French (Parisian), German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese (Brazilian), Russian Dolby, Spanish (Castilian), Spanish (Latin), Thai, Turkish and English Audio Descriptive.

Extras

Paramount goes the extra mile for this UHD combo set. The standard UHD edition comes with a Blu-ray version and digital code, good for both iTunes and either VUDU or FandangoNow. The VUDU digital copy does redeem in UHD resolution. A slipcover and a special 12-page booklet, an excerpt from Elton John’s upcoming autobiography, are available in first pressings.

Best Buy has an exclusive 4K Steelbook edition with unique cover art, while Walmart also has an exclusive Steelbook edition.

The special features are only on the included Blu-ray. We get a series of extended musical numbers from the film, deleted scenes and a few interesting featurettes. In what may be a trend for home video releases going forward, the digital release includes access to three more exclusive featurettes and two more deleted/extended scenes than seen here.

  • · Extended Musical Numbers (14:48 in HD):
    • 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 (19:39 in HD):
    • Introduction by Dexter Fletcher
    • I Love Rock And Roll
    • You’ve Got to Kill the Person You Were Born To Be
    • Arabella
    • 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 (07:08 in HD)
  • Becoming Elton John: Taron’s Transformation (06:52 in HD)
  • Larger Than Life: Production Design & Costuming (08:55 in HD)
  • Full Tilt: Staging the Musical Numbers (10:09 in HD)
  • Music Reimagined: The Studio Sessions – Behind the scenes in the recording studio with Taron & Elton (11:33 in HD)
  • ROCKETMAN Lyric Companion: Sing-Along with Select Songs (English only):
    • The Bitch Is Back
    • I Want Love
    • Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting)
    • Your Song
    • Crocodile Rock
    • Tiny Dancer
    • Honky Cat
    • Rocket Man
    • Bennie and the Jets
    • Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me
    • Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word
    • Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
    • I’m Still Standing
  • ROCKETMAN Jukebox: Jump Straight to the Music
Rocketman 4K UHD
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
4

Movie

The R-rated musical fantasy biopic about Elton John takes creative chances and delivers a satisfying encapsulation of the superstar’s life and music.

Sending
User Review
5 (1 vote)

The following six screen shots serve as samples for our Patreon-exclusive set of 48 full 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: