Elton John Biopic: Best and Worst of the Biopics

Written by Film

Rocketman (dir. Dexter Fletcher), set for release in 2019, promises to be everything one would expect from an Elton John biopic: part fantasy, part musical, with more extravagant costumes than you could shake a sparkly stick at. Starring Taron Egerton (KingsmanEddie the Eagle), who looks the part as a convincing Elton (complete with his trademark hairline), the film seems set to be next year’s matinée saviour, satiating the public’s appetite for Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again-esque feel-good fluff. The one problem? Egerton doesn’t seem like he can sing that much like Sir Elton, and one wonders whether it would have cost much more to simply have him mime over the original vocals. Perhaps with the glitzy outfits and special effects, they simply hoped the audience wouldn’t notice.

Cinema is littered through the years with examples of cinematic biopics, some sensational, some…not so much. One of the most positive features comes from that old master of the weird David Lynch. Lynch blesses The Elephant Man with his unashamedly avant-garde directing, whilst Freddie Francis’ black and white, deliberately antiquated cinematography beautifully evokes Victorian London. The Elephant Man draws in the audience with an initial disorientating, disturbing (and extremely Lynchian) dream sequence, and from there we are transported into the sometimes nightmarish, sometimes headily romantic world of John Merrick, the Elephant Man himself. As well as being visually spectacular (a highlight being the hallucinatory splendour of the theatre scene), the film sensitively juxtaposes the trauma of Merrick’s ill-treatment with his intelligent and sweet-natured worldview, and brings the importance of friendship and kindness to the fore.

On the whole, it is a semi-interesting watch

On the other hand, The Doors, directed by Oliver Stone, admittedly had a lot of potential. Firstly, Val Kilmer uncannily resembles Jim Morrison, and with an excellent cast (notably Kyle MacLachlan as Ray Manzarek) and cinematography faithful to the Sixties, the film seems like it will be a worthwhile watch. Unfortunately the film is let down by its flaccid character representations, especially that of Morrison himself. Apparently people close to Morrison were extremely unhappy with how he is presented in the film, and it is easy to see why: Mr Mojo Risin’ is shown to be pretentious, self-centred, and a shockingly terrible boyfriend. The audience spends most of the film pitying poor Pam Courson/Morrison, Morrison’s put-upon life partner, while she is consistently brought face-to-face with his infidelity and his lack of remorse for it.

It is therefore hard to feel sympathy for Morrison towards the end of the film, when his recklessness and addictions catch up with him, and the audience must separate themselves from the extremely dislikeable character onscreen and remember Jim as a human being in order to feel pity. Nonetheless, few people would be able to maintain a dry eye during Morrison’s death scene, but perhaps this more due to sadness at the loss of him as a person – as a troubled soul and musical and poetic genius – rather than the loss of him as presented in the film. On the whole, it is a semi-interesting watch for a true Doors (or Kyle MacLachlan) fan, but with a run time of over two hours, it’s arguably not worth the effort.

Last modified: 31st January 2019

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