‘Rocketman’ And The Use Of Film As A Medium

by Frank Martin

One of the great things about storytelling is that every medium is different. Doesn’t matter if it’s comics, film, or TV. There are strengths and weaknesses for all of them. What makes something special is when it is able to lean into the uniqueness of the medium and do something that sets it apart. There’s nothing wrong to telling a simple story through a medium, but when a work utilizes the medium in a way that it can’t be made in a similar fashion for a different medium, that’s when you know something has become more than just a story.

In thinking about the Elton John biopic Rocketman, the filmmakers could have simply told a straightforward tale of the singer’s life. Even more than that, they could have simply told the story in musical form with songs sprinkled throughout. Essentially, that’s what they did. But the movie is so much more than just a musical. The makers leaned in to the uniqueness of film as a medium, utilizing editing, costume, and sets to be more than just a story of John’s life. The best way to describe it is a stage musical on screen. It leans into the medium so heavily that it becomes a whimsical experience that can’t be duplicated in any other fashion — including on the stage!

Of course, not every film needs to do something like this. There’s nothing wrong with sitting back and telling a straightforward story in the more basic language of film. But when that opportunity arises, storytellers get to ask themselves if they are merely telling a story or doing something more. They could be making a comic or a stage play or an audio drama. In the case of Rocketman, the storytellers decided without hesitation to use the medium to its fullest in the service of its story.

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