I’m going to be spending the next few days wracking my brain trying to figure out why this movie called itself The Aviator as opposed to like, The Engineer or The Tony Stark Meets Bob Wiley Spectacular. The plus side here is that’s all that’s really going to nag at me as The Aviator was actually a pretty solid film. Did it need to be 3 fucking hours? No. Was it at least a good three fucking hours? Sure, I’ll at least give it that as the impressive, albeit over-the-top, acting and strong directing that I expect from a Scorsese film showed itself in full form, with a good, vibrant story that very much satisfies the expectation of “epic biopic.”
The movie focuses around the life of Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio), a millionaire with a fascination for the next big thing in aviation, even if the latest big thing hasn’t gotten the opportunity to catch on yet and reach the mainstream market. He’s basically Apple for airplanes. However, on top of this insatiable need to be bigger, better, faster comes the insatiable need to be clean, clean, and clean, and as his life progresses and the pressures mount, he becomes more and more neurotic about this, or at least the movie seemed to portray it that way. It only makes sense because in the first scenes as a kid, Howard’s mother teaches him to spell the word “Quarantine,” which I didn’t realize that’s all it took develop a mental condition. I should have taught myself the words “confident” and “tactful,” but instead spent my time mastering “egomaniacaldickhead.”
As a biopic, however, The Aviator explored as much of Howard’s life as possible, his reputation as an aviator, business owner, movie producer, playboy, germaphobe, and other things that Tim Tebow doesn’t do, and as most biopics that go for such a vast combo platter, there’s always some things that don’t get enough attention on the plate, and some things that get more than they deserve (in this case, probably the germaphobe thing that lasted 45 minutes and didn’t really impact much in the long run).
There’s a part in the movie where the rival CEO Juan Trippe (Alec Baldwin) makes the statement during Howard’s descent into madness “people should remember him for what he’s done, not what he is now,” (or something like that) and honestly, I don’t know what I’M supposed to remember him as. Movies like this are usually a glorification, giving you some sort of “and after the movie ended, this person kicked everyone’s ass” paragraph to make you feel like everything was worth something, but this one, quite literally, leaves you in the dark without an honest on idea of whether or not you were supposed to respect the man, feel bad for him, feel some sort of accomplishment or tragedy or all of the above, and for that much of an investment, I don’t feel like I’m supposed to be making that decision. It’s like if A Beautiful Mind just ended without letting you know that John Nash did ok for himself in his remaining days. Anything else is kind of a dick move.
Oh well, the movie was still enjoyed, even though it was really long and drawn out, there was a lot of variety, which I appreciated. It never really got overly boring, and the “boring” scenes were done so beautifully, their dreariness was masked by the exceptional quality of the filming, acting, directing, so it worked out OK. If I were to choose to watch it again, it would probably have to be with other people, but really, that’s not so much a knock on the quality as a knock on the length.
The Aviator is going to get 8 dustbusters out of 10 from me, mainly because I feel a little bit cheated. It’s like somebody telling a joke about this one time at band camp, but not really having any sort of punch line statement but more “I brought my flute and I played it, but I wasn’t that good so I practiced and got marginally better but not enough to make a career out of it, but someone thought I was cute enough to make a whore out of myself on top of Jason Biggs one night, and then I went to sleep.” Fine.