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Awesome: 34.91%
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12 reviews, 97 user ratings

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Aviator, The (2004)
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by Robert Flaxman

"Pretty, but bloated and uninformative."
3 stars

I can understand the challenge of making a biographical film. With so much ground to cover in the subject’s life, even the best biopic can fall victim to sprawl. Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator, covering 20 years that made up the prime of Howard Hughes’ life, is certainly no exception to the sprawl rule, but unfortunately it doesn’t stop there. The film doesn’t just fan out; it lacks focus, and fails at ever really getting beneath the surface of its story or characters.

Scorsese’s vision begins in 1927, as Hughes directs the ambitious World War I epic Hell’s Angels, and concludes in 1947 just after the only flight of the Hercules, Hughes’ mammoth wooden plane that was dubbed the “Spruce Goose” by a derisive press. In between, Hughes had relationships with Katharine Hepburn, Ava Gardner, and numerous other women, and evidently lived on the verge of bankruptcy as he pumped the money from his inherited businesses into planes that didn’t fly.

Scorsese paints Hughes’ life in big, colorful strokes – they’re attractive enough, but they get a bit broad. We seem to be getting the Cliffs Notes on Howard Hughes – major events are noted, perhaps briefly fleshed out, and then brushed past as we move on to the next milestone. Though Leonardo DiCaprio gives a fine performance in the title role, he has little to work with that really delves into Hughes as a man. The film simply can’t get under its subject’s skin (Hughes, with his infamous fear of germs, would presumably have approved).

Scorsese, DiCaprio, and writer John Logan don’t seem sure of how they want to present Hughes. At times he is a maverick hero willing to take on a corrupt system; at other times he’s a paranoid creep. His well-publicized neuroses are not mocked, but neither do the filmmakers overly sympathize; on this count, the film is matter-of-fact (though it does make the style choice to sometimes overlap dialogue in conversations, giving the viewer a sense of Hughes’ confusion and uneasiness).

It’s understandable that Scorsese and company want to be careful not to lionize Hughes, a somewhat controversial figure, but they seem not to be taking much of a stance on him at all – or, more accurately, they show enough of both sides that it’s generally impossible to tell on which they truly fall. Hughes makes incredible demands of his underlings, and we can feel Scorsese and Logan rolling their eyes along with the secondary characters. But just when he’s lost us, Hughes takes on corrupt senator Owen Brewster (Alan Alda) and wins us back with his unshakeable conviction that he’s on the right side.

Hughes’ apparent magnetism plays a bit more explicably from this point of view, but it’s still undersold. The film doesn’t paint Hughes as a people person, and the trouble he had hiding his hearing problems evidently made for awkward conversation. His daring alone surely provided some attraction, and DiCaprio exudes a kind of kinetic attractiveness when not in the grip of one of Hughes’ fits, but most of the film still finds Hughes playing as a rather unpleasant person. 160 minutes is a long film any way you slice it, but when the director seems to have only a minor amount of sympathy for his lead character, it can feel even longer.

In some ways, Scorsese seems more dedicated to making a film set in the time period than making one about Hughes per se. What else was the point of including dispensable moments of “period color” such as Errol Flynn (Jude Law in his only scene) getting into a fistfight at a club after Hughes has left? Why shoot the film using various time-appropriate color techniques for different years? It’s nice that Scorsese got to indulge this impulse, and he does shoot it gorgeously (thanks to Kill Bill cinematographer Robert Richardson, who was once Oliver Stone's DP of choice), but his energy would really have been better directed at deepening Hughes’ character or, failing that, at least tightening up the film.

While it never loses watchability, not a bad thing for a film of its length, The Aviator is stuck scratching the surface of a story and a character for which the depth has long been the missing piece. Scorsese produces some visual thrills but fails to generate significant emotion or drama. It may not be his fault, though – Hughes was a public figure but a very inward one. For someone who lived his life in 3D, Howard Hughes’ story is evidently impossible to tell in any more than two dimensions.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=11346&reviewer=385
originally posted: 01/12/05 00:18:50
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User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell long but really good 4 stars
1/11/10 Eric Leo did a good job, great movie if you bother to watch 4 stars
12/23/08 Brap YES 5 stars
3/30/07 David Pollastrini All the women in this film are hot! 3 stars
3/06/07 Frank Rountree Good movie, good history lesson! I liked it. 4 stars
2/18/07 Nick Maday I was drawn in and spellbound from the very beginning. 4 stars
1/04/07 Alice I do not understand the ratings.Nothing special, boring by times. 3 stars
11/25/06 Gwen Stefani? Not a bad film, but I watched it in fast-forward so not too long... 3 stars
9/30/06 Charles Tatum Excellent film, DiCaprio finally wins my grudging respect 5 stars
8/04/06 Agent Sands Another riveting Scorsese biopic. Fantastic in all departments. 5 stars
5/26/06 Steve Newman Great film - 30 mins to long - now going to read how true it all was!! 4 stars
3/17/06 MP Bartley Great acting throughout, brilliantly rendered period detail - a fine departure for Scorsese 4 stars
3/11/06 daveyt enjoyable... 4 stars
3/02/06 Tanya Very good 5 stars
1/07/06 Gerry Dunne good story let down by appalling flying scenes 3 stars
12/28/05 John Dog Superb! 5 stars
11/15/05 Quigley Dicaprio's acting is suberb, but it was too long, and I didn't want to see leo naked. ever. 4 stars
11/04/05 mike winger i was exspecting too see kate beckinsale tits 1 stars
10/11/05 Jennifer Free The movie drags on and on. I actually got bored and didn't finish after an hour and a half 2 stars
8/31/05 herkos akhaion Pointless, looks good, but story is poorly told 2 stars
8/29/05 LS Galvin Amazingly acted, beautifully directed, satisfying biopic! 5 stars
8/27/05 D Buckley Leo should have won best actor 4 stars
8/22/05 ES Cate's roll is wasted here, she should have saved it for a hepburn bio-movie, film stinks 2 stars
8/17/05 shadi The Aviator is a great movie! it`s greater than life & DiCaprio is amazing in it! 5 stars
8/13/05 lozita it rocks! 5 stars
8/12/05 Snicklets Outstanding! Held me captive from beginning to end. Leo DiCaprio shines; Cate wonderful. 5 stars
8/12/05 Dr. Video Excellent acting esp by DiCaprio. 5 stars
7/31/05 RK DiCaprio and Blanchett are excellent 4 stars
7/29/05 Dr. Zoidberg Sugarcoated bullshit; watch Marty sell his balls to the PG-13 crowd! 1 stars
7/26/05 Malaka The film was awesome, it's got everything a movie should be, Great 5 stars
7/26/05 Kankasaur Couldn't ask for more excitement and obsession with detail from Hughes himself 5 stars
7/04/05 Ry Great Movie of great man. It's based on a true story, not a made up script you morons. 5 stars
7/04/05 mariann Dull and boring....We turned it off after 30 minutes. 1 stars
6/22/05 Naka Stunning, intelligent, surprisingly good preformance by DiCaprio. I was enthralled. 5 stars
6/14/05 JFK bad music, boring script, average actings, long movie. Not a best film 3 stars
6/12/05 Agent Sands Long live Scorsese. 5 stars
6/06/05 Anthony G Good 4 stars
6/05/05 R.W. Welch Mostly successful, tho the main characters in this opus are impossible to re-create. 4 stars
6/04/05 Denise Gannon i'm sorry but Leo can't act! he's a FACE. very unbelievable acting by most of cast, too. 1 stars
6/04/05 rohit adhikari it is one of the most beautiful movies i have ever seen . it is a must watch 5 stars
5/31/05 Monday Morning Couldn't decide what kind of film it wanted to be, except "long". VERY disappointing. 3 stars
5/28/05 Saab Rocks Borring and long. There's only three minutes of action, and the movie is three hours long! 2 stars
5/25/05 Jake Fasinating and Entertaining 5 stars
5/01/05 dwarzel Academy awards for doing impressions? 4 stars
4/26/05 hp feel good film - got to watch for martin scorsese and leanardo 4 stars
4/16/05 malcolm pleasantly surprised by dicaprio's performance, otherwise, just not that interesting 3 stars
4/10/05 Bing good but too long 3 stars
4/07/05 Lina Correa Very intense film, great acting by DiCaprio 4 stars
3/30/05 Madeira Pure genius. It could kick Million Dollar Baby's ass any day. 5 stars
3/25/05 Denise great 4 stars
3/23/05 Michael Lloyd Scorsese's finest work since Goodfellas 5 stars
3/23/05 dana Gordon A must see on the big screen 4 stars
3/18/05 Green Grenlim has some exciting moments, but a little overlong 4 stars
3/05/05 Bueller A depressing visual feast. 4 stars
3/05/05 Josh Scorses indulges Leo's need for a "sympathetic" character. Overwrought. 3 stars
3/02/05 enid leo is boring, the film focuses exclusively on him, thus the film is boring. 1 stars
3/02/05 David Tsung pretty boring - not martin's best 3 stars
3/01/05 Pickles Leo is a crap actor, you're not watch hughes youre just watching Leo with an accent, boring 1 stars
2/24/05 Phyllis Kunz Fuckinubelieveable that Alec did not win the nomination for best supporting actor. Fuck! 5 stars
2/19/05 lj worth it for cate blanchett alone--she is marvelous as hepburn 4 stars
2/18/05 Captain Craig Terriffic from start to finish. Leaves one wanting more! 5 stars
2/18/05 susee scorsese, inthe way i never wanted...bio pickin 2 stars
2/18/05 Elza Hudson A heap of junk - very boring. 1 stars
2/16/05 Taylor Fladgate Full of depth and great acting. 4 stars
2/14/05 ELI gonna win best pic. 5 stars
2/13/05 Jeanine Price OK 4 stars
2/13/05 dbx Most boring movie I've ever seen. Leo: not an interesting actor, should have had JohnnyDepp 1 stars
2/12/05 Sylvia Belle interesting biography 5 stars
2/03/05 Mirella Rodriguez Fantastic! The acting is right on. 5 stars
2/03/05 Barbara Long A decent movie, Leo is cool. 4 stars
2/03/05 Agent Sands Scorsese's latest opus is impressive, though not up to par with "Bull," "Fellas," or "Dead. 5 stars
2/03/05 Steve Michaud I'll take "lesser" Scorsese over most of the directors out there any day 4 stars
1/31/05 Danita Berg Leo's best. This movie is NOT Titanic. Thank God. 4 stars
1/31/05 Elena this was incredible. i am in awe. 5 stars
1/28/05 Richard Brandt One is impressed by all Hughes accomplished despite an absolutely debilitating disorder 4 stars
1/28/05 Red Sox Still Suck Leo, Marty & Blanchett deserve Oscars for this great movie 5 stars
1/24/05 bob this movie fucking sucked 1 stars
1/23/05 Janet Pokrinchak Screenplay lacks depth and focus. Just never quite gets there & drags in some places. 3 stars
1/22/05 fred flintstone not again its too painful! 1 stars
1/21/05 Rob McKeown I no longer think of him as de-crap-io, worth a look 4 stars
1/21/05 Uncle Phucker Scorsese's hardcoreness is gone but his brilliant filmmaking is not. Acting was well done. 4 stars
1/14/05 Devin Knox worst movie of the year by far 1 stars
1/10/05 Stacey Peachfuzz Some awesome sequences but rather forgettable as a whole. 3 stars
1/10/05 Obi Wan Leo's best Movie!! Great Movie....didn't seem as long 5 stars
1/09/05 Mel Stark Fantastic. A film truely not to be missed 5 stars
1/08/05 Patti m usually prefer art house films but this movie is exceptional! 5 stars
1/07/05 Gizmo It was enjoyable but I honestly expected more. Blanchett was pretty great, though. 3 stars
1/02/05 Movie Lover so long! 3 stars
1/01/05 Nisha the best performance by Mr. Leo Dicaprio 5 stars
12/30/04 ajay it was pleasent... 4 stars
12/30/04 bobbi good, but only covered a few of his accomplishments 4 stars
12/27/04 Obi Wan WOW, WOW,WOW!! I was truly amazed...I'm at a lost for words how great this movie was! 5 stars
12/23/04 Hugh Janus Leo, Marty & Blanchett deserve Oscars for this great movie 5 stars
12/23/04 Raymond Shaw highly enjoyable cinema. DiCaprio is tremendous! Miss Blanchett runs the gamut of emotions! 5 stars
12/16/04 Ray Pretty good 5 stars
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  14-Dec-2004 (PG-13)
  DVD: 24-May-2005

  19-Dec-2004 (12)

  10-Feb-2005 (M)

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