Film review: The Aviator (2004)

Just a brief review today.

Probably not of the same brilliance as some of Scorsese’s earlier masterpieces. All the same it’s an entertaining ride and an interesting biopic of one of the 20th century’s most fascinating individuals, Howard Hughes. Even if you like me knew next to nothing about Hughes, it’s a fun watch.

Was Howard Hughes a genius or a madman? You can argue in both directions. He was incredibly wealthy, impulsive, reckless, flirtatious, and in later years, eccentric and reclusive. What would you do with a fortune? In Howard Hughes case he decides to make movies, which would become among the most expensive, controversial and ambitious of the 1930s. He produced the original Scarface (1932), Hughes battled with censor boards over the violence.

Scorsese’s film may resurrect interest in some of Hughes’ previous work, I definitely want to catch the war epic Hells Angels (1930), after watching the making of it during The Aviator.

Hughes was a flying enthusiast, a pioneer of human aviation, risking his life by opting to fly experimental airplanes himself. Even after plan crashes, he still continued to want to build planes and be a pilot.

Its tough for me to comment on the performances, as I am not terribly familiar with the real life Howard Hughes, depicted here by long time Scorsese collaborator Leonardo DiCaprio. I have not viewed enough of the movies of the real Katharine Hepburn (played by Cate Blanchett) to really say if she behaves like that. Then again, we mostly see Katharine Hepburn’s private life, so maybe comparing is only possible for her family and friends.

What I can say is I found the Ava Gardner character to be under-developed, not enough screen time, we never really discover why they were attracted to one another in the first place, which is a pity. In comparison, Katharine Hepburn’s romantic involvement with Howard Hughes was far more interesting and gave an insight into how these two big celebrities of the past met and spent time together. I was never bored, despite the running time clocking in at whopping two hours and forty-six minutes. Perhaps they should have shortened the film by cutting out Ava Gardner?

The huge budget is all up there on the screen, technically impressive, with giant sets and huge airplane action scenes. A film worth watching once, but I don’t think it holds up to many viewings unless you are particularly interested in the era it depicts. I would have liked to know a bit more about why Howard Hughes wanted to lock himself away at times, and other times wanted to date the Hollywood stars, the film doesn’t really address why Hughes behaviour was so polarized? As another reviewer points out, Scorsese clearly is on Howard Hughes’ side in the movie, particularly in the court case battles. Scorsese’s mission as a director appears to be to celebrate the guy.

Any thoughts on The Aviator (2004) ? This review today brings to a close my recent Scorsese blogathon, hope you enjoyed reading! Are you interested in other director blogathons of this nature on my site in future?




  1. Sure, I'm always for blogathons, but I don't have the guts to start one myself right now.
    The Aviator is a movie I truly enjoyed, actually I knew nothing about it before watching it. I really want to see some more of Scorcese's work.

  2. I remember seeing The Aviator when it came out and being blown away by Leonardo DiCaprio- I think he did a fantastic job in it!Good movie!

  3. Really enjoyed The Aviator, I think it's one of Scorsese's best films.

    One of the cooler technical aspects/trivia items I remember from the film is that the colors in any given scene matched the time period that the scene was set it.

    As for the blogathons - go for it!

  4. I think the Aviator was when I started taking DiCaprio seriously. Like you, I also wanted to see more of Ava Gardner (Kate Beckinsale).

  5. I really love this movie although it does lack something that the earlier Scorsese movies but I think the thing to most value about contemporary Scorsese instead of constantly making Scosese movies he's making other making in that definte Scosese way. Can't fault him for that.

  6. I have seen this ages ago and although it was well made it hasn't left a big impression on me. It's not a movie where I have the feeling I need to revisit it.

  7. @Mette: You should see more Scorsese, while I don't like about 50% of his work(the gangster stuff), he's still a living legend.

    @Aziza: You're right, Leonardo DiCaprio, superb performance!

    @Robert: I'd go along with The Aviator is among Scorsese's better recent efforts. I didn't notice the colours, interesting. Thanks, look out for blogathons on directors Lars von Trier, Douglas Sirk, and Kieslowski's The Decalogue in 2012 here on the blog!

    @msmariah: True, there was not enough Ava Gardner (Kate Beckinsale). Surprising so few awards Leonardo DiCaprio receives.

    @Mike Lippert: Its tough for me to pinpoint exactly what it lacks. There was more focus on the technical side than the psychological, maybe that's it. Perhaps they should have had couple of scenes were Howard Hughes is with a doctor or therapist,but that might take away some mystery, I don't know.

    @Nostra: I agree, good, but doesn't lend itself to multiple viewings


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