(Review originally written at 3 August 2006)

This is a good movie but really not worthy of all that Oscar nominations. It's not among the best of 2004 and also certainly not among the best biopics of all time. But you have to give credit where credit is due. "The Aviator" is a good movie about an interesting man and an even more interesting life. With every other normal other director at the helm, more people would had been satisfied with the end result but since this movie was directed by Martin Scorsese, people expected more. What a pressure this must be for him. In the end Scorsese doesn't really delivers and his movie is lacking in moments of true greatness. This movie proofs that Scorsese's best years are behind him and that he is lacking in true creativeness in his recent movies. "The Aviator" feels as a formulaic done movie that follows all the rules by the book. It's wonderfully done but also because of this the movie doesn't ever really become a remarkable or very memorable one.

Even though the movie is almost 3 hours long, it never drags. Leave it up to Scorsese to make a long, consistent movie, that never loses focus. The story is told with lots of pace and flows well, perhaps even a bit too fast at times. Some sequences don't feel complete and leave an unsatisfying feeling. At times I wanted to know more about a certain event or character. This is unfortunately often the case with biopics. Movies like this, often tell the life of one single person. How is it possible to put everything that happened in a lifetime, in a just under three hours movie. Of course the pace has to be fast and certain events have to be cut down, in order to achieve everything with the story.

Still I feel kind of cheated afterward by the story. While watching this movie it becomes obvious that Scorsese admires Howard Hughes. He glorifies him as a movie-maker and aviator. The movie mainly focuses on his best years and too often too little on the negative aspects of the character. The movie also ends when Hughes was at his prime, when he starts to fall back again, the movie ends. Even though we all know how Hughes eventually ended up, I'm still of opinion that the movie should had shown this, in AT LEAST a prologue before the end credits.

The movie also leaves lots of things unclear, regarding the main character. It's never explained why he was the way he was and how he got so mentally ill. The movie made it seem that he could be normal when he wanted and had to. It makes the character a sort of an inconsistent one, that we never fully get to understand.

Leonardo DiCaprio does well as Howard Hughes, the main character. He proofs that he is not only a great actor but also can handle big roles and can carry a movie. Other actors that were really great in this movie were Alec Baldwin and a surprising Alan Alda. The rest of the actors feel a little miss cast. They all seemed to have been cast because of their names. This goes for Ian Holm and Willem Dafoe who play some very uninteresting roles. And Cate Blanchett seemed to had been cast because she's Cate Blanchett, not because she looks like Katharine Hepburn and Kate Beckinsale seemed to had been cast because she's Kate Beckinsale, not because she looks like Ava Gardner. This also goes for actors such as; Jude Law and Gwen Stefani.

But sure on the other hand the movie is technically near perfect. It's well looking and has convincing looking sets and costumes and it manages to recreate the atmosphere mainly of the '20's and '30's. Also great was the cinematography by Robert Richardson but I did not particularly liked the color use, for which this movie received so much technical praise. The special effects were also a big letdown. Why don't I ever hear anyone complaining about this? The flight sequences, which are some of the most significant moments in the movie, looked far from convincing.

The movie is compelling enough to make you keep watching it till the end, since its basically in the end still a very well made one. The end result won't disappoint you but it will probably still leaves a sort of a bad aftertaste, considering that the movie is not entirely a satisfying one.

I don't think that "The Aviator" will ever grow into becoming a classic Scorsese movie over the next years, such as with his previous movie "Taxi Driver" was the case. The movie is too formulaic made for that and it too often choices the simple path. It lacks true creativeness. Still of course the movie is a great one, that is well made and is far better than any other average biopic/drama. But worthy of all its Oscars and nominations? Sorry, I really don't think so. It makes you wonder, would this movie even had been nominated for that many awards if it was directed by a different director?


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About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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