Miramax/Warner Home Video .
R4 . COLOR . 162 mins .
M15+ . PAL
Another day at the office
In a year that was crowded with biopics, The Aviator, next to Ray, stands head and shoulders above the rest. A number of filmmakers over the years have tried to get a Howard Hughes film off the ground and for one reason or another have hit the wall. This particular incarnation has been kicking around since the turn of the century after Leonardo DiCaprio came across a biography on Howard Hughes sparking the desire to bring Hughes' life to the big screen. Michael Mann was attached to direct, himself no stranger to turning a bio into film after enjoying the commercial success of the films The Insider and Ali.
Mann decided to pass on The Aviator, instead returning to his hard-boiled roots in the excellent Collateral, and gave the script to friend Martin Scorsese. I think both parties are better for their decisions. Scorsese, who is not one to stick within his comfort zone, embraced the screenplay written by Josh Logan and has made one of the best films of his career, in the process salvaging his reputation with the critics after the commercial failure of the underrated Gangs of New York.
No seriously, that zit on your back is huge.
The Aviator is a big film, in the years in which it spans and the achievements of Howard Hughes, played brilliantly by Leonardo DiCaprio - it is a sight to behold. Hughes' life cannot be summed up in a film close to three hours and this film doesn't pretend to be the definitive biography on Hughes. It only hints at his upbringing ever so slightly with a brief glimpse of his childhood in the first few minutes of the film with Hughes as a young boy being bathed by his somewhat neurotic mother. This would prove to be the catalyst of his struggle with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in later years. Flash forward years later, we meet Howard on the set of his WWI epic Hell's Angels which was the first true blockbuster that turned Hollywood on it's ear with an estimated budget of $4,000,000, personally financed by Hughes. His wealth was inherited from his father's advancements in oil drilling equipment which is the extent of Howard's family ties revealed in the film, establishing Hughes perfectly for the rest of the film.
The enigmatic millionaire playboy Hughes was best known for charting the whirlwind romances he shared with many of Hollywood's leading ladies such as Ava Gardner (Kate Beckinsale) and Jean Harlow (Gwen Stefani). But it's the relationship with Katherine Hepburn, brought to life by the Oscar winning Cate Blanchett, that is the centrepiece of Hughes' love interest in the film. Both were as bullish as each other and ultimately their egos got the better of them before they parted ways. This is told beautifully in a bittersweet fashion, as it's clear that Howard never really got over her.
At the premiere of ELLS.
The film also shows the business ventures of Hughes that included the development of planes for the US Army as well as the building of his commercial passenger airline empire TWA which revolutionised the way we travel around the globe today. Hughes’ bold business sense was known to have put the odd nose out with his throw more money at it attitude. And as a result Howard had to contend with the backdoor politics involving his nemesis; airline rival Pan Am boss Juan Trippe (Alec Baldwin) and his shady dealings with Senator Ralph Owen Brewster (Alan Alda) and their plan to block Hughes out of commercial passenger air travel all together. They do this by dragging Howard through a senatorial inquiry on some trumped up allegations, while Hughes is at his lowest ebb suffering from his OCD. Hughes who was most certainly not one to take things lying down began to rebuild and pull himself together. However he never reached the former glory he achieved and eventually went into isolation.
The Aviator is presented in the aspect ratio of 2.35:1, is 16:9 enhanced and in a single word the video is fantastic! Given the film's running time I was anxious about that old bit budget being squeezed. But Warners in their wisdom have jettisoned any additional languages & features bar the commentary by allocating the movie itself across the two layers of disc 1 with the end quality showing the result. This is a reference transfer and is free from common film to video artefacts that can plague a poorly mastered DVD.
Scorsese has manipulated the film's colour digitally in postproduction to make the film look like films of the period in which the years of The Aviator spans. You will notice the shift from the two colour Cinecolour which makes the greens turn a bluish tinge at the start of the film then to the full blown Technicolour that reproduces the vivid life like colours that we have become accustom by the films end. Scorsese also pushed the grain out of the print digitally giving the film a very smooth & polished look. The resulting image is probably one of the best looking films I've had the pleasure of viewing.
The audio that accompanies The Aviator is no slouch either. Presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 the soundtrack envelops the listener with aggressive use of the surrounds as well as creating some good sidewall imaging. The main channels convey a wide soundstage across the front and the flying sequences make excellent use of all available 5.1 channels giving you the impression that you're riding Hughes' tail.
The musical numbers and the score benefit from their use of the surrounds as well, while the dialogue is clear and firmly anchored to the centre channel and at no times did it distort. EX decoding enhances the experience so feel free to engage it.
Thanks for the mammories!
Disc 1: The only extra here is an excellent commentary by Martin Scorsese, Producer Michael Mann, & Editor Thelma Schoonmaker. The only downside to this commentary is that all three participants were recorded separately and later edited together. I would have appreciated the dynamic of the three being in the same booth discussing with each other. Still the amount of information here is excellent and there is barely a dry spot through the near 3 hours it runs for. Nobody does commentaries better then Scorsese, and to hear his longtime editor chime in occasionally is also excellent. Unfortunately it looks like Michael Mann must have drawn the shortest straw with only minimal amount of the talk time being allocated to him.
Disc 2: This disc is crammed with extras. Full points to the producers of this special edition for providing quality and informative extras. If only all so called special editions were this good.
Deleted Scene - Howard Tells Ava About His Car Accident (1:39): The only excised scene which is actually an extension of a scene from the film that would could have been left in. As it covers a bit more of Howard’s past and in a small way how it contributed towards his attitude about people & money.
A Life Without Limits - The Making of The Aviator (11:33): An all to brief behind the scenes piece featuring a collection of interviews with principle cast members and crew.
The Role of Howard Hughes in Aviation History (14:41): A discussion of Howard Hughes’ legacy on modern aviation with various Hughes biographers, pilots, and experts.
Modern Marvels: Howard Hughes - A History Channel Documentary (43:37): A decent length documentary commissioned by The History Channel detailing the Hughes legend from a historic perspective rather than the abridged nature of the film.
The Affliction of Howard Hughes: Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (14:09): A collection of interviews with real life OCD sufferers and OCD expert Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz.
OCD Panel Discussion with Leonardo DiCaprio, Martin Scorsese and Howard Hughes' Widow Terry Moore (14:53): The trio discuss the importance of portraying OCD correctly and the methods used by Leo to emulate Howard’s condition.
An Evening with Leonardo DiCaprio and Alan Alda (28:07): An informal Q&A session that followed a screening of the film were the two actors field questions. A film geeks delight!
The Visual Effects of The Aviator (12:02): The Aviator is probably the most effects laden Scorsese feature to date. And after watching the film and then viewing the interview with visual effects supervisor Robert Legato I was stunned to learn just how much of the effects in the film were actaully models instead of CGI. Granted The Aviator does make extensive use of CGI, but some of the key sequences were actually scaled miniatures.
Constructing The Aviator: The Work of Dante Ferretti (6:00): Long time Scorsese collaborator talks about his relationship with Marty and the design of The Aviator.
Costuming The Aviator: The Work of Sandy Powell (3:35): Sandy discusses the choices of costumes and their relation to the period and character
The Age of Glamour: The Hair and Makeup of The Aviator (8:08):
Interviews with the crew responsible for transforming the cast back to the golden age of Hollywood.
It's as if Van Helsing was just a bad dream...
Scoring The Aviator: The Work of Howard Shore (7:15): Behind the scenes with Howard recording the score and some brief discussion about scoring The Aviator.
The Wainwright Family - Loudon, Rufus and Martha (5:07): A brief interview with Loudon explaining his familial contribution to the films soundtrack.
The Aviator Soundtrack Spot (0:19): TV spot for the soundtrack CD.
Stills Gallery: A lengthy collection of still photographs of the production.
Just a quiet night at DVD.net HQ
The Aviator brings to life the golden age of Hollywood, featuring a script that moves along at a cracking pace that makes the near 3-hour run time just fly by. A killer cast is rounded out by stellar supporting roles from John C. Reilly, Ian Holm, Jude Law, and Willem Dafoe. And as we have come to expect from Scorsese the direction is sublime, captured brilliantly by director of photography, Oscar Winner Robert Richardson.
Howard Shore provides a score that evokes the mood of the film perfectly also. In fact everything about the production just screams class and it's a rare treat these days to find a film that not only looks great but is a cracking yarn to boot! Presented with a superb transfer and quality extras, The Aviator is pure gold.