Media

Movie Renter's Guide Number 153 - December, 2007 - Part III

ARTICLE INDEX


"The Aviator"  (Blu-ray/HD DVD)

The AviatorSynopsis
This film chronicles the early years of legendary movie director and aviator Howard Hughes' career, from the late 1920's to the mid-1940's.

Specifications

    • Warner Bros.
      2004, Color, Rated PG-13
    • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
    • 1080p
    • English/French DD+ 5.1
    • Spanish DD 2.0
    • Directed by Martin Scorsese
    • Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett, Kate Beckinsale, John C. Reilly, Alec Baldwin, Alan Alda, Jude Law
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: Themes
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

The Aviator is a thrilling, yet flawed look at the maddening world of Howard Hughes. My Dad used to talk about Hughes a lot when I was growing up. He was especially impressed with the "Spruce Goose" which I've seen in person quite a few times. I was hoping that The Aviator would account for more of the life of Hughes and give me a better understanding of how he started and where he ended up. Unfortunately even after three hours I didn't get that.

Instead the film focuses more on high times of Hughes' life. It starts around the production of Hell's Angels, Hughes' multi-million dollar film and ends after the first flight of the Hercules. The film chronicles his relationship with Katherine Hepburn, who is played wonderfully by Cate Blanchett. It sheds light on his obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and its effect on his driven personality to stay at the forefront of aviation technology.

Technical

This film has always had a controversial style to it. The first hour of the film has an unusual coloring scheme where all shades of green are rendered as blue to emulate the early two color strip process (the same process used in Hughes' movie, Hell's Angels, which was the first movie to use color). Later the color scheme changes to emulate the Technicolor process (three-strip color that has red, green, and blue) and the colors are greatly oversaturated with extremely lush greens and reds.

Aside from this things look quite good. Detail is preserved nicely, and dimension is excellent. Some of the darker scenes flatten up a bit, but nothing too distracting. I didn't notice anything in terms of compression issues, but there is some obvious noise from the color distortion. Whites are bit clipped at times as well, resulting in a small loss of detail.

Warner delivers a plain Jane 5.1 Dolby Digital mix on this one. At just under 3 hours I was surprised that they didn't go the same route they did with Troy and include a lossless TrueHD soundtrack. Aside from that though, this is still a pretty good mix.

At times I thought the surround soundstage was lacking a bit. While there are some interesting panning sequences, the bulk of the soundstage stays rooted in the front, which hurts a few scenes (the filming of Hell's Angels is a good example). Dialogue is also on the brighter side, reminding me more of the older Hollywood films. Whether this is intentional or not I don't know, but it was distracting at times.

Extras

Lots of extras on this release. A feature commentary, deleted scenes and a plethora of historical features on Hughes including episodes of Modern Marvels. You also get a handful of production features, interviews, a still gallery, and the trailer.

Editor's Note: I saw Hell's Angels a few years ago on TV, and it is astonishing. For its time (1930), it was the most expensive movie ever made and has incredible dog fight scenes in the air (nominated for an Academy Award for Cinematography). This is the first use of color (red and blue but no green) in a full length motion picture. It was also before Hollywood censured bad language, so you can actually hear the pilots of the bi-planes cursing at each other from across the skies. Lastly, it was Jean Harlow's debut. See this one if you have the opportunity.