Today’s Prayer Focus

The Aviator

MPA Rating: PG-13-Rating (MPA) for thematic elements, sexual content, nudity, language and crash sequence.

Reviewed by: Chris Monroe

Moral Rating: Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:
Primary Audience: Adults Teens
Genre: Biography
Length: 2 hr. 49 min.
Year of Release: 2004
USA Release:
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Featuring Leonardo DiCaprio, Alan Alda, Alec Baldwin, Kate Beckinsale, Cate Blanchett
Director Martin Scorsese
Producer Michael Mann, Sandy Climan, Charles Evans Jr, Graham King
Distributor: Miramax. Trademark logo.
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“Some men dream the future. He built it.”

Here’s what the distributor says about their film: “‘The Aviator,’ directed by Martin Scorsese and written by John Logan, tells the story of aviation pioneer Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio), the eccentric billionaire industrialist and Hollywood film mogul, famous for romancing some of the world’s most beautiful women. The drama recounts the years of his life from the late 1920s through the 1940s, an epoch when Hughes was directing and producing Hollywood movies and test flying innovative aircrafts he designed and created.”

High flying adorned but not adored is the new biography picture on Howard Hughes by long time director Martin Scorsese (Mean Streets, Raging Bull, Gangs of New York). The aviator Scorsese depicts here is a man who operates with vision and entrepreneurial skills—and meets with large amounts of worldly success—but is also one with his fair share of weaknesses and problems.

The bulk of this story begins in 1927 Hollywood with Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio) at the age of twenty-six directing his war film “Hell’s Angels.” After inheriting a large sum of money after his parents’ death, Hughes goes beyond filmmaking to pursue an ambitious career in developing and building airplanes. The conflict of the story eventually develops when Hughes buys TWA and must battle Juan Trippe (Alec Baldwin) of Pan Am Airlines and Senator Ralph Owen Brewster (Alan Alda) who seem to have a monopoly on the airline business.

Like his other films, Scorsese is not so much interested in plot as he is with character. “Raging Bull” dealt with a boxer’s career, but dealt more so with his personal life. In the Aviator, we see the career highlights of Howard Hughes, but also see his failed romances with Katharine Hepburn (Cate Blanchett) and Eva Gardner (Kate Beckinsale)—although some friendship with them is maintained. Further, we see a Howard Hughes who is a little obsessive/compulsive, who struggles with hearing problems and even suffers from schizophrenia. It seems that all of his achievements that are presented are tempered by some kind of failure he also experienced.

The most off-putting aspect of this film is the repeated use of the God’s name used in vain followed by the word “damn.” Over and over, and by various characters, we are assaulted with this word. The Lord’s name is also taken in vain a few times, as well as one instance of the “f” word. There are a few moments of nudity from behind involving Hughes, first as a young boy being bathed by his mother, and then later when he locks himself in his room and has gone a bit mad. (This scene also includes an unpleasant image of numbers of bottles filled with urine.) There is a moment with Hughes and Hepburn kissing leading to an implication of them sleeping together, but none of it is shown.

Some interesting directorial motifs that Scorsese has included involve bright light bulbs, animal flesh and Hughes’ obsession with cleanliness—especially with his hands. Hand washing is such a personal thing to Hughes that at one moment he is unwilling to lend a hand to a crippled man because it would interrupt his hand washing. In another moment, he loses his appetite for his steak after Errol Flynn (Jude Law) picks a small pea off of his plate and eats it. We see that Hughes is disgusted and will not eat.

But unlike “Raging Bull,” Scorsese has given us a protagonist that we can ultimately find likeable and partially respect. Although this character has personal flaws, we believe he is doing the right thing by speaking out against Senator Brewster and Juan Trippe. We can also find him likeable because he is presented as a kind of underdog who worked his way up, making many personal risks along the way. Some may disagree that Howard Hughes was actually this kind of everyman, blue-collar kind of worker. Nevertheless, where “Raging Bull” gives us a tragic character who thinks he’s great, here we have a kind of heroic character who thinks at times he is losing his mind.

This film is lavishly produced with several big stars and lots of CGI, but in the end isn’t terribly engaging. Earlier films of Scorsese made on a much smaller scale tended to be more captivating, but these big stories—even though they’re made more personal—don’t provide as much interest. Some of it is pretty impressive, but isn’t necessarily recommended.

Violence: Mild / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: Mild

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Neutral—I have to agree with the review made here on Christian Spotlight that this movie wasn’t engaging, and it leaves you hanging on for more details at the end. I wouldn’t recommend this movie to those who are highly offended by profanity, especially when it involves the Lord’s name. I was very offended and very uncomfortable and it affected my enjoyment of the film. It did make me realize that Hughes was an aviation genius that propelled our aviation industry. And it also made me understand that he had a mental illness which he had to battle all his life, but the rest of the movie was at many times confusing and it had no central plot. It was too long to endure with no central plot! Overall, I would say this movie was average, and I certainly wouldn’t buy it when it comes out on DVD.
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive/4]
Maria Gottuso, age 36
Negative—Prepare to feel empty as a movie goer, and content as a Christian. The Aviator does a good job of portraying one of the richest men ever as a one of the strangest men ever. As Christians, it is a message that we are familiar with and want the world to hear. Money, fame, and power don’t necessarily amount to anything and can ultimately lead to a life of desperation and failure, especially in the world’s eyes. This is a good (and true) message. But as I watched this lengthy production, I kept thinking how much better the movie could have been.

Apart from the message and themes introduced by the film, the acting is mediocre, the soundtrack is boring, the story is too dark and too slow, and the casting is borderline horrible. Leonardo DiCaprio tries hard enough in his role to make the movie watchable, but does not have the charisma to keep us interested in the main character. Cate Blanchett is not believable as Katherine Hepburn. And the director seems to have cast stars like Alec Baldwin, Alan Alda and Jude Law just because the dialogue in this movie is so bland and the story so choppy that the audience would never stay interested without them.

Still, I was glad that sex and violence were not emphasized in any part of this film. But other than that, there’s is nothing edifying about this film and for those people who actually know about some of Howard Hugh’s life, this film is not an accurate depiction.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive]
Mike Y., age 2
Positive—I just viewed “The Aviator.” The production is well-done showing great costuming and the glitz of Hollywood in the 1920s through 1940s. It gives insight into Hughes’ interesting life and his oddities. The flight scenes were particularly exciting. Also, the jazz and big band music was entertaining throughout.

The use of the “g-d*mn” word was used liberally from start to finish, and way too much. There was absolutely no need for it, nor was there a need to use the word “f-k” (only once thankfully).

Overall, “The Aviator” was enjoyable and entertaining. However, my enjoyment was tempered by the avalanche of profanity that was so unnecessary. Nudity was mild and was not particularly offensive.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/4½]
Eric Williams, age 51
Neutral—Entertaining and somewhat factual, however language content is worldly (I wouldn’t expect a G rating for this movie). I know., I know… “We must live in this world, but we don’t have to be of this world”… I’d advise younger viewers of language in the movie but there’s nothing outstanding (shocking) in terms of nudity or content.
My Ratings: [Average/3]
Josh, age 43
Positive—Wow. This was one of the best movies I’ve seen all year. It definitely deserves an Oscar nod. As a person who suffers with Obsessive compulsive disorder, I thought the movies take on it was spot on, it definitely makes me wonder if Leonardo Dicaprio has experienced this himself, if not he is truly the most amazing actor of our day. The film was 3 hours long, and normally I can’t sit through long movies, but I really didn’t even notice this one. My only complaint was that Cate Blanchett’s portrayal of Katherine Hepburn (who happens to be one of my personal heros) seemed too much of a parody, but after a while either she tones it down or I got used to it.

Obviously due to the length of the movie, not to mention the fact that they probably won’t know or care about most of the people or events portrayed, you shouldn’t bring your kids along. I recommend it to anyone else though, and if you have kids that are advanced for their age I would say bring them. There is a plane crash scene that is WAY to bloody and intense for kids though, so keep that in mind. If your the type of person who gets uptight about the human body, you should know that there is some very mild “nudity” although all we see is a backside, really nothing to be concerned about, but I know some people are sensitive about things like that so I thought it might be worth mentioning. All in all SEE THIS MOVIE, it’s a fabulous way to spend 3 hours.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/5]
Kat, age 19
Neutral—This is a disturbing film about a man losing his mind; it is suppose to be and they did a good job of it. Hughes’ life and the benefit of his inventions are lost to this generation which is of interest, but God’s name is taken in vain so many times I lost count.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/4]
Ronni, age 42
Positive—A nearly universal human longing is to be independently wealthy. As evidence for this, one needs to look no further than the popularity of state supported gambling. In our culture, Power ball winners make headlines. The Aviator is a cautionary parable for those who long for unlimited wealth.

Howard Hughes seemed to have it all. The movie shows how he used this wealth to make spectacular movies, woo the most glamorous women and build and fly the fastest and biggest airplanes. Yet despite all of his apparent success, as seen from the perspective of the world, his life was a miserable failure. Howard Hughes is portrayed as having low moral standards. He constantly uses the name of the Lord in vain. Seen from a Christian perspective, his foul language serves to emphasize his complete separation from God and his desperate need for God. Freed from the constraints that most of us live under, his life ultimately spiraled out of control and he descended into pathologic obsession and madness.

I do not think that becoming a Christian would have solved all of Mr. Hughes problems. The kinds of personality disorders portrayed in the movie tend to be very deeply ingrained. However, I think that as a Christian, he would have been able to live with his problems and not be dominated by them. For example, as a Christian, I think that it is much more likely that he would have had the humility to seek professional help for his obsessive compulsive disorder.

This movie is not appropriate for children younger than 15 or 16 years of age. Older teenagers and adults, however, may well benefit from seeing this example of a wasted life and discussing the difference that God might have made for Mr. Hughes, and the difference he can make for all of us.
My Ratings: [Average/4]
James Martenson, age 49
Positive—What a fantastic film! Those seeking to be entertained will certainly enjoy the first half of the film, which is filled with spectacular flight sequences and spotlights Hughes’ early years in Hollywood. Those looking for a character-driven film won’t be disappointed by DiCaprio’s intense performance. If it weren’t for Jamie Foxx’s equally impressive performance in “Ray,” DiCaprio would be most deserving of a Best Actor Oscar. Cate Blanchett also gives a great performance as Katherine Hepburn, one that goes beyond the typical impersonation. The film is three hours long, but never boring.

The only drawback to the film is the constant taking of the Lord’s name in vain. Fortunately, Scorsese spares us of any sex scenes. There is quite a bit of rear nudity involving DiCaprio, but it is non-sexual in nature. Some scenes are difficult to watch. The plan crash scene is quite graphic, and Hughes’ mental problems in the last hour can be quite unpleasant. For these reasons, I wouldn’t take anyone younger than 15 to see this film. However, most adults will find this to be one of the best films of the year!
My Ratings: [Average/5]
Leo G, age 25
Negative—I wish that I could comment on the entirety of this film. However, my husband and I left after only fifteen minutes due to the excessive use of terrible language, particularly the use of the Lord’s name in vain. Too bad, because we both felt the movie had potential to be quite interesting.
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive/4]
Tess, age 40
Positive—An engaging drama that may be the best film in a rather lacklustre year. Excellent directing and acting, vivid sets, and seamless special effects all contribute to this lengthy film. An uninspiring ending, however, and offensive language detract. Not a family film, but recommended for older teens and adults.
My Ratings: [Average/4]
Todd Adams, age 37
Negative—My mother and I went to see this movie. We had heard if was good. The movie is interesting, and shows Hughes’ vision, but is filled with G*D, and profanity. There is usually some profanity in a movie, but it is all the way through this one. I couldn’t believe it for a PG-13 movie. Talk about ratings creep!
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/5]
Bill Boylston, age 46
Negative—What a waste of an evening… what a waste of such talent! My 16 year old and I were bored to tears toward the end. Speaking of end… it was so long that we just lost interest, wanting it to be over. Too much focus on Hughes being crazy… no music… no real emotional depth from the characters. Also, lots and lots of profanity! The only bright spot was Cate Blanchett as Katherine Hepburn… she was wonderful… the rest was not worth the time nor money!
My Ratings: [Average/2]
Ally, age 40
Positive—I definitely thought the profanity could have been toned down without detracting from the realism of the film. However, in other ways I thought that this was a very good movie, particularly in its portrayal of Hughes’s mental illness. Hughes comes across from the beginning as a quirky, over-the-top, but strangely likable character, not someone you would want to emulate or have as a friend, but you do sympathize with him nonetheless. The sequences that depict his increasing break with reality are honest in their portrayal of mental illness, and we see the breakdown of a human being in a way that saddens more than frightens us.

Too many people, even Christians, tend to view mental illness in a light that puts sufferers in the position of outcasts, even subhuman beings. While this movie is not for the younger set, adults and youth who are able to deal with mature themes will find this movie entertaining and thought-provoking. It is disturbing, yes, but in a way that we need to be disturbed.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/2½]
Feral Burns, age 22
Negative—After viewing a portion of this movie, we could no longer tolerate the offensive language and got up and walked out. Don’t waste your money if you are offended by using the Lord’s name in vain, because they were obsessed with that as their “dialogue.”
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive/2]
Teri Harold, age 50+
Movie Critics
…visually sumptuous if disappointingly hollow…
Manhola Dargis, New York Times