Air (2023)

Director Ben Affleck’s latest is a movie that is about as niche as you could ever dream up. It’s a movie with appeal, sure, but appeal to only a certain subset of audience members. For those hoping for a strong character based drama with conflict, and twists, and laughs, “Air” is unabashedly void of any of the aforementioned. In its place is an unofficial ode to corporations that lures us in with the gratuitous eighties nostalgia. Hey, remember Dire Straits? Remember Hulk Hogan? Oh man, wasn’t “A Team” a good show? Remember Nike? The shoe–not the heinous sweatshop labor accusations.

“Air” reveals the game-changing partnership between a then-rookie Michael Jordan and Nike’s fledgling basketball division in 1984 which revolutionized the world of sports and contemporary culture with the Air Jordan brand. “Air” follows the career-defining gamble of an unconventional team with everything on the line, the uncompromising vision of a mother who knows the worth of her son’s immense talent, and the basketball phenom who would become the greatest of all time.

A lot of “Air” is a decidedly cold and dull drama based around the conception of a product. That product would be the Nike “Air Jordans,” one of the premiere foot wear of the eighties and nineties that became a pop culture sensation. Affleck has everything in his corner including a huge ensemble cast, but none of it ever made me really care. That was one of the recurring questions I kept running in to. Who cares? Who cares about what a bunch of corporate suits did to take a multi million dollar corporation and turn it in to an even bigger company that made more millions?

I mean sure “Air” is good fodder for perhaps an ESPN television documentary, but it’s a “Rah! Rah! Hooray for capitalism!” tale that really didn’t need to be a feature film. There’s so much quippy dialogue, and inner office politics, and discussions about a lot of nostalgic elements from the eighties, all for what is just a product at the end of the day. It’d be almost like if Scorsese devoted a three hour drama to the creation of the McRib. Who cares? To make it even more blatant on how inherently slimy the movie feels, “Air” centers the crux of its narrative squarely on the primarily Caucasian executives planning on how they’re going to hook in potential basketball spokesmen.

Michael Jordan is noticeably nothing more than set dressing who barely has a presence in the actual narrative. Shouldn’t Jordan be the focus? Or at the very least, be given his own sub-plot? For all intents and purposes, the cast is dynamite, and the performances are top tier, but “Air” walks a thin line between corporate propaganda and self indulgent drama on the part of director Affleck. Sports fans and sneaker heads may find some value in learning about the creation of the one of the most successful sports marketing campaigns of all time. But for everyone else, you’re just better off re-visiting Affleck’s more ambitious works.