Air is a 2023 biographical sports drama directed by Ben Affleck and written by Alex Convery.
Based on the story of how Nike signed basketball icon Michael Jordan, the star-studded cast includes Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Jason Bateman, Marlon Wayans, Chris Messina, Chris Tucker, and Viola Davis.
But what is the film all about, and is Air worth watching?
What Is Air About?
The film opens in 1984, when Nike is on the brink of closing down its basketball shoe division due to low sales.
In an attempt to salvage the division, the company's Marketing VP Rob Strasser and CEO Phil Knight task Sonny Vaccaro, Nike's basketball talent scout, to come up with a new player to endorse Nike's basketball shoes.
As the executives considered candidates from the 1984 NBA draft, they initially ruled out Michael Jordan, the third pick.
However, Vaccaro was convinced that the then-rookie Michael Jordan, despite being a fan of Adidas and too expensive for the division's meagre budget, was the generational talent Nike needed to revitalize its brand.
Vaccaro travelled to Wilmington, North Carolina, where he convinced Michael's mother, Deloris, that Nike would give Jordan all the attention he would not receive from his preferred brands, Adidas and Converse.
With her blessing, Vaccaro and Strasser prepared their pitch, while shoe designer Peter Moore created a prototype shoe named “Air Jordan” after Nike's Air Sole technology.
But with Vaccara and Jordan's agent David Falk constantly butting heads, the deal with Jordan nearly fell through.
Things worsened when Vaccaro learned that Adidas has matched Nike's offer and included a Mercedes Benz 380SL.
However, there was one condition that Nike was prepared to agree to which swung the deal in their favour.
Michael Jordan would earn a percentage of every Air Jordan sold.
Ultimately, the shoe exceeded Knight's expectations of $3 million in sales, earning $126 million in the first year and becoming a steady source of income for Jordan.
It was an unbelievable game-changing partnership that would change the sports world forever.
Air Official Trailer
Is Air Worth Watching?
Like many people today, I decided to watch Air because it was new to Amazon Prime, had a great cast, and I thought it would be interesting.
What I didn't expect was to like it so much. With a run time of nearly two hours, this could have been a slog, but honestly, it whizzed by.
And despite knowing the outcome (I mean honestly, who hasn't heard of Air Jordan's???) it was still a really interesting story and so well scripted that the process of signing Jordan became fascinating.
One aspect that I really appreciated was that other than a bit of back-and-forth between Vaccaro and Falk, there is no ‘bad guy' in this film.
The team in Nike's fledgling basketball division were all on board with Vaccaro's reasoning and went all out to create the Air Jordan brand.
So not only is it an incredible story, but it also has depth and exudes positivity, teamwork and faith that you don't normally get to see in these types of films.
It has a solid script, great use of archive footage, encapsulates the 80s perfectly and Matt Damon is his usual brilliant self.
Plus I can attest to it being a great film for couples or families who are looking for something good to watch.
It's a 3-pointer from Affleck and Amazon.
Why Is Michael Jordan Not In Air?
The legalities of Michael Jordan's image rights are a minefield, and although he does feature in the film, you never see his face and only hear his voice once.
But this is actually to the film's benefit because it's not about Michael Jordan.
It's about Nike signing Michael Jordan. And interestingly, it's Jordan's mother that had a bigger hand in that decision.
That said, Jordan himself played a huge part in bringing Air to the big screen.
He met with Affleck before production began and gave the project his blessing, asking for certain changes to the script.
These changes included the inclusion of George Raveling, his assistant coach on the 1984 United States men's Olympic basketball team, and Howard White, vice president of Nike's Jordan Brand and his personal friend.
He also asked for the removal of Tinker Hatfield as a character, as Hatfield, despite working at Nike at the time, was not involved with creating the Air Jordan.
Jordan requested the roles of his parents to be extended, and the casting of Viola Davis to play his mother, Deloris Jordan, who was instrumental in his decision to meet and sign a deal with Nike, was his idea.
Air Movie Release Date
Air was originally slated for a streaming-only release on Amazon Prime Video, but Amazon Studios eventually decided to release the film theatrically following strong results from test screenings.
The film was theatrically released in the United States on April 5, 2023, and was later released on Amazon Prime Video on May 12, 2023.
Within a month of its cinematic release, Air had grossed $88 million worldwide and was well-received by critics and audiences alike, with a 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and an average score of 73 out of 100 on Metacritic.
Air Movie Cast
Matt Damon as Sonny Vaccaro, a basketball talent scout working for Nike
Ben Affleck as Phil Knight, the CEO and co-founder of Nike
Jason Bateman as Rob Strasser, Marketing VP at Nike's basketball division
Chris Messina as David Falk, Jordan's Sports Agent
Viola Davis as Deloris Jordan, Michael Jordan's mother who championed her son's immense talent
Julius Tennon as James Jordan Sr., Michael's father
Damian Young as Michael Jordan
Matthew Maher as Peter Moore, the creator of the first Air Jordan trainer
Marlon Wayans as George Raveling
Jay Mohr as John Fisher
Chris Tucker as Howard White
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