By: Russ Matthews
For those who grew up in the Michael Jordan basketball era, there is little else most of us can remember about the game.
Chicago Bulls, Phil Jackson, and those shoes, the enviable Air Jordans. Despite the belief of many within the industry, few could have predicted how this player and the shoes that bear his name would change the way shoes are marketed. Even more unlikely would be their creation becoming the focus of a feature-length film directed by Ben Affleck (Argo).
Back in 1984, the basketball shoe world was dominated by Adidas and Converse. Despite their success in running shoes and other sports, Nike had a minimal impact on the hoops game. Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon) had been brought on at the shoe company to revitalise the division and help to increase market share. Since they were shackled by the industry’s standards, he had to establish a new way to market shoes and improve the company’s reputation. CEO Phil Knight (Ben Affleck) was frustrated with this side of the company and planned to eliminate the whole programme if things did not change.
This made Vaccaro risk the division and his career on a rookie player signed by the Chicago Bulls. Yet, Michael Jordan had every intention of signing with Adidas and was protected by his parents and agent. This meant the team at Nike had to take risks in their methods of reaching out to the young player. Once they discovered that the key to the deal was centred on Deloris Jordan (Viola Davis), Vacarro did all he could to win her over and have her discuss the future with her son. The rest is a fascinating business and personal journey for all involved that would eventually change history.
Unlike films that use product placement to raise capital for the film’s production, Air unapologetically focuses on the Nike shoe. As the director, Ben Affleck has to walk that fine line between story and marketing. Despite being a constant reminder of the power of this shoe firm, the Academy Award-winning director has taken Alex Convery’s screenplay and managed to deliver one of the most compelling dramas of the year. He leans into the story’s human element with Sonny Vaccaro, not Michael Jordan, at the centre while still celebrating the innovation that came from this groundbreaking deal.
Consumerism and the Stories Behind it
Understandably some critics may want to malign the focus on consumerism that defined the 1980s. Still, this narrative uncovers the unknown faces that risked their livelihood to bring this product to market. It does not hurt that Affleck has managed to recruit some of the best talent in Hollywood to deliver this business-centric tale. Jason Bateman, Chris Messina, Chris Tucker, and Viola Davis work to embody their roles without distracting from the overall story arc. Yet, the undeniable chemistry between the collaborative partners and friends, Affleck and Damon, provides the heart of the story of the Air Jordan. This pairing and the stellar cast show how they can make a film about Michael Jordan without having him in the movie.
Air proves that the best storytellers can deliver a great film when they bring together top talent and unearth the most compelling qualities of the tale. If you are considering if you should see the film, there are three words for you, Just Do It.*
Reel Dialogue: Consumerism
Consumerism is the idea that increasing the consumption of goods and services purchased in the market is always a desirable goal, and that a person’s well-being and happiness depend fundamentally on obtaining consumer goods and material possessions. – Investipedia
Have you ever heard or said the statement, “He who dies with the most toys wins?” It seems innocent enough, but it tends to imply that those with the most stuff are happier. Yet, most experts would say that it merely masks chronic dissatisfaction and jealousy that has proven to be unhealthy for the human soul. The building blocks of consumerism are greed, envy, and selfishness, which fuel the insatiable need to buy more things as a means of satisfaction.
The word consumerism is not found in the Bible, but the elements that make up this condition are addressed. Jesus said, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” – Luke 12:15
For those who struggle with this issue in their own lives, the cure begins with gratitude. Where consumerism is a condition that can never be fully satisfied, gratefulness allows people to be content with all they have been given.
But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. – 1 Timothy 6:6-8
*This review was not sponsored or sanctioned by Nike!
Article supplied with thanks to City Bible Forum.
All images: Movie stills
About the author: Russ Matthews is a film critic at City Bible Forum and Reel Dialogue. He has a passion for film and sparking spiritual conversations.