Despite an abundance of stunning panoramas, the Aeronauts, strangely, seldom feels euphoric.
The Aeronauts Synopsis
Scientist James Glaisher is royally scorned for his belief that science can someday predict the weather. In spite of this, Glaisher presses on with his most daring expedition, that of flying a hot-air balloon into the fringes of the (then unknown) troposphere to conduct measurements. For that purpose, he recruits Amelia Wren, a famous balloonist whose husband tragically died during a previous flight. As their balloon successfully soars to unprecedented heights, the duo experiences a variety of tribulations. Not all of their struggles involve the hostile, upper-atmosphere environment.
The Aeronauts stars two of my favourite British stars for the moment, as well as promises spectacular visuals. But truth be told, I wasn’t particularly excited about it. Actually, I only watched it last night because there was nothing else with the right timing.
Reason: In recent years, I’ve accepted that movie biopics can never be free of glaring controversy/flaws, one way or the other. Whatever the intent of the producers, the story must be reconditioned i.e. dramatized to sustain the attention of audiences. In turn, the end-results are often divisive; you either have truly thrilling adventures that border on fiction as far as history is concerned, or worse, you get utterly sanitised villains. The short of it, I sometimes wonder whether regulators would eventually require biopics to carry some sort of warning. Silly as it might sound, it seems necessary – some people do get their dose of “history” from movies.
With regards to such reconditioning i.e. rewriting, The Aeronauts does a reasonable balancing act. There’s the usual controversy over the omission of certain relevant historical characters. The composite character of Amelia Wren was also a little too composite for my liking – as in she felt like a completely different person at different parts of the movie. But overall, the audacity and determination of Glaisher’s historical expedition(s) come across. Needless to say, every other segment is also framed by glorious cloudscapes. Just because such visuals are no longer inaccessible to most of us doesn’t mean they are no longer able to thrill.
On the other hand, and I say this with reservation, the movie is strangely flat, particularly in the second half. In fact, the higher the balloon went, the more wearisome the movie was for me. Perhaps it’s pre-knowledge that Glaisher and Wren will ultimately survive. Or perhaps it’s the way certain elements have been over-dramatized. In spite of all that scorn by his compatriots, this version of Glaisher didn’t have much trouble, at all, garnering enthusiasm for his expedition. In other words, I didn’t feel the social disregard he supposedly faced. Everything before flight went so smoothly.
Coming back to the character of Amelia Wren, the feminine strength she represents is obvious but never emphasised; neither did she change anything by the movie’s end. (Had she done so, though, it would create a huge historical inaccuracy – thus what I wrote above) In summary, I think The Aeronauts succeeds in being cinematically entertaining but never does resolve the fundamental challenges of movie biopics. Needless to say, like many other such movies, it is also not something you should watch for a school report.