Air Sports

Ben Affleck’s Air Is the Future of Sports Movies

Ben Affleck’s new film Air is about the business relationship between Nike and Michael Jordon, and it represents the future of sports movies

There has been no shortage of exciting new trailers in 2023, and among them is the upcoming Prime Video film Air, directed by Ben Affleck, who will also star in the film. The film contains several popular actors, including Matt Damon, Jason Bateman and recent EGOT winner Viola Davis. But more important than that, it chronicles how Nike paired with Michael Jordan to revitalize the Nike brand and change the future of athletic wear and sports as a whole.

But what’s fascinating about the film is how it speaks to the future of sports movies as a genre. Like all genres, sports movies have various waves of popularity. But what Air is doing is not just adding to the catalog but representing a shift in focus that could define the genre in a new direction. Michael Jordan, the character, will not be featured in the film at all, and considering his foundational role in the importance of the story, that is a bold choice. But it signifies the change from focusing on the sport to the business side of athletics.

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Ben Affleck’s Air Makes a Sports Movie Out of Business

Sports movies are traditionally dramatizations of the natural tension and conflicts that exist in real sporting events and match the pace and excitement of the real thing to the structure of a film. It can be fictional stories like The Replacements or based on actual events like Miracle, but in most cases, the main focus is ultimately the sports event. And any character work, either comedy or drama, feeds into that. Air seems to be challenging this precedent and treading new ground for the future of sports movies.

Films like Moneyball and Uncut Gems have done something similar in the past, where the main focus is the character drama and the business around the sport. However, the story metrics and climax are inextricable from the big game. Air will not feature Michael Jordan as a character, meaning this sports movie is entirely about the business of his shoe line and not how he actually plays the game. His skills are only relevant to how they contribute to sales and the business side of his partnership with Nike. So, unlike those other films, there won’t be a climactic game that ties together the drama of the rest of the story. That makes this a sports movie without any sports.

Air isn’t the first film to attempt this, either. Draft Day, starring the late Chadwick Boseman, was also about the business side of a sports organization. However, there was still a heavy reliance on the importance of the actual players and how they function as athletes rather than business assets.

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Air Will Make Sports Movies Like Creed III a Thing of the Past

Michael B. Jordan as Adonis, gloved and ready to fight, in Creed III.

In contrast to Air, Creed III is a traditional sports movie releasing in 2023, but it’s not the future of the genre in the same way that Air is poised to be. Creed III is part of a long lineage of the Rocky franchise, a defining series of the sports movie genre. Its release is more a product of the modern attachment to franchises rather than the current status of sports movies. Therefore, despite the massive release Creed III will inevitably get, it’s not a fair assessment of what the future will look like.

Creed III is more significant as a franchise installment than it is as a sports movie, as it is a reflection of its lineage. It will be Michael B Jordan’s directorial debut, and just like Sylvester Stallone, he’s stepping behind the camera while staying on as the central character for the franchise. On the other hand, Air is continuing and cementing a new direction for the genre without the baggage of a legacy.

Based on Air’s trailer and the knowledge that Michael Jordan will not appear as a character, it’s clear the film is ushering in a new era for sports movies. Instead of focusing on sports, the next period will be about the business aspect while maintaining the tension and conflict sports movie are known for.

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