Nike Courts Jordan in Trailer for Ben Affleck’s AIR

Courtesy of Amazon Studios.

From Oscar-winning screenplays and tabloid-bait relationships to gravel-voiced Batflecks and award-winning turns behind the camera, Ben Affleck has had a long and winding road in Hollywood.  What’s next, after his dour Sadfleck meme-making turn at last week’s Emmys? A new trailer dropping for AIR, Affleck’s latest turn as director. Featuring an all-star cast with Affleck, Matt Damon, Viola Davis, Chris Tucker, Jason Bateman, Chris Messina, and Marlon Wayans, AIR details the unlikely but unforgettable partnership between Nike and Michael Jordan that became the billion-dollar industry of the “Air Jordan” Nike shoe brand.

AIR marks the fifth film directed by Affleck, his first effort behind the camera since 2016. Affleck garnered acclaim with his first few features behind the camera with 2007’s Gone Baby Gone, 2010’s The Town, and 2012’s Oscar Best Picture-winning Argo. After taking a break from directing to fulfill his role as Batman in Zach Snyder’s Justice League films, as well as star in Gavin O’Connor’s sports drama 2019’s The Way Back, Affleck here casts himself in the role of Nike CEO Phil Knight—dripped out in multicolor Nike gear and ski-slope sunglasses!

AIR reunites Affleck with Matt Damon playing the part of Nike executive Sonny Vaccaro, as he directs his long-time Boston friend and former collaborator for the first time. They will be hoping to recapture the magic that saw them win Best Screenplay honors for 1997’s Good Will Hunting. Oscar winner Viola Davis is cast as Delores Jordan, the headstrong mother of Michael Jordan who was instrumental in negotiations between her budding star and Nike. Jason Bateman joins the cast coming off his Ozark fame, as well as other supporting actors Marlon Mayans, Chris Tucker, and Chris Messina who will offer the film a comedic tone.

Viola Davis makes a phone call as Deloris Jordan in AIR

The trailer for AIR uses exposition from the opening moments to set the story in 1984 at Nike headquarters, where the fledgling the shoe brand is struggling to latch itself to big sports stars. Company CEO Phil Knight (Affleck) tasks his top executive Sonny Vaccaro (Damon) with finding a star to fit their shoes. Herein lies the humor inherent in the Air Jordan story: everyone knows it goes on to be the biggest partnership in sports equipment history. Affleck sets out to tell that story with one eye winking to the audience that each understands that. The drama and laughs are telling the “how” that story played out. Affleck appears to be channeling the serious-but-silly vibes Damon has given in recent performance in The Martian and Ford v. Ferrari.

“We build a shoe line around just him. I need the greatest basketball shoe that’s ever been made,”  says Damon’s Sonny Vaccaro, spelling out the goal of Nike to pair the best product they can create with a hopeful budding superstar NBA rookie. The trailer cuts to blueprints, and early model Air Jordan shoes. The big reveal of the name “Michael Jordan” to culminate Nike’s great plan brings the thesis of the AIR trailer into into full view. Affleck appears fully aware of the power of Jordan’s mythology, rarely—if ever—showing him in the trailer.

The AIR trailer presents an colorful ’80s aesthetic. Costumes and set designs match the flair of the time, as do tracking shots through as a dated office as Affleck cuts between scenes at Nike.  A cover of the hit 80’s song “Sister Christian” by Night Ranger underscores the lighter, nostalgic tone Affleck is aiming for.

Chris Tucker gestures as Howard White in AIR Photo:

AIR may not have the dramatic intensity of some of his other work as a director, but he Affleck has proven his competence working with actors and crew to craft compelling stories nonetheless. Davis will surely bring some dramatic weight to her role and how she interacts Matt Damon in the Nike/Jordan negotiations: Affleck frames the two in a medium shot at a picnic table highlighting the tension between them. To the avid sports fan, AIR’s story seems appropriate for Affleck’s sensibilities, illustrating just how an empire was built for such a cultural icon.

AIR movie poster with the film title and primary cast: Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Jason Bateman, Marlon Wayans, Chris Messina, Chris Tucker, and Viola Davis in AIR.
AIR movie poster: Courtesy of Amazon Studios

AIR is directed by Ben Affleck and written by Alex Convery. The film stars Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Jason Bateman, Chris Messina, Michael Maher, Marlon Mayans, Jay Mohr, Julius Tennon, with Chris Tucker and Viola Davis. AIR is produced by Amazon Studios and releases in theaters exclusively April 5, 2023.

Written by Seth Lamey

Film Studies graduate from Winona State University. Cinema management experience and multimedia film criticism/analysis work.

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