Is there any evidence that Scorsese really indented to criticize capitalism, etc?
i'm sure there is a famous quote to support what i'm about to say..
i don't think anyone can answer that, but i'll try anyway. as is well known among artists, a lot of them say "i didn't think about it that much". this isn't to mean they didn't intend for their work to hav meaning, rather their meaning is inherent in the conscious process of going with their instincts.
so what we see here is scorsese at the top of his game. in his earlier days the apparent obviousness of his meaning was a symptom of his youth, he hadn't integrated his philosophies well enuff so that they would go easily undetected. in other words, he would think about his meaning more, and consequently this would be reflected in what critics now perceive as a "purer" movie.
to put this into context with the aviator in particular, as with all great artists who get better with age, i would wager that scorsese continues to think less
about the meaning of his films and trust his own instinct --- ultimately, and this is my point, the essence of his own vision must meet the essence of the story.
this after all is a story about a person, who lived in pursuit of his dreams, however implausible, and encountered inevitable pitfalls. scorsese's touch is to find redemption in this character, and he finds it in hughes' essence: the embodiment of the capitalist ideal, as a reflection of the human spirit.