Let me get this out of the way real quick. I am not a fan of Apple products. It’s nothing personal, I just don’t like the way they conduct business, build their devices, or anyone they parade in front of the stage as their current figurehead. Do you know what’s funny about that? I grew up using an Apple II. My elementary school was one of the first (and only) ones to get the Macintosh instead of the top of the line IBM computers. An iPhone was even my first smartphone. All that said, after I got a taste of Google’s Android platform, I was hooked.
Anyway, enough about my personal feelings (of which I could go into a lot more detail), but I’m sure those meetings I was in with The Evil Galactic Empire…I mean Apple, were bugged and video taped, so I don’t want to get into any trouble.
Like I said, personal feelings aside, it’s hard to argue with the importance of Steve Jobs and his legacy. Now some put him in categories along with Leonardo da Vinci or Copernicus, but I just cannot swallow that particular flavor of Kool-Aid. What I will give him is that he knew talent and how to exploit it. He also knew consumers and what they wanted.
It’s odd to be discussing a movie about someone who died such a short time ago, but when you think about it, that’s pretty impressive. Steve Job’s legacy not only spawned two movies after his death, but they both were filmed and released within five years of his death. Again, I can say I don’t like Apple, but you can’t argue with that type of fan base and legacy from one of its founders. That’s another thing that really gets me, his legacy has almost become something of mythological proportions. I’m quite sure you could ask many people on the street and without pause they would tell you “Steve Jobs invented the iPhone”. From what I understand, he could even write code. He was just a marketing genius. All the research I’ve done for this review has come up so murky that you would expect it to come from a polluted lake. I really thought someone would have the definitive truth on this man, but the accounts are so vastly different that I really don’t know what to say. He was either a Saint or a Demon. Let me tell you how Director Danny Boyle portrays him.
Steve Jobs is broken up into three very specific acts. They are all tied around the launches of a product (the Macintosh, the Next Cube, and finally the iMac). It’s actually perfectly suited for the film. Danny Boyle uses the narrative of the half hour or so before the launch event to tell his story. Now none of this could be accomplished without the amazingly quick dialogue written by Aaron Sorkin.
Now if you’re familiar with Sorkin’s work (The Social Network, Moneyball, and of course the brilliant TV series The West Wing) then you’ll be very familiar with his lightning quick banter and the constant motion of the actors. This is where I can’t gush enough about the film. There is not a single word that is unnecessary or wasted in the film’s two hour runtime. I’m sure there are plenty of scenes left on the editing room floor, but what’s left is nothing except for witty, crucial, and vibrant dialogue.
After just having such a speedy dialogue, many people could get lost and ignore the brilliant performances by the actors. Michael Fassbender does a fantastic job of coming off as the most charming asshole you would ever meet. According to some sources, this is exactly who Steve Jobs was, the worst possible man to work with. The employees even gave out awards to congratulate the employee who could stand up to him the most. In the film, you find yourself on multiple occasions wanting to strangle the arrogant SOB. Even with this, you know that his vision presents exactly what we have today: computers the size of sticky notes, millions of audio files streaming straight to our pockets, and laptops (like the one I’m typing on this very second) as slim as a stack of papers. As I said before, who knows what actually occurred throughout Job’s tenure in the technology industry, but he certainly contributed to the way we interact and use technology. That’s why it is really hard to simply dismiss his horrific personality traits in the film. Maybe that’s just the stereotypical example of what true genius looks like in our culture, but Fassbender pulls it off remarkably.
Now Magneto wasn’t the only star of this film. Kate Winslet played off Fassbender’s Jobs very well. As with any good Sorkin dialogue, it takes two to tongue twist, and Winslet responds amazingly as Jobs’ friend (if he had any) and marketing director Joanna Hoffman. Able to hold her own against Fassbender’s Jobs is just a treat. It’s worth noting that Mrs. Hoffman won the aforementioned award with dealing with Jobs for many years in a row. As far as the actors go, their chemistry was just incredible. I hope others in Hollywood recognized this and will find a way to pair the two in the future.
The rest of the cast was well rounded. With such talent as Jeff Daniels and Seth Rogen…wait, what? Yes, the man consistently higher than a 747 has a serious role in this film as the great Steve Wozniak (or The Great and Powerful Woz). Now, I knew this man’s name, but I had no idea the impact he had on personal computing. Like I said earlier about Jobs, Wozniak not only had the vision but he had the talent to put it together and make it run, even in color. At any rate, I have to give a ton of credit to Rogen here. He didn’t have a joint or bong in his hand throughout the whole movie and still managed to make me laugh and enjoy his performance. Rogen was even able to make me forget about all of his past roles and portray someone who knew Jobs and was his equal, no, his better, technologically speaking.
Steve Jobs really embodies a philosophy about film with which I’ve wanted to discuss for a while. I believe there are really very few types of movies. The first is a movie that is critically acclaimed but more or less unwatchable by normal people. There are a slew of examples, but just know these are the movies that win award after award but are only released in that theater with two screens and an army of Hipsters guarding the door to keep out anyone not wearing plaid.
The next type of film are those that are critically acclaimed and are very watchable and relatable to the general consumer. This is where Steve Jobs fits. Everyone involved in this film sees to it that you will enjoy what you’re watching and not regret the last few hours of your life. Unfortunately, these types of movies often have the terrible side-effect of making no money. The last time I looked, this film had only grossed $9.8M since it premiered and for a two week run, that’s pretty poor, especially with how many screens it ran on. Most would worry that it is due to the subject being uninteresting, but the 700 million iPhones sold (as of March 2015), you can’t tell me no one was interested in the life of “its creator”. Whatever the reason for the financial failure of this film, I was thoroughly impressed with it.
After my viewing and while doing my research for this review, I found a quote by Mr. Jobs that I found pretty interesting. He often said, “I want to put a ding in the Universe“. I admire the ambition there. While the Universe is a bit too vast, from what I saw in this film, taken at face value, Jobs certainly made a ding in the World.
Didn’t read my fancy words, here is the short version:
Absolutely everyone involved in this picture brings their “A game” and it really shows. Every moment presented in front of you tells a story of a passionate and flawed man who cared very little for the individual but cared a whole lot about the future, his vision, and even the mass consumer. Enjoy Steve Jobs in any medium you can. It doesn’t have to be at the theater, but you would be doing yourself a favor by watching. Maybe there is a poignant lesson here with it failing in theaters. You might watch it on your iPhone.