Movie Review: Steve Jobs



R  |  122 min

Director: Danny Boyle
Writers: Aaron Sorkin (screenplay), Walter Isaacson (book)
by Jason Koenigsberg

The biggest problem with the new biopic about Steve Jobs, not so cleverly titled Steve Jobs, is not the fact that Michael Fassbender looks nothing like the late Apple CEO, but that he is written as such an unsophisticated character. Jobs is portrayed as a visionary with tunnel vision. He only cares about himself and his products and nothing about the people that helped him get to where he was such a revered figure of modern technology.

It also suffers from familiarity with The Social Network (2010). Both films are true stories about unsavory and brilliant men that changed the world with their innovations in computers, and Aaron Sorkin who won an Academy Award for his Social Network screenplay wrote both films. Unfortunately Steve Jobs feels like leftovers and is inferior to The Social Network in every way.

Directed by Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire) the film opens up with Arthur C. Clarke, the writer of 2001: A Space Odyssey, talking in front of a bunch of enormous ancient computer models about how in the year 2001, computers will be a vital part of people’s lives. We then cut to our title character backstage in Cupertino, California in 1984 (another important year for science fiction) about to unveil the new Apple product. The direction of Steve Jobs was well done. I liked the grainy VHS look of the opening scene; it looked like it was shot in the ‘80’s. The film stock gradually cleans up and improves as the film progresses forward in Jobs’ life. There was also a great scene that utilized parallel editing between Fassbender and Jeff Daniels where we see two arguments they had at two separate times intercut together. That was a riveting display of great acting and editing.

The score by Daniel Pemberton was nothing special. It was noticeable at times that he was trying to emulate the Oscar winning music by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross from The Social Network and coming up short. The best moments were some scenes of dialogue that went with no score, allowing the actors to carry the scene on their own.

The acting is pretty good, but not great considering the pedigree Steve Jobs boasts. Michael Fassbender is first-rate as usual, it is not his fault that he looks very little like the real Steve Jobs. Seth Rogen plays Steve Wozniak as a lovable goofball, the complete opposite of Fassbender’s Jobs. Jeff Daniels and Michael Stuhlbarg are also very good in their small roles. The weakest performance was oddly enough Kate Winslet whose shoddy Polish accent goes in and out during all of her scenes.

The biggest problem with Steve Jobs is Sorkin’s script. The movie goes out of its way to only show Jobs as a rigorous, one-dimensional workaholic scumbag. Early on we see him argue with a woman over whether her child is his daughter or not (she is, no big spoiler there) and he is immediately established as a vindictive, cowardly man who is afraid of his fatherly responsibilities. For a man who was so brilliant and lived such a complex life, his prestige biopic makes him such an uncomplicated character. The emotions from this summers Pixar movie Inside Out were more multi-faceted than Sorkin’s Steve Jobs.

The opening scene was such an unpleasant argument I was grateful when it was over, but then it just jumps ahead to another scene in 1988 and once again it is just as unpleasant with Steve Jobs arguing backstage before the unveiling of a new Apple product. That is all the movie is, a series of unpleasant arguments the Steve Jobs has with other people backstage before a big presentation. It is pretty much three long scenes with the same characters, one in 1984, the second act in 1988 and then 1998, all taking place backstage. That is supposed to pass for a great screenplay? Come on Sorkin, you’re better than that.

However I would have forgiven Steve Jobs if it were not so painfully noticeable that it had an agenda. The filmmakers were driven to portray Jobs as an egomaniacal sleazebag. He was much more successful dissecting the character of Mark Zuckerberg played by Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network. We understood that Zuckerberg was trying to put on a façade to impress people and protect himself from getting hurt or taken advantage of so he would have the upper hand over his wealthier peers. In this film the script tries to make a correlation between Steve Jobs’ control freak tendencies with the fact that he was adopted and did not have any control over his parents rejecting him at birth. Pretty weak link when they could have explored much deeper into a brilliant mans psyche.

Steve Jobs the man did so much to change the world and how it uses technology. I typed this review on a Macbook pro and the internet as we know it would not be as pervasive in our lives if not for Jobs. This movie only touches the tip of the iceberg on who Steve Jobs really was because it was too agenda driven to make him out to be nothing more than just a socially inept egomaniac.

Below is the trailer for The Social Network. A superior film in every way to Steve Jobs.

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