This past Monday, October 5th, was the fourth anniversary of the death of Steve Jobs. In the subsequent four years, there have been many interviews, books, documentaries, and films dedicated to the man, the myth, the iconic leader of Apple, but somehow it doesn’t seem like enough. Well — it doesn’t seem like overkill.
Steve Jobs was an interesting man who led an interesting life. Depending on whose account you want to believe he was either the Leonardo DiVinci of the modern age responsible for making technology an extension of oneself, or he was a smug narcissist of the highest degree. Most likely he was somewhere in between, and that kind of ‘tweener’ character is the kind of person that should be the subject of a movie.
The other big biopics of flawed geniuses that come to mind focus on musicians– specifically Ray Charles in Ray and Johnny Cash in Walk The Line. In both cases the protagonist is a misunderstood genius with some flaws; infidelity and drug addiction. The audience is put in the position to instantly forgive the main character. The audience knows they’re going to be ok in the end and this is just the journey to how they became the version we recognize. It’s ok to sweep all of the pain and hurt these characters cause those around them under the rug because while these movies are musical biopics, at their core these movies are love stories/redemption arcs.
The flaws of the character aren’t hidden, but they’re constantly forgiven. In Walk the Line we’re watching the linear story of Johnny Cash’s life from start to finish. We see his rise, fall, and redemption. When you’re watching such a poetic story, of course you’re likely to forgive him his trespasses.
Based on the trailers for Steve Jobs and the past work of those involved– especially screenwriter Aaron Sorkin– I don’t think we’re supposed to feel like we need to forgive Jobs for anything… I think we’re supposed to feel like it doesn’t matter what he thinks of anyone around him.
The structure of Steve Jobs as a movie is very different. It’s not linear in the traditional biopic sense. it takes place leading up to three very specific events in his life and the history of Apple– the Macintosh in 1984, the NeXT in 1988, and the iMac in 1998. Instantly, we have stakes. We are seeing three very specific points in time, so they have to matter immediately to keep the audience involved. We have to care or sit anxiously for the fallout. It’s an uncomfortable feeling, but luckily everyone on screen in Jobs’ presence looks uncomfortable as well, as if uneasy to be in the presence of someone who is playing chess while everyone is playing checkers. We the audience don’t have time to build up sympathy for Steve Jobs the character. In rapid succession you’re seeing both the zen master of technology and the evil genius who maaaaybe wasn’t the greatest dude to be around.
Directed by Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire), written by Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network), and starring the greatest cast of the year helmed by Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, and Seth Rogen, Steve Jobs isn’t a movie trying to convince us how to feel about about the man, the myth, the legend, the icon; it’s a movie showing us why he was important and why his vision continues to matter.
TL;DR: Steve Jobs shouldn’t be missed. Even if you hate Apple products, the performances, direction, and storytelling should be absolutely second to none.