Steve Jobs 2015 – The film. Being binary
Sitting next to me last night on seat 7J, on the Emirates flight back from Dubai, you must have wondered. Is he a fan?
I confess. I have watched it in pieces over the last few days travelling across six legs over three countries. And I am going to watch it again on my next flight out to Kigali this Saturday.
I was never a fan of the man or the company. But I salute the products and the business, the revolution they unleashed, transforming our lives and the world around us. And I have nothing but respect for his vision, his insight and his ability to read both design and the future. You can’t take that away from him.
But to answer your question, no, I am not a fan. You may assume that the review I am about to pen, will be free from biases common to Apple and Steve Jobs followers. Yet, this would not be absolutely true.
For while I am not a fan of Mr. Jobs, Steve’s life and its context, especially his two stints at Apple defined an entire generation of technology professionals. I don’t fall in the group classified as the original technology generation, I belong to the one that followed. That dreamt dreams standing on the shoulders of giants who molded an era around their personalities.
So of the man, no. Of the story yes.
For it is a story that I would like to share with my children, when they are ready. Of ambition, of conflict, of what it takes to make a dent in the Universe. Of the price you have to pay for attempting what mortals would consider impossible. Of the curse of greatness. Of being binary.
I have seen the story from the sidelines. When the world witnessed with disbelief the turnaround Steve engineered at Apple as part of his second coming. I walked out amazed from every single Pixar film wondering the dichotomy that existed between two siblings that belonged to Jobs family. Of the innocence and purity at Pixar and the baggage and conflict at Apple. The impact the iPhone had on my children’s life. And when the time came I read Isacson’s Jobs, Wozniak’s iWoz and Schlender and Tetzeli’s Becoming Steve Jobs cover to cover. I know it is a great story because it doesn’t just define Steve’s life, it defines the lives we have lived; the dreams we have dreamt.
So no, this is not going to be a neutral review. While my biases may differ from the many Apple fans I call friends, they are still biases.
Of the two jobs movies, I clearly lean towards the Danny Boyle-Fassbender 2015 version over the Stern- Kutcher 2013 edition. While Ashton Kutcher did a great job in 2013 it is only when you see Micheal Fassbender as Jobs you realize what Kutcher missed out. Fassbender’s Jobs is infinitely deeper, heartfelt and intense. The 2015 Jobs more than anything is really about Fassbender being Jobs for two hours. With that intensity the 2013 Kutcher Jobs pales. While Ashton carried remarkable likeness to Steve and mimics him to physical perfection, it is Fassbender who really brings him to life.
The same holds true about Steve Wozniak. The Seth Rogen Steve Wozniak is a completely different animal compared to Josh Gad’s Wozniak in 2013. Eloquent, powerful, passionate. Strong enough to stand up to Steve outside of engineering design. But there is a gap. Given the image conveyed in iWoz by Wozniak himself, I am not sure Wozniak would have ever said the lines attributed to him in the film. I can see him saying, “It’s not binary?” but did he really say “What do you do?” to Steve?
That is where the real challenge for both films is. Fassbender and Kutcher both brought Steve Jobs to life but “Is that life accurate?” The movies were plagued by fandom thumb downs. The thumb down was partly driven by the license taken by the directors in using events and incidences that never happened. The long exchanges between Wozniak and Steve on acknowledging the Apple II team, the 39 sharks, the last handshake with Sculley, the conversations with Lisa and Hoffman and a number of other scenes were used as creative devices to communicate aspects of Steve that were otherwise not captured by the books written about him. Sorkin himself says that much of the dialogue is fiction despite the film being loosely based on Isacson’s authorized biography of Jobs.
My initial reaction when I heard about the Fassbander film, was “Oh God, not another Steve Jobs movie.” I know, I know, I am not a fan. I am also not a fan of Fassbender, Rogen or Kate Winslet, so it was more like a case of three strikes and you are out. But last week when Fawzia sat down to watch it, I caught glimpses of it. Enough to make me take a seat and watch the last twenty minutes or as much of it you can watch with three kids running around.
And truth be told I was intrigued. This was a little different. Overlapped but different. For one thing the cinematography by Alwin Kuchler breath taking, the sound track for the finale, haunting.
Then last night when I saw it again beginning to end, I realized what a masterful job Boyle and Sorkin have done. How do you take 656 pages of a complex life lived by a complex man and fit it into 122 minutes. You do it by focusing on three launch events in 1984, 1988 and 1998 that defined the man and weave his relationships with people who loved him, disliked him and hated him in between. You weave the whole awkwardness with Lisa as a central theme in the film so that you can see the difference between the products the man made and the one thing he miserably failed at.
I know they could have done a different version. There is no mention of Pixar, nor the iPhone or the iPad. A version that I may have liked better. But take a step back for a second. Steve lived a larger than large life. There will be no version of his life out there that is going to keep all of his fans or non-fans happy. Taking that into account, even if you have never heard of Apple computers or Steven P Jobs, Steve Jobs is a beautiful film.
I said it before when the 2013 Kutcher version came out. I will say it again. It doesn’t matter who you are, fan or not, Apple user or not, Pixar movie goer or not, take two hours out and watch the film. It is as much the story of our generation as it is Steve’s.