Steve Jobs: Film Review

Michael Fassbender as Steve Jobs
Michael Fassbender as Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs is an adaptation of the lengthy tome written by Walter Isaacson, which delves into the fascinating life of the man behind Apple. Directed by Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours) and written by Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing, The Social Network), the film takes a unique approach by focusing solely on the product launches of the Macintosh, NeXT, and iMac computers. Surprisingly, the unorthodox format succeeds by zeroing in on the man without wasting time on needless exposition. The result is an intriguing and entertaining movie that has strangely faltered at the box office.

To be honest, I’m a big Aaron Sorkin fan. He’s not a flawless writer and he definitely has a certain style (see Seth Myers’ Sorkin Sketch) that rubs some people the wrong way. But in my eyes, The West Wing and The Social Network are both exceptional credits on an already impressive resume. I went into Steve Jobs with an open mind but had a feeling it would be another strong script by Sorkin. And it was. As always, the dialogue is fast, witty, and at times poetic. But what really deserves recognition is Sorkin’s experiment of restricting the story to three specific product launches over a roughly 15-year span of Job’s career. Gone are the mainstays of traditional biopics: the subject’s youth, development into the person they become, regretful scenes as their life draws to a close. Steve Jobs proves that a biopic doesn’t need those elements to be a success. Ever a master of his craft, Sorkin manages to explore the eccentricities, faults, and legacy of Steve Jobs all without leaving the backstage of several auditoriums.

Steve heads for the stage.

The unusual structure of Steve Jobs works because the film has more to tell than the story of its subject. Giving the audience a complete account of the life of Steve Jobs was never the goal. Instead, the movie asks the question: why do moguls like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, or Elon Musk leave broken relationships in their wake? Is it possible to achieve their success without being selfish, cruel, and indifferent to others? Are these things forgivable after what they’ve contributed to society? By exploring these questions, Steve Jobs rises above the standard biopic and becomes a much more captivating film about astronomical success and the human condition.

Despite Steve Jobs enjoying an 85% fresh rating on RottenTomatoes (compared to 96% for The Social Network), it’s been unable to turn those reviews into box office results. After a limited release, the film went wide and brought in a soft $7 million during its first weekend – weak especially when compared to the $22 million brought in by The Social Network during it’s first outing. Estimates for the second weekend have Jobs dropping a huge 63% from it’s first. So what’s the deal? Some have speculated that the lack of a big lead could be the problem (Fassbender’s only big box office films have been ensembles like the X-Men franchise). Perhaps Walter Isaacson’s wildly popular book decreased interest (readers feeling they’d learned all they needed to know about Jobs). Whatever the reason, it remains a mystery. But with favorable reviews of both the film and the actors (Fassbender and surprisingly Seth Rogen), the movie may have a second chance come Oscar season. Here’s hoping a few awards could alleviate the pain from those box office numbers.

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