Admitted, Steve Jobs has been an inspiration for me during a larger part of my life. I remember still vividly all the excitement before the Apple presentations after the man’s return to Apple in 1997 as ‘iCEO’. A wiser man, knowing how to avoid the mistakes during his first time at Apple but still driven in every aspect to make ‘a dent in the universe’ as he would like to say himself.
In 2010 it became obvious that Steve Jobs was starting to lose his battle with his life threatening disease, but his passing in October 2011 was still shocking and one deeply felt around the world of technology. Steve Jobs was not only the most successful entrepreneur in the world of IT technology, in the years before his passing he was at the top of his game with revolutionary products like the iPhone and iPad and inventive new ways of distribution and sales of software (iTunes and AppStore).
Because of these circumstances it is understandable that the world saw after October 2011 a stream of products, most noticeable books, documentaries and movies to understand and memorise this remarkable person. One of the high lights of these events was supposed to be the movie ‘Steve Jobs‘ directed by Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire) and distributed by Sony Universalis.
As I entered the movie theatre (Pathe Buitenhof, Den Haag) I was surprised by the amount of visitors. From what I read in the news the movie was not really popular in The United States and left cinemas soon. This is usually a sign that such a movie is doing even worse in the Netherlands, but to my surprise the theatre was sold out at a rather irregular time (17.00 at the evening of Sinterklaas, one of the most popular times for families to gather).
The movie evolves around 3 decisive moments in the career of Steve Jobs: the 1984 launch of the original Macintosh, the 1988 launch of the Next computer and finally the launch of the iMac in 1998. This means that a visitor who is not really that much acquainted with the life and works of Steve Jobs certainly will not get a clear picture of a timeline about Job’s career: the hisotircal events literally come flashing by in seconds. Instead the movie focuses on the emotional clashes with a few important people in his life. First there is his former girlfriend that had a child from Steve Jobs, Christa Brennan and daughter Lisa. Christa is being portrayed as the cranky type , always in pursue of Job’s money. The evolving relationship between Jobs and Lisa herself is clearly one of the more interesting aspects of the movie, especially when Jobs in one of the final scenes admits that the LiSA computer was named after her and was not an acronym for ‘Local Integrated System Architecture’.
Then there is Steve Wozniak, ‘The Woz’ Job’s partner he started Apple with . Wozniak is recognised for his genius and participation for the development of the first Apple I and Apple II computer. Yet already in 1984 (!) he also is irritating Jobs as he want the Apple II team to be mentioned in the 1984 Macintosh presentation, where the Macintosh represents the future of the company and the Apple II the past, although still Apple’s moneymaker at the time . But it even gets worse, because Wozniak is still around in 1998 with the same request for Jobs (to mention some of the original team Apple II members in his keynote). This is not only completely unbelievable, but also becomes a somewhat boring aspect of the movie.
The interaction with John Sculley (performed by Jeff Daniels), the CEO from Pepsi who Jobs invited to come and work for Apple is the most interesting of these encounters, although has very little to do with actual events that happened. It can also be confusing for the visitor who is less informed about the relationship between the two, especially when the are discussion about whether Jobs was actually fired or stepped down on his own initiative. Also is Sculley repeatedly nagging about the ‘skinheads’ that were in the famous Macintosh Superbowl ad from 1984 and there are some confusing discussions if Apple’s board wanted to cancel the airing of the advertisement.
This brings me to the main mood and weak point of the movie. By the time we are in 1998 there are still the same people showing up with their same -often rather boring- arguments, there are only few twists to keep the story interesting and going. And remember all these events take place minutes before Job’s presentations. Knowing the perfectionist Steve Jobs it is impossible that he would even have these events happen right before a presentation. So if you can set aside all these non-historical events and are more interested in the emotional aspects and developments of Job’s character this movie might be for you. On the other hand if you want to get a picture of how Apple became the largest and most successful company in the world and how Steve Jobs contributed to that , I recommend that you go and see the 2013 movie with Aston Kutcher (‘Jobs‘), a better choice in my opinion.