Steve Jobs did not invent the iMac. Or the iPhone. Or the iPod. He never wrote code nor did he develop a functional operating system. But Jobs seemed to be in tune with what people wanted. Computers, to him, were something that should be centered around the user and not just technology for technology’s sake. That’s what Jobs understood and what others did not. It still seems surreal, nearly five years after his death, that the products that Jobs is credited with play such an integral part of our lives and that shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon. I write this on my iMac, with my iPad to my left, my iPhone to my right and my iPod charging for my impending trip to the gym. To say that Apple has gotten some of my money over the last fifteen years is somewhat of an understatement. Jobs might not have technically “invented” any of the products I mentioned, as the charismatic face of Apple – he’s the one who brought these products to the masses. Based on the best selling biography, Steve Jobs is the second feature film (the first being Jobs, starring Ashton Kutcher) in the last few years. There’s a documentary out there that is a lot more fact filled, Steve Jobs: Ghost in the Machine. If you want to see the real man, that’s where you should start. Director Danny Boyle and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin pull out all the stops for this one, so put down your iDevice and let’s see how it all began…sort of.
Steve Jobs isn’t your typical biopic. It doesn’t start with him as a child and we see him get some interesting, mind blowing idea that will ultimately change the world. Rather this film is set in three acts, each one shows us the time before a particular product launch. We begin in 1984, just a few days after the infamous Super Bowl ad that put Macintosh on the map. We meet the main players: Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender), Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen), Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet) and John Sculley (Jeff Daniels). Tidbits are learned here and there, we see Jobs’ ex with daughter Lisa who he refuses to accept as his own. We learn of the attention to detail that Jobs had like the Mac not being able to say “Hello” and generally see what kind of person he is. Jumping forward four years we now see Jobs after he’s been fired from Apple at the launch of his company: Next. We see some of the same trials he goes through and has seemingly learned nothing from before. Leaping forward a decade we see Jobs as he’s now back at Apple at the launch of the iMac event. Clearly we know what would happen after that, it would usher in an era of greatness for Apple that’s still yet to subside. If life is a journey, we follow Jobs through part of it.
Steve Jobs did change the world. I’m not taking that away from him. He’s the face of so many devices that so many of us use each and every day, it’s nearly impossible to differentiate the man from the product. Danny Boyle’s film doesn’t paint a great picture of Jobs. He was a driven perfectionist – a megalomaniac to say the least. He had a vision of computers and devices being more personal to the user, yet treated those around him with little or no emotion. Ironic? Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin took a lot of liberties with the script, but it’s a great script. Those who remember The West Wing in its prime or The Social Network will no doubt catch a few “Sorkin-isms.” Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet are the ones who steal the show. They’re not the epitome of their real-life counterparts, rather an exaggeration of them. Fassbender doesn’t really bear a striking resemblance to Jobs, though he becomes him by the end of the film. If you want to get inside the mind of Jobs, this might not be the way to do it, but if you want to see some amazing performances and be entertained for two hours – this is.
Video: How’s it look?
Each of the three acts has its own unique look and feel. We begin in 1984 where the film was shot in 16mm which gives the movie a very grainy and granulated look to it. It’s not a fault of the transfer, rather the filmmakers who wanted to give it a bit of differentiation from the other segments in the film. The second has a more polished look to it, shot in 35mm we lose a majority of the grain, but it’s not the shining example of Blu-ray that we’re used to. The 1998 segment was shot on a digital camera that looks flawless. This is what we’ve been accustomed to with other films and I applaud the filmmakers for taking this approach. The 2.40:1 AVC HD image, as mentioned above, is a bit hard to classify with a score since it encompasses three different types of film all combined into one movie. The majority of the movie takes place indoors, on a stage with only fleeting scenes seeing actual daylight. That said, detail (particularly in the third act) looks amazing, we can see the perpetual beard worn by Fassbender as he resembles the Jobs we identify with.
Audio: How’s it sound?
For more of an authentic sound, they broke out the old school synthesizers. These can’t be used with computers and instead had to be played by hand (the nerve!). The first scene has a very unique and robotic “beat” to it that really sets the mood and tone for the film. Obviously as the movie progresses, we get more of a traditional score, but it’s all computer-centric to say the least. Vocals are crisp. Fassbender does a pretty good job with Jobs’ vocals and Kate Winslet’s Polish accent with Joanna is second to none. There aren’t a lot of ambient effects other than the audience during the product launch as they applaud and at one point stomp the floor. The DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack does a fine job of re-creating this experience. It’s a very subdued and interesting mix.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Those expecting a plethora of supplements will probably be let down. We only have a handful on the disc, but I will say that they’re more than worth the price of admission.
Audio Commentary – Director Danny Boyle takes the first track solo and does a fine job of covering the two hour running time. Boyle is a bit hyper at times, but manages to convey a very articulate and information-filled commentary track. He talks of casting, bringing this to screen and just about everything in between. If you watched the featurette, a lot of the material is repeated but this is a pretty good listen.
Audio Commentary – Writer Aaron Sorkin and Editor Elliot Graham cover the second track which was a bit on the dry side, but then again we’re listening to an editor and a writer. It’s a lot more technical (which I personally loved) than Boyle’s track, but still worth the price of admission.
Inside Jobs: The Making of Steve Jobs – Like the movie itself, this is divided into three parts (cleverly listed as “Part One”, “Part Two” and “Part Three”). I’ll just review the entire thing as one since they all seem to have the same feel to them. Running at about 90 minutes, these have interviews with most of the major players in the film – Jeff Daniels, Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Danny Boyle and Seth Rogen. The physical look resembles an Apple ad, actually. It’s a stark white background with the cast and crew churning away in front of the camera. Pretty much everything is covered here from casting to filming locations as well as what the actors did to prepare for their roles. It’s a nice supplement to the dual commentary tracks and fans should really enjoy this well-made segment.
The Bottom Line
Love him or hate him, Steve Jobs made his mark on the world and we cannot deny that. While this movie might not paint the best picture of him, it’s interesting and entertaining. Danny Boyle remains one of my favorite directors and the top notch cast has created something that’s both intertwining and educational. The Blu-ray both looks and sounds good and while a bit light on supplements, what’s included is certainly interesting.