With high expectations, I went to see the new Steve Jobs movie earlier this week with some friends. Penned by Aaron Sorkin and directed by Danny Boyle, the movie seemed like a surefire hit. Especially given the tremendous job Sorkin did on The Social Network, I was anticipating a similarly riveting movie going experience.
The reality was the exact opposite. In a word, the movie is boring. It’s dreadfully boring.
As advertised, the entire movie consists of just three scenes, each set before a major product announcement from Steve Jobs. While this type of scheme is clever in theory, it falls horribly flat in practice.
Now one of the underlying problems with the film is that there’s rarely any context to what is happening on the the screen. We’re never told or shown why we should care about any of the products — the Mac, the NeXT Cube, the iMac — that Jobs is introducing. That would be easy to overlook if the film instead focused on the character that is Jobs, leaving the products themselves as peripheral items meant to help frame Jobs’ persona. Unfortunately, the movie falls flat in this regard as well. If anything, it plays out as a set of disparate scenes clumsily woven together with Jobs’ relationship with his daughter positioned as a unifying thread.
The fundamental problem with the movie, even if we cast aside any number of gripes about its historical inaccuracies, is that it’s simply not engaging. We don’t truly get a grasp of who Jobs is and what motivates him. Aside from Kate Winslet, who plays the role of Jobs’ assistant, none of the characters are particularly memorable. Woz, for instance, is depicted as nothing more than a human mosquito, constantly peppering and bugging Jobs to publicly acknowledge the team that worked on the Apple II.
There are a few brief moments when the film appears on the verge of picking up steam, but these are few and far in between. If anything, the rare moments when the dialogue actually become interesting only serve to remind viewers how completely uninteresting the movie as a whole is.
Additionally, many parts of the movie feel uncomfortably forced. Perhaps that is simply a byproduct of Sorkin trying to cram the essence of what made Jobs tick into three scenes that take place backstage. Regardless, it hardly makes for an enjoyable movie. For instance, during one of the film’s climactic scenes, Jobs’ assistant, seemingly out of nowhere, demands that Jobs see and take care of the daughter he has seemingly ignored for years on end. She’s so adamant about it that she threatens to quit if Jobs doesn’t acquiesce to her demands. Why Jobs’ assistant Joanna all of a sudden becomes so invested in Jobs’ relationship with his daughter is dumbfounding.
Similarly, towards the end of the movie, during what is supposed to be a bonding moment between Jobs and his estranged daughter Lisa, Jobs abruptly blurts out, “I’m going to put 1,000 songs in your pocket.”
This allusion to the iPod comes out of nowhere and feels completely forced and random.
And that’s emblematic of the entire movie. Things happen, but you’re never quite sure why, which is perhaps not all that surprising given that most all of the characters are surprisingly one-dimensional.
It seems that Sorkin, in putting the script together, looked up a bunch of Jobs-isms and tried to cram as many as he could fit into the film. The end result is a film that has no soul, no purpose, and lacks any semblance of flow. It’s disjointed and ultimately disappointing.
In trying to figure out how Sorkin and director Danny Boyle managed to churn out such a forgettable film, I looked back at how and why the film was even green-lit in the first place.
The way it went down is simple: Steve Jobs died on October 5, 2011. One week later, Sony acquired the film rights to Walter Isaacson’s Jobs biography. In short, no one read the Jobs biography and thought, “Hey, this would make an incredible film!” On the contrary, the movie from the get-go was clearly nothing more than a way for Sony to capitalize on Jobs’ death and strike while the iron was hot. The only problem was that the film was continuously plagued by delays regarding who would write, direct, and star in it. And now, four years later, we see the fruits of a film that, from the beginning, lacked any sort of vision. Indeed, the subpar quality of the film reflects the uninspired beginnings of how the film came into existence..
Whether you’re an Apple fan or not, this film is not worth your time or your $12. I saw the movie with six other people and only one person out of our group of seven enjoyed it. If you’re hoping to see a good movie, see The Martian instead.
As a screenwriter, Sorkin’s talent is indisputable. But somehow, with this project, Sorkin delivers what is arguably his least inspiring work to date.