All in all…. the movie is good. Not excellent or merely OK, but good, and it does indeed hit an “excellent” in one spot… inspiration.
You can tell this movie is done by Apple fanboys, but Apple fanboys that became fans after Steve and Apple went through hell and back and finally delivered the comeback for Apple that nobody in the industry thought possible. Recent Apple fanboys inherently have a bit of whimsical nostalgia for the past. So assumptions are made and some things are compressed or off.
Having studied Apple, it’s design philosophy, and it mantra since the 1997-1999 re-emergence of Steve, I’ve sat through my fair share of keynote speeches and have seen the public side of Steve for a very long time. I’ve also read many an article and books about what goes behind the scenes at Apple. So I have some expertise as I’ve been an “honest” fanboy for some 16 years now. “Honest” meaning I called the Apple Cube a turd from the get go, and I didn’t go iPod until the 3rd generation when Apple finally got it right.
The first 20 minutes feels like 30 (no spoilers I promise)
The good news is the worst part of the movie is the first part of the movie. So once you go beyond that, it just gets better and more enjoyable. The movie does indeed open with a flash forward of Steve Job’s introducing the iPod in 2001 at an Apple Town Hall employee meeting.
This is when my groans came in as they got it all wrong. It’s really a compression of Steve over the 2003-2011 timeframe, wherein from 2007 on, Steve took on a more “statesman” type persona having the iPod take over the world and the iPhone changing yet another industry including the iPod industry itself.
The trouble with the iPod launch scene in the movie is Steve is depicted in the elderly, frail, retrospective statesman which he simply wasn’t at that time. In 2001, Steve was still the vibrant and healthy comeback kid working on getting Apple back on track. Does the compressed statesman work? Meh. It doesn’t help that the makeup is terrible, and it seems like it was the first scene taped when Ashton was just starting to get into Job’s mannerisms. It does establish that this is the guy who introduced the iPod, in case you didn’t know.
Having seen Apple keynotes hours on end, and even one or two that were only played live at Apple stores, I’d say I’m petty good a spotting Steve’s mannerisms. Ashton does an admirable Job at showing the mannerisms of Steve, but they’re a bit overplayed. Mainly at issue is the walking stance. Steve had a bobble-walk, but some scenes in the movie it get depicted as someone mimicking a velociraptor walk. The good news is it’s more subtle in most scenes and not totally distracting all over the movie.
The Voice of Steve
Ashton goes in out of the voice of Steve in the movie, but there are certain scenes where he just outright nails Steve Job’s voice. The only problem is it’s not all over the movie, so when he nails the voice, it stands out.
Ashton has a look that’s his own. So it harder for an actor this well known to become whomever he’s depicting in a biography movie, but if there was a perfect “nailed-it” look I’d say it’s 90s Steve of which Ashton seems very Steve-like in look and tone. I’d wonder if it was some of the last shots they made when making the movie as Ashton seemed to hone the craft of playing Steve very nicely.
With a compressed timeline the movie has to skate over or compress multiple moments in a collage of what “sort of” happened to make the point and move on in the story. So there’s a lot of moments where “Steve’s memorable quotes to live by” are just thrown in and Steve is essentially speaking a religious diatribe all the time as he’s walking and talking to others.
The diatribes sometimes come across as bit of fanboy cult worship of Steve, but they provide the most inspiring aspects of the film and in my humble opinion… save the movie. It’s these nuggets of wisdom, and even an obscure one that I’ve never heard which inspires one to be and do more, and of which I’d hope the movie can enpower or inspire a new generation of change-makers in the world.
A Must See
So for all it’s inaccuracies, quirkiness, and fanboy-ism, the movie leaves you inspired and does indeed touch you at the end. For that I say it’s must see. Go, get reminded of Steve, Apple, and get curious about what came about to make everything that happened, happen.
My favorite quote from Steve in the film happens at the end, but I won’t state it as not to spoil its impact as I think nobody but Steve could deliver the line better than it’s delivered in the movie. It’s an obscure one but powerful on many levels, and I thank the creators of the movie for showcasing it so powerfully.
Know that the movie doesn’t delve too deep, but is more of a 101 for those interested in getting into part of the driving force that pushed Apple.
When you need more depth or want to see just how much Woz also offered versus being a follower of Steve Jobs as depicted in the movie I’d suggest reading or watching the following:
The only official biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
iCon Steve Jobs: The Greatest Second Act in the History of Business
by Jeffrey S. Young
iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon
by Steve Wozniak
Finding the Next Steve Jobs
by Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari
Pirates of Silicon Valley (1999)
Arguably Noah Wyle is still the best Steve, but Steve up to 1999.
Ashton’s Verge Interview
If you think Ashton is just a goof or not serious enough for the role check out his great interview on theverge.com. I think you’ll view him in a different light afterwards. After watching this interview, I certainly had a more profound respect for him and the effort he put behind the role of Steve.