The new Jobs movie hits Friday, August 16th in theaters. And it’s not going to be pretty.
The movie covers the life of the late Apple co-founder and CEO from 1971, before the founding of Apple, to 2001, when Jobs announces the iPod, thus setting the company on the path to glory and dominance.
You’re going to hate the movie. Here’s why.
This is a very low-budget movie, possibly made for less than $10 million. The principles in the movie have never been involved in a successful movie. (Mark Hulme is the producer. Joshua Michael Stern is the director. Matt Whiteley wrote the screenplay.)
Jobs was filmed mostly in Los Angeles. But the garage scenes were filmed in the actual garage where Apple began, Jobs’ childhood home in Los Altos, California.
Lead actor Ashton Kutcher tried to get into his role as Apple’s founder. He claims that trying to eat a fruitarian diet like Jobs once did made Kutcher end up in the hospital. Kutcher even started wearing hippy footwear and walking for an hour. In L.A.!
All this walking in Birkenstocks and imitating Jobs’ bouncy walk made Kutcher injure his back, according to the actor. (Here’s Kutcher doing that dangerous Steve walk.)
Josh Gad plays Steve Wozniak unconvincingly. He seems to be a fine actor, but the casting is questionable. Gad’s appearance, voice and general personality in no way resemble the Woz, if the trailers are anything to go by.
(Matthew Modine makes a great John Sculley, though.)
And the real Woz is no fan of the movie so far. Wozniak says at least one of the clips in the movie is wildly inaccurate. The clip shows Woz as a clueless nerd who doesn’t understand the social implications of a personal computer, and Jobs understanding it all. As Woz points out, the computer culture Woz was immersed in centered around Silicon Valley’s Homebrew Computer Club, which was obsessed with the cultural impact of computing. Jobs initially wanted to take something that was being built for social impact and make some money from it.
In general, I think the technology-loving world is generally going to despise this movie. Apple and Jobs are divisive entities — people love or hate them.
The Apple lovers who lionize Jobs will hate the movie because they’ll believe that Kutcher is too much of a lightweight to portray the great man, and they’ll hate the portrayal of the beloved Woz as something of a stereotypical nerd. Jobs fans will also dislike the focus on some of Jobs’ more negative characteristics, such as berating employees and being a jerk to his family.
Everybody seems to like Noah Wyle’s portrayal of Jobs in the 1999 original TNT movie Pirates of Silicon Valley, and Kutcher’s portrayal will probably be compared unfavorably to Wyle’s.
Apple haters will think that Jobs shouldn’t have his own movie, and will feel the movie is too worshipful about Jobs and Apple, and will fail to focus on whatever perceived transgressions they feel Apple and Jobs have inflicted on the industry and the world.
And all of us are tired of the story. We want new information and this movie won’t be giving it to us.
We saw Pirates of Silicon Valley, read several good biographies of Jobs and have read countless online stories about Apple and Steve Jobs during the years depicted in the movie. There will be very few surprises, and the Hollywood version won’t mesh with the Silicon Valley view of the world.
Film fans won’t like the movie much, I predict, because it does what most biopics do, which is to focus on iconic, well known public events to the exclusion of personal story. The movie is likely to take moviegoers from one formative event to another, without really getting into what the characters lives were really like.
I think that what we all want — Apple fans, Apple haters and movie buffs — is a truly deep treatment of the life of Jobs that breaks new ground, does some original research and original thinking about Jobs and how he relates to the industry that shaped him, and that he would go on to shape back.
In other words, we all crave a great movie about Steve Jobs that doesn’t treat the man as an isolated genius who made his own world, driven by textbook feelings of rejection as an adopted child. We want less cliche and more insight into Silicon Valley and Jobs’ place in it.
Maybe Aaron Sorkin’s upcoming Steve Jobs movie will do that. But I doubt it.
Jobs is currently getting a 43 on Rotten Tomatoes. One critic nailed it by saying that it looked like a TV movie.
In general, I believe the Kutcher will actually be very good in the movie, but that it will suffer from a bad script and mediocre directing.
Still, you’re going to see it. And you might even enjoy it, as long as you’re able to not take it too seriously. As Woz told a reporter recently: “It’s just a movie.”