What we learned about the new Steve Jobs movie from the trailer

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"If you send me back the iPhone prototype, that'll be the end of it. But if you don't, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you."
Photo: Universal Pictures

Universal dropped its first full-length Steve Jobs trailer yesterday, giving us a closer glimpse than we’ve yet had at the Aaron Sorkin-penned biopic, set to hit theaters this October.

Being the fans that we are, Cult of Mac scoured the 2:40 trailer to pull out the juiciest details. Read on for everything we learned.

"What are you building, Stark?"
“What are you building, Stark?”
Photo: Universal

The trailer starts on a note of ambiguity as Jobs — complete with black turtleneck — stands alone. This establishes that the movie is about Jobs as an individual rather than Apple as a team. (If, you know, the movie’s title didn’t already give that away.)

The big question, of course, is what is Jobs working on? One friend I spoke with theorized that Jobs is looking at an early incarnation of the iPhone/iPad project. I disagree. As far as we know, Steve Jobs culminates in Jobs’ return to Apple in the late 1990s. That’s when I would place this shot. The evidence? The 1998-era iMac G3 on the bottom-left corner of the screen.

"And here... we... go!"
“And here… we… go!”
Photo: Universal

Jobs as conductor, with Apple at the intersection of technology and the liberal arts. Every Jobs movie so far features some tortured musical genius metaphor to describe Steve. Why break with tradition?

Seth Rogen is off to North Korea to kill Kim Jong Un. Wait, wrong movie?
Seth Rogen is off to North Korea to kill Kim Jong Un. Wait, wrong movie?
Photo: Universal

Oh boy. Over a montage of shots showing Jobs as the lone genius, Seth Rogen as Steve Wozniak says, “What do you do? You’re not an engineer. You’re not a designer. You can’t put a hammer to a nail. I built the circuit board. The graphical interface was stolen. So how come ten times a day I read Steve Jobs was a genius?”

These are our first spoken words in the trailer, presumably setting up the central conflict of the story: Jobs as narcissistic, glory-hogging thief. Judging by the fact that Wozniak was largely out of Apple by the mid-80s, this likely comes in the movie’s first act. There’s a definite case to be made that Jobs took credit for other people’s work, but this one appears deliberately misleading.

The movie deals specifically with the launches of the Macintosh, NeXT Computer and iMac G3 — none of which Wozniak designed the circuit board for. The idea that the graphical user interface was “stolen” (from Xerox PARC) is also patently untrue.

Master manipulator.
Master manipulator.
Photo: Universal

More music references. “Musicians play their instruments, I play the orchestra.” Jobs as master-manipulator, anyone? Also call me paranoid but doesn’t pretty much every film fan associate the Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 music cue with Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange — a film about a psychopathic charmer who revolutionises the tech industry.

Wait a minute, I see what’s going on here.

Jobs get his Mac on.
Jobs get his Mac on.
Photo: Universal

Who is Jobs kissing prior to the Macintosh launch? Based on the notebook and overall appearance, it’s certainly not folk singer Joan Baez who Jobs dated during the 1980s. From the brief glimpse we get it sure looks like Kate Winslet, who plays Joanna Hoffman, the Macintosh marketing chief who worked on the original Mac.

But wasn’t/isn’t Hoffman married to former Apple employee, Alain Rossmann? If this is a platonic kiss, I’ve been doing them very wrong all these years.

"Here's Jobs-y!"
“Here’s Jobs-y!”
Photo: Universal

Michael Fassbender shows his best “Steve Jobs is a crazy loon” face. Presumably from that company retreat at the haunted Overlook Hotel. I look forward to the scene where an axe-wielding Jobs pursues journalists through a frozen hedge maze for giving the Mac a bad review.

Jobs, Andy Hertzfeld and Joanna Hoffman.
Jobs, Andy Hertzfeld and Joanna Hoffman.
Photo: Universal

“We’re not a pit-crew at Daytona, this can’t be fixed in seconds,” says Mac engineer Andy Hertzfeld, played by Michael Stuhlbarg. “You don’t have seconds,” says Jobs. “You had three weeks. The universe was created in a third of that time.” “Well someday you’ll have to tell us how you did it,” Hertzfeld quips.

The only way to make this more Aaron Sorkin would have been to have all three walking-and-talking while this conversation played out.

"Ta-da!"
“Ta-da!”
Photo: Universal Pictures

Jobs unveils the iMac G3, circa 1998. The wardrobe choice isn’t right, though. If I can read into this a bit, it suggests that the iMac was the product which helped trigger the transformation into the austere digital emperor Steve Jobs we knew him as for the last ten years of his life.

In reality, I’d argue it was the success of the iPod that did that. I guess going “back to his roots” with a return to both Apple and the Macintosh works better as a narrative, though. And, hey, it’s not like a movie about Steve Jobs is going to be broken down scene-by-scene by overanalyzing fanboys, is it?

Click-click boom.
Click-click boom.
Photo: Universal

Jobs imitates Robert De Niro’s iconic finger-gun suicide from Taxi Driver. I guess a Silicon Valley version of that movie would be called Uber Driver, right? At least Jobs’ lack of license plates would make for an easier getaway.

Chrisann and Lisa Brennan.
Chrisann and Lisa Brennan.
Photo: Universal

“Your Apple stock was worth $441 million, while your daughter and her mother are on welfare,” says Jobs’ first girlfriend Chrisann Brennan, played by Inherent Vice‘s Katherine Waterston. “She’s not my daughter,” Jobs rages.

Daughter Lisa has been described as the “heroine” of Sorkin’s screenplay, which shows her abandonment and ultimate acceptance by Jobs.

Jeff Daniel as John Sculley, pictured here looking particularly villainous.
Jeff Daniel as John Sculley, pictured here looking particularly villainous.
Photo: Universal

Jobs may not be painted too flatteringly in the movie, but he’s certainly treated better than the Apple board and early CEO John Sculley. “You’re issuing contradictory instructions, your insubordinate, you make people miserable,” Sculley says. “Even if that were true, it doesn’t sound that diabolical to me,” is Jobs’ next line in the trailer.

If there was any question of where our allegiances are meant to lie, later in the trailer Jobs says that artists lead and hacks ask for a show of hands. We then cut to the Apple boardroom where the Apple board raise their hands to vote on Jobs’ dismissal. Ouch!

Jobs takes his product launches pretty seriously.
Jobs takes his product launches pretty seriously.
Photo: Universal

Warned that the Mac launch could be a fire hazard, Jobs says that, “If a fire causes a stampede to the unmarked exits, it’ll have been well worth it for those who survive.”

Substitute “fire” with “water” and poor Kate Winslet must be having Titanic flashbacks.

And here's the title. In case you hadn't guessed.
And here’s the title. In case you hadn’t guessed.
Photo: Universal

The trailer ends with us being told to “please welcome” Steve Jobs, as a brief montage of shots from him over the years flashes over the screen.

So what do you think? Given the attachment of Sorkin and director Danny Boyle, I’m cautiously optimistic — although I’m not sure there’s anything in the trailer that wasn’t already well done in the excellent made-for-TV movie Pirates of Silicon Valley.

Agree? Disagree? Leave your comments below.