Thursday 24 July 2014


A thousand songs in your pocket” Try pitching that idea to a teenager today and they’ll probably laugh at you. We live in a world of smartphones and 4G, after all – there are 20 million songs on Spotify alone, which can be searched and sorted and beamed out of the sky at a moment’s notice. But when Apple’s late CEO Steve Jobs announced the first iPod back in 2001, it quite literally changed the world.

And it wasn’t just the world that changed. Apple’s pre-iPod history is littered with failed product launches, infighting, and corporate coups. It used to be the company that made those weird computers only designers used, but the iPod marked an important turning point for Apple: nowadays, you can’t move ten feet in a shopping centre without running into an iPhone, iPad, or MacBook Pro.

It’s fitting, then, that Jobs, Joshua Michael Stern’s 2013 biopic starring Ashton Kutcher, also gets off to a pretty rocky start.

Starting with the iPod announcement (Kutcher appears in some of the worst old-man makeup I’ve ever seen), the film flashes back to mid-70s Oregon where Jobs was attending college. The prevailing mood for the first half of the film is “distracting”. There are distracting appearances from James Woods and Masi “Hiro Nakamura” Oka, and a distracting sequence where Steve Jobs dances about in a cornfield. And Ashton Kutcher himself is distracting at first – he really, really nails Jobs’ accent and mannerisms and even looks the part but, for whatever reason, his performance just didn’t sit right with me.

The writing? Well, that’s just distractingly lazy. There are multiple one-liners intended to make us go “gosh, look how quirky Steve Jobs was”, but they’re too frequent and far too obvious. I felt like I was watching “Steve Jobs: The Teen Drama”.

It’s not that the subject matter isn’t interesting – we’re talking about a monumental series of events that, indirectly, lead to you being able to read this review right now. Jobs discovers his friend Steve Wozniak (Josh Gad) has created a sophisticated computer capable of displaying its output on a TV screen. Woz is the brains behind the operation, but lacks the charisma and business-mindedness to make any real money out of his creations. Jobs creates a brand and sets to work making business deals, schmoozing investors (notably Mike Markkula, played by Dermot Mulroney), and successfully flogging Wozniak’s second design – the Apple II – at a San Francisco computer fair. He even finds time to be an asshole to his girlfriend, breaking up with her after she announces she’s pregnant. There’s meat on the film’s bones, to be sure, if you can get past those early problems.

Thankfully, the film really picks up in its second half, easily matching The Social Network in terms of its storytelling and execution. We see Jobs’ ruthlessness as he phones then-Microsoft CEO Bill Gates and screams at him for stealing Apple’s ideas. We get to see his vulnerable side as he’s forced out of the Apple Lisa project and, later, the company he cofounded. And we see his genius and obsessive perfectionism as he returns to Apple and takes over the Macintosh project, firing a team member who doesn’t share his enthusiasm for fonts. This all leads up to the dawn of the slick, successful Apple we know today, with Jobs reinstated as CEO and genius designer Jony Ive – the man behind iOS 7 and the “Bondi Blue” iMac, among many others – becoming his right-hand man.

The film’s second half is excellent – smart and pacey, and bolstered by emotional performances from Kutcher, Gad, and Mulroney. Giles Matthey delivers probably the most convincing impression of anyone I’ve ever seen as Jony Ive, somehow even managing to look identical despite the fact they’re nothing alike. And there’s a show-offy slideshow at the end, comparing the film’s cast to their real-world counterparts. Most of the likenesses are dead on.

Like Apple boldly moving into the music business in 2001, Jobs’ second half displays a level of confidence and polish I never would expected after its first sixty minutes. And that’s why, despite the film’s many problems, I just wouldn’t feel right giving it anything less than a 4/5.


Mike Lee

Jobs at CeX

Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo
ma.gnolia squidoo newsvine live netscape tailrank mister-wong blogmarks slashdot spurl