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Steve Jobs – a belated Film Review

September 16, 2016


This one, again, we had to wait until it showed up on satellite to see.  It’s not a movie we could take the boy to, and when someone does offer to watch the lad, we always go for something far more obviously vile and depraved to celebrate.   In short, Steve Jobs (2015, dir. Danny Boyle)  would not interest a ten year old boy, but it wouldn’t give him nightmares either – and that’s precisely the category of movie we’re least likely to go and see.

In fact we saw Steve Jobs about three times on successive nights, because we both felt we were probably missing something.  And this is a kind of testimony to the elegance of its construction as well as the fact that Sorkin’s script is denser and faster than 90% of the scripts you get to experience, making you constantly feel that you’re missing something.

The fact that this drama about Steve Jobs is completely built around three successive product launches is both truthful and sad.  This was not a man who understood, respected, or cherished anything more important than a product launch.  The movie thereby also has a theatrical feel to it as well, neatly divided into “Acts” – although Danny Boyle is careful to keep the cameras mobile and remind us that we’re watching something that only cinema can do.

Of course, the movie reminded me of The Social Network, and of course, Sorkin wrote both screenplays.  And both movies are about how technology changes human behaviour.  In Social Network, Zuckerberg, portrayed by Jesse Eisenberg as the least socially competent young man you’ve ever seen, creates a whole new platform for socialisation.  Steve Jobs, portrayed (probably accurately) by Michael Fassbender as a horrible horrible human being, a greedy and selfish tyrant without even the most basic biological components of generosity or compassion, creates products which are, paradoxically, all about human interaction.

And that’s the real paradox of the film, of “Jobs” himself (or itself?) – the very limited and specific nature of his so-called “genius”.  At one point Wozniak shouts at Jobs  – what exactly is it that you do?   Jobs was not a scientist, not an inventor, not a software engineer, not even a designer.  What Jobs was – was – at certain key (and lucrative) moments – someone who could accurately predict what human beings who are not technically literate want from their technology.  At one point Wozniak shows off a high tech watch to Jobs.  When Jobs asks him to change time zones on the watch and the front case comes off, Jobs points out that Wozniak looks like someone trying to detonate a bomb and that his watch will similarly “bomb” as a consequence..

Wozniak seems far more human than Jobs, and of course far more gifted from any sort of technological standpoint, but Wozniak is apparently limited by his own habituation to technology.  Unlike his far more gifted tech. peers, Jobs functioned at a customer level, recognising the moments that make technologically illiterate people happy when they switch on a computer.

Is there any logic to this paradox?  Was it just a bizarre coincidence that such an inhuman individual who has difficulty recognising his own child, ends up being the one to humanise technology?   Or was this level of inhumanity on the part of a human CEO necessary at some level as part of the coming cyborgification of the human race?  Jobs’ ingratitude, his cruelty, and his inability to acknowledge reciprocal obligations linking any one human animal with any other human animal are coupled with a bizarrely keen sense of what human beings want from the information age.

Seeing the film over and over again only heightens an appreciation of its logic.  The obsession with making a Mac say “Hello” at the beginning of the film is vindicated once you know the kind of character that’s unfolding.

Jobs’ job was to get humans to fall in love with machines.  He was a pimp, and pander, a go-between – hooking up carbon and silicon based life forms.

In other words – as a cyborg- he bridges a gap.  And we’re all doomed.



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