No, I’m not “that guy” who goes out and sees a movie when it is released at midnight or anything … but yes, I did see the movie Jobs on the first day it was released. But it was mostly that the timing was right for me to take in an afternoon matinee. And besides, as a technology consultant and technology historian, I wanted to make sure to see the movie before I started getting a lot of questions – at least that is my story and I’m sticking to it!
Obviously I’m not a professional movie critic, but I know what I like, so you’re going to get my take on the movie from my personal perspective and that of someone who knows the history of the personal computer era.
The first scene was telling – I knew immediately what was going to happen simply from the introductory title scene – “Apple Town Hall Meeting 2001”. I knew this was going to be the iPod introduction. What else could it be? I am very familiar with the actual event, which I remember mostly because looking back now the event was very small and relatively low-key as compared to later Apple events. Given its historical significance, the event is now larger than life, but the reality is that the actual stage and auditorium was pretty tiny. When I saw the scene develop, I wasn’t sure at times if I was watching the movie or some of the actual footage from the event. It looked that accurate. I hoped the rest of the movie would be as historically accurate, and for the most part, I believe it was.
I’ve already read some reviews that criticize some of the details of the film as being inaccurate. But for the most part, those details are very minor, and probably only noticeable to serious geeks. And sure, some of the scenes were dramatized, but by and large I felt the movie gave a very accurate high-level portrayal of the events that shaped the life of Steve Jobs, the history of Apple Computer during his tenures, and to a lesser degree the early history of the personal computer era. Ashton Kutcher did an amazing job of nailing the mannerisms, voice, and general persona of Steve Jobs. At times I completely lost myself in the movie, not recognizing that the person I was watching on screen wasn’t Jobs himself.
For me personally, I really appreciated the scene at the first annual West Coast Computer Faire of 1977, where the Apple II was introduced. Many historians call this event the birth of the personal computer industry, as the Apple II is credited with igniting the personal computer revolution. But the scene also showed the Commodore PET computer, which was one of the three significant personal computers that were introduced in 1977. Along with the Radio Shack TRS-80 computer, Apple and Commodore defined personal computing during the earliest stages of the era, before IBM and then Microsoft rose to dominance.
The only fault I could find with the movie was that there simply wasn’t enough of it. My wife is a technology layperson, relatively speaking, and wasn’t very familiar with the details of Steve Jobs’ life or the history of the personal computer era. After watching the movie, she said that she wanted to know more about how Steve Jobs matured, especially in the time where Steve Jobs wasn’t at Apple. I couldn’t agree more. The film literally spends 30 seconds bridging those twelve years, never mentioning Pixar, and only mentioning NeXT to segue Jobs’ return to Apple. This time period in Jobs’ life is absolutely critical, as he matures both as a person and a business leader. But it’s hard to fault the film for this. It was already a two-hour movie and I know that most movie audiences get squeamish at anything longer that 90 minutes. My wife mentioned that it would have needed to be a mini-series to cover his entire life. Perhaps, but I would not have minded a three-hour movie that filled in some more gaps and gave a more complete picture.
Overall, even if the movie feels like a “cliff notes” version of Steve Jobs’ life, I still think it is a worthwhile movie. For most people who know very little about Apple prior to 2001, I think this is a great introductory look at the man that made Apple and quite literally changed the world. Sure, it’s not 100% accurate and it is a little thin on details at times, but it serves its purpose, at least from my viewpoint. I hope it helps more people understand the passion and drive that Steve Jobs had and how his influence shaped our technology, no matter if it is an Apple product or not. Ultimately the technology industry that he helped define and drive forward has influenced our society so greatly, that we all would do well to study his life as we study the life of other great people in history.