It has been almost four years since Steve Jobs uttered his final words as he looked at his family and whispered in hushed tones the words “Oh wow” thrice. Thousands would leave flowers and apples with a single bite taken out of them at the same stores they lined up outside waiting to get their hands on some of Jobs’ latest creations. Before this year ends, we will have two new films that will attempt to make sense of the Apple founder’s layered life. And it might not be as glossy as some of his products.
The first one is director Alex Gibney’s documentary Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine. You may remember Gibney from the recent ripple he caused in the Church of Scientology with his film Going Clear. While the parallels may not be apparent on the surface, both worlds at least tangentially resemble cults. The ‘Mactards’ may not be as vicious as Xenu believers, but it is no wonder that Gibney chose to tackle Jobs next.
Those familiar with the documentarian’s filmography will notice he doesn’t shy away from controversial figures. He has made films on Lance Armstrong (The Armstrong Lie) and Julian Assange (We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks). Praise came easily and quickly to both figures, but it all came famously crashing down. Perhaps that’s what attracts Gibney in these larger-than-life figures. How power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Addressing the duality of a man who once refused to pay $500 in child support at a time his company was valued at $200 million, Gibney shakes his head, “It’s hard for me to understand that. He had the focus, and he felt his focus was to make great products. He was a monk without the empathy, and he didn’t care about the other stuff. His job was to make great products, so f*** everything else,” he said in an interview with The Observer.
For the Academy Award winning filmmaker the idea behind his film was always clear. “Why were so many people weeping for Steve Jobs when he left?” For someone who was only tangentially involved in the creation of the products with which his name is synonymous, how did his death inspire the same level of frenzy that accompanied the passing of JFK, Princess Diana or Kurt Cobain?
The film premiers on, of all platforms, iTunes on September 4.
The second film is one that perhaps most are already aware of. It also helps that it’s based on Walter Isaacson’s best-selling biography and is titled, simply, Steve Jobs.
Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire) stepped in after David Fincher’s quote of $30 million was not met by Sony Pictures. The film would have been a Social Network reunion between director Fincher and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, with the duo once again attempting to understand the mind of an obsessive genius after previously blowing the lid off of an admittedly fictional version of Mark Zuckerberg.
Perhaps the most exciting thing about the film, more than the prospect of seeing a new Danny Boyle film, or watching Michael Fassbender in a Danny Boyle film, is watching Michael Fassbender speak Aaron Sorkin’s words in a Danny Boyle film that also stars Seth Rogen and Kate Winslet.
The film is not your traditional biopic: It’s set at the backstage of three of Apple’s most famous keynotes. In three scenes played out in real time.
“It’s not an origin story, it’s not an invention story, it’s not how the Mac was invented,” Sorkin said to Time. “I thought the audience would be coming in expecting to see a little boy and his father, and he’s staring in the window of an electronics shop. Then we would view the greatest hits of Steve Jobs’ life. And I didn’t think I’d be good at that.”
Sorkin also went the extra mile and interviewed Lisa Brennan-Jobs, the daughter Steve Jobs refused to either accept or acknowledge, but named one of his computers after.
His relationship to Lisa, his failings as a human being, and his engaging stage persona will all be explored in Boyle’s film.
Steve Jobs remains an enigmatic figure even in death. There is an unveiling of sorts happening now. For decades he was revered, but maybe by the end of the year he will be viewed as a mad scientist, a Dr Frankenstein figure who created a monster he could not control.
Steve Jobs will premiere at The New York Film Festival before its theatrical release a week later.