Steve Jobs: Man in the Machine (2015)

2015 Seattle International Film Festival

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On October 5, 2011, the world lost one of its most brilliant men to pancreatic cancer. Jobs, the Co-Founder of Apple Computers is responsible for some of the greatest technological revolutions of all time. From the Apple II, to the iMac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad, Jobs’ inventions revolutionized how we communicate with one another. Despite all the good he brought to the world, underneath his exterior lied a cruel, manipulative man who may also be one of the worst human beings to ever live. People only ever saw him as a God who brought them the device you’re likely reading this on now, but no one really had any idea the terrible things this man was capable of.

A young Steve Jobs poses.
A young Steve Jobs poses.

Steve Jobs: Man in the Machine is the biographical equivalent of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s very easy to praise Jobs for all he influenced and created in our world. On the other hand, it’s also very easy to crucify this man for the way he treated his employees, his friends, and his family. Director Alex Gibney has been my favorite documentarian for some time now, as he’s able to disassociate himself from the knee-jerk reactions that his research provides from many and he attempts to see and tell all sides of the story. Gibney also explored Jobs’ obsession with finding his path to enlightenment in Kyoko, Japan, where he spent a great deal of time contemplating his life and choices. With his latest film, I don’t think I’ve seen a more glowing example of that fact.

The film follows Jobs from an early age, tinkering with tower computers and outsmarting all the children in his class, save for Steve Wozniak, the other co-founder of Apple. Woz was the mechanical genius, writing all the code and dealing with how things would work, whereas Jobs handled all the marketing and would talk anyone’s ear off until they too believed in his vision. Woz is the one who created “breakout” (the earliest version of brickbreaker), which Jobs sold to Atari for thousands and wound up giving Woz only a few hundred. This first instance of manipulation and deceit sets the mood for what we’re about to witness. We hear accounts from Wozniak and his feelings on his old friend, as well as many who worked with and for Jobs. Most interestingly is the regard that most people hold him in. While almost all admit that they hated Steve and working for him at many points in time, they all also hold him up so highly for what he was able to accomplish.

Steve Jobs unveiling a new iPhone.
Steve Jobs unveiling a new iPhone.

Jobs was never the man Bill Gates was, as he never really did any programming. He delegated his work to his employees and he worked them to exhaustion, while he explained his vision to the world. Many early Apple employees discuss their confused stance on working on the first Apple computer, as it changed the world and ruined many of their personal lives. Jobs always strived for perfection and if it wasn’t achieved, he wasn’t the greatest person to be around. Unlike Gates as well, Jobs didn;t believe in donating money to anyone because he thought it was pointless. Almost as pointless as when he reluctantly had to pay $500 a month in child support to the woman he impregnated and left under the poverty line.

I sat in my car for a long time after the film ended, discussing this new side I’d seen to Steve Jobs. I went to the film with my father, a programmer for Microsoft who always new more about Jobs than the public. We never had iPhone’s, but we didn’t deny their impact and the impact Apple has on the world. We discussed our immediate disgust with the man we got to know better, but then we also found ourselves defending him. A man this awful shoulnd’t have people coming to defend his choices, but some of those choices are what created the company that Apple is today. Without his iron fist rule and his treatment of people, he never would have gotten Apple off its feet. Woz had the tech but he never wanted to do anything with it. Steve always saw opportunities to exploit people, but it’s because he did that we have the technology we do today. I found myself confused in the days following the screening, as I debated just how much I can appreciate what this man did for the world, or at least what he claimed he did.

Jobs and Wozniak in the early days.
Jobs and Wozniak in the early days.

Gibney’s whole basis for the film centers around the millions of people worldwide who mourned Jobs death and held him in as high regard as some of the greatest minds in human history. These people only saw the man who brought them the technology they use daily. Some critics of this film have claimed that Gibney is too tough on the late Jobs in an attempt to tarnish his image. As we see daily, even the worst humans have people come to their sides without the bat of an eye. Gibney isn’t setting out to destroy this man, but as a filmmaker he owes it to himself to tell stories, no matter how hard they may be to hear. Over the course of two-hours, Gibney follows the major decisions Jobs made in his life to get where he was before his passing, covering the good and the bad.

Steve Jobs: Man in the Machine is not only an extremely intimate look at Steve Jobs, but the film also asks us to look at ourselves. What does it say about us that we will blindly follow Apple to the ends of the Earth, regardless of their wrongdoings and malpractices? We only see and hear what we want to these days, as anything else makes us uncomfortable. You’re going to squirm in your seat when you hear more about this man, but at the end of the day you’re left asking yourself questions. Can we really separate the art from the artist? Should we? For as awful a man as he was, we can’t deny all that he did for technology. Alex Gibney provides the information that we need to make our own decisions and we owe it to ourselves to understand the whole story. Rather than regurgitate all the facts, I implore everyone to seek this film out to educate themselves on Jobs and discover more about themselves.

Steve Jobs: Man in the Machine Trailer
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7hP47HogmY

4.5 STARS!!!

4.5 / 5 stars     

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