The very idea of a Steve Jobs film is exciting for the simple reason that he was such a fascinating man. The Apple co-founder who died less than two years ago to pancreatic cancer at the age of 56, is regarded as the pioneer of the personal computer revolution, and he was of course the brain behind such visionary inventions as the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad. Which is why it pains me to report that Jobs, starring Ashton Kutcher as the celebrated tech guru, is everything that the man himself tried not to be: unimaginative, predictable, and boring.
To be fair, the fault doesn’t lie so much with Kutcher who, surprisingly, does a decent imitation of Steve Jobs. From his hunched-over style of walking, and his distinct hand gestures, to his steely gaze and his explosive temper, Kutcher evokes familiar images. Yet, he can’t rise above the flawed script that never really gives us a sense of what made the man tick. His drive, his perfectionism is dutifully referred to, but never adequately explored. This is, at best, surface-level storytelling.
Directed by Joshua Michael Stern, the film whisks us through the early years, starting with Jobs and his childhood friend Steve Wozniak (Josh Gad) setting up shop in a garage to build the first compact computer. Instead of focusing on the thrill of innovation, the film appears obsessed with boardroom politics. So we watch as the company they started with stuffy businessman Mark Markkula (Dermot Mulroney) expands, then flounders. Jobs is ousted by his own board of directors, until eventually, in a hurried finale, he returns to save the sinking brand.
The script, which feels like an extended Wikipedia entry, only briefly touches upon key moments from his life and career: his continuing battle with Microsoft’s Bill Gates, his abandonment of his pregnant girlfriend, and a reunion with his daughter. There’s only a passing reference to the invention of the iPod in 2001, but nothing thereon. Unlike The Social Network, even personal fallouts and betrayals in Jobs’ life are rushed through without so much as attempting to answer the crucial question: Why?
Steve Jobs deserved a 360-degree portrait. You won’t find that here. I’m going with two out of five for Jobs. Kutcher is earnest. But the film is a snore.