Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine full movie review - Neglects The Machine Qualities Of The Man, Focuses On The Inhuman Qualities Of The Machine
From the director of Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine is another entry in the long list of films that have been pouring out ever since the greatest visionary of our time breathed his last.
And while there's no denying that it's an intriguing examination of the legacy he left behind, this documentary takes a very one-sided approach and focuses only on the imperfections of a gifted individual.
Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine begins with a segment focusing on the intense hoopla surrounding Jobs' death, questioning the outpouring love from everyone around the world for the man they barely knew. The film then briefly skims through Apple's history & its late CEO's life before delving into the darker stuff concerning the way he manipulated his friends, his employees & almost everyone to get what he wanted plus also covers Apple's rise from a rebel company to the Goliath itself.
Written, produced & directed by Alex Gibney, there is an attempt to balance both aspects of Jobs' life but as the plot progresses, it is easily seduced by the darker side and simply skips over how his immaculate vision & his products single-handedly went on to revolutionise not one but six different industries (personal computers, music, movies, phones, tablets & apps) and in the process completely changed everything about how we live & communicate today. Instead, this documentary is a wonderment if idolising him makes sense.
Steve Jobs was an insanely complex human being & a persona of sharp contrasts. His love for what he did & his philosophy of life is clearly reflected in the pristine design of his products for its elegance, beauty & simplicity is an ideal marriage of technology with liberal arts. It captures how he pushed his employees beyond their limits to accomplish what they considered impossible yet on reflecting upon it now, they call it the proudest work of their entire life, something it almost chooses to skip over.
But then, one can't blame it for emphasising Jobs' infamous characteristics considering the fact that negative portrayals always attract a wider crowd, thanks to our morbid curiosity in such stuff. The film goes through events like Jobs dumping his girlfriend when she got pregnant, him not being around for his daughter, his souring relation with Steve Wozniak, his ruthless marketing strategy, complete disregard for rules, the isolation his products have created in society, labour practises, tax exemptions & other controversies surrounding Apple Inc.
It's not that whatever it puts on screen has an unverified source for it picks its stories from incidents that were in news when they happened but it's biased in its portrait of a man whose vision changed the world yet who failed as a human being for he saw everything in binary form, had no compassion for people who didn't matter to him, and was more devoted to his work than anything else in life. Like most people who pushed this world forward, he was a misfit and yet people complain that he wasn't a nice person as if it's a necessity to succeed in life.
The interviews are from people who were close to Jobs at different times yet there isn't anyone who was around him in his last decade. It covers some engaging topics, sheds further light on things that weren't really in the dark but was still forgotten, and tries to challenge the grievance felt when he was gone. Gibney's narration is undeniably enthralling and keeps a firm grip on viewers' attention and blends recorded interviews with archival snippets of Jobs' earlier convos & cleverly chosen images, all edited together in a manner to make its point across. At times it succeeds, at times it doesn't.
It also takes a dig at iPhone which actually put the smart in a smartphone from the moment Steve Jobs unveiled it during that legendary keynote at 2007 Macworld. Instead of criticising people's own inability to handle their instincts, it blames iPhone for isolating its owners from outside world as if it's not the case with other devices that were inspired from it. iPhone had the same aesthetics, art & simplicity of other Apple products but it did far more than what people ever imagined something in their pocket could do and yet, all it focuses on is an unintended side effect than the groundbreaking change it inspired in global cellular industry.
There's... one more thing! As evident in anything that inspires a devoted fan following, Apple has its share of blind followers who are horribly smug & can't offer any valid reason behind their Apple product purchase but there are also many who've stayed around as loyal customers only because they're extremely happy & satisfied inside this company's ecosystem. No other technology company has as passionate a fan base as Apple, which was only made possible by consistent delivery of quality products that scored high on design aesthetics, simplicity, ease of use & overall satisfaction, and the combination of it all contributes to why this company & its late CEO are beloved like no other.
On an overall scale, Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine is another impressive investigation but it's not as intensive, informative & absorbing as Gibney's previous work. Its casting of a dark but ineffective spell on the legacy of Steve Jobs is understandable given his shady personality but a balanced insight would've made for a far more rewarding experience for Jobs was a creative entrepreneur whose passion, vision & obsession with precision, perfection & simplicity remains in a league of its own and who's directly or indirectly responsible for the way people go about doing their daily things today. In a sentence, The Man in the Machine chooses to neglect the man & focus only on the inhuman aspects of a machine.