The cult of Apple: Steve Jobs on the big screen (again) | Film | DW | 08.10.2015
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The cult of Apple: Steve Jobs on the big screen (again)

The premiere of the new biopic on Apple founder Steve Jobs has been met with wide approval at its premiere in New York. And much of the credit goes to its German-born lead actor, Michael Fassbender.

Michael Fassbender has very much been center stage in recent years. The German-Irish actor has risen to the fore with half a dozen key roles, in landmark films such as "Hunger," "Shame" and "Twelve Years a Slave." The Heidelberg-born Fassbender is widely considered one of the most charismatic and versatile performers in contemporary cinema.

After playing an IRA activist on hunger strike, a sex addict, a slave driver, and finally a rock musician, Fassbender has now landed the role portraying Steve Jobs - the legendary Apple founder. It's certainly a tough gig, for there is more than one side to Jobs: the much adored technological guru and the relentless entrepreneur.

Would the real Steve Jobs please stand up

The long-planned feature film faced numerous hurdles in its long birth, and was even shelved for a time. A particular headache for the producers was who to cast as the indomitable Jobs.

Originally Christian Bale was earmarked for the role, and later Leonardo DiCaprio entered into discussions. But hardly third choice, Fassbender's performance has been unanimously praised after the film's New York premiere.

Steve Jobs. Copyright: Universal Pictures.

Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender), with his colleagues Andy Hertzfeld (Michael Stuhlbarg) and Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet)

Directing the biopic is Britain's Danny Boyle - the man behind "Trainspotting" (1996) and "Slumdog Millionaire" (2009), the latter which scooped up no less than eight Oscars. Incidentally, Boyle was also not the first choice for director - originally David Fincher ("Seven" and "Fight Club") was on board.

In the footsteps of a giant

Fincher was also responsible for "The Social Network," about the rise of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, with the screenplay written by Aaron Sorkin. The screenplay was awarded an Oscar. And while Fincher eventually bailed on "Steve Jobs," Sorkin remained.

With Fassbender, Boyle and Sorkin on board is seems hard to do any wrong.

The film concentrates on the three pivotal phases in Jobs' life, all associated with major product launches - the first of course being the 1984 introduction of the Macintosh computer.

Waiting for a revolution

Phase two documents Jobs' ousting from Apple and his return to prominence with his rival company NeXT - with whom he brings a revolutionary new computer to the market which, while not commercially successful, is technologically game-changing.

Steve Jobs. Copyright: Universal Pictures.

Steve Jobs shows his daughter Lisa Brennan (Makenzie Moss) into the digital age

The third section of the film tells of Jobs' return to Apple in 1998, and the company's return to form and profitability with the iconic iMac. Before "Steve Jobs" aired at the 53rd International Film Festival in New York the biopic had its world premiere at the smaller Telluride Festival in the US state of Colorado on October 5, where initial reviews showed an overwhelmingly positive response.

"The Hollywood Reporter" praised the film's well paced tempo and dynamics, saying, "Danny Boyle's electric direction temperamentally complements Sorkin's highly theatrical three-act study."

Between life and fiction

"Time Out New York" drew parallels between the film and the real life Steve Jobs, opining: "'Steve Jobs' the movie is a lot like Steve Jobs the person: astonishingly brilliant whenever it's not breaking your heart." The magazine praises Aaron Sorkin for writing "about America's Great Flawed Men with such fire and hyperarticulate pathos" and claims the screenwriter "outdoes his work on 'The Social Network' with an even sharper and more savage script about a tech visionary whose genius threatens to corrupt his ethics."

The judgment by trade bible "Variety," however, was somewhat more cynical, saying Boyle, Sorkin and Fassbender "have given their subject the brilliant, maddening, ingeniously designed and monstrously self-aggrandizing movie he deserves."

The controversial origins

Steve Jobs. Copyright: Universal Pictures.

Jobs was a passionate motivator

Sorkin's screenplay was based on an earlier book of the same name by journalist Walter Isaacson, which was released four years ago. Jobs had authorized the biography before his death, and given unparalleled access. Nevertheless, the book fell foul of many of Jobs' fans and colleagues, including his Apple CEO successor Tim Cook. Cook has also been critical of the film, calling it opportunistic.

Aaron Sorkin defended the film in "The Hollywood Reporter" and called Cook hypocritical for commenting without having seen the film. Sorkin also drew attention to the poor working conditions of Chinese workers on Apple products. The film opens in German cinemas November 12.

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