Published Aug 20, 2015It's been nearly four years since the death of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, and no matter how many terrible Ashton Kutcher-starring biopics, New York City plays and massive 656-page biographical tomes are thrown our way, he's still a truly difficult and complex person to understand.
That's because, for all the good he brought the world (i.e. helping revolutionize the computer, animated films, the way we consume music and, last but not least, phones), he was, by most accounts, a pretty terrible human being.
Jobs' roles as a father, friend, entrepreneur and icon are examined in documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney's latest effort, Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine, a film that assumes the difficult task of separating his saint and sage-like image from his nasty side and tries to find out what Jobs' notorious drive and products say about him, as well as society as a whole.
Much like his 2013 takedowns of Julian Assange (We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks) and Lance Armstrong (The Armstrong Lie), The Man in the Machine won't find many supporters from those who see Jobs simply as some sort of visionary. The film offers a scathing portrayal of him as a person, using archival footage and talking heads with friends and foes alike to depict his shortcomings and dastardly decisions in his personal life (wanting to name his first — and soon to be estranged — daughter after a future computer line seemingly only to increase sales) and as a businessman (an overall lack of philanthropy, even at the height of his and his company's success).
At times, it can all seem a little one-sided (read Walter Isaacson's Steve Jobs for a full understanding of the man and his machines), which has led a number of people close to Jobs during his life (including, more recently, Apple's Senior Vice President of Internet Software and Services, Eddy Cue) to cry foul. But The Man in the Machine isn't supposed to operate as an all-encompassing biography (if it were, it would probably two to three times as long).
Early on in the film, one of Gibney's interview subjects remarks that Jobs didn't design the personal computer just to be an extension of a person, but something that defines them. That was clearly Steve Jobs' greatest strength: creating products that made people feel whole.
Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine doesn't just ask how one man could be so "ruthless, deceitful, and cruel," as Gibney states at one point the film, but how we, as a society, can turn a blind eye to it all in the name of perfectly designed, monolithic machines.