ByJack Carr, writer at
You are the Princess Shireen of the House Baratheon, and you are my daughter.
Jack Carr

Technology never sleeps. It's always moving, propelling itself forward to the next destination, the next breakthrough destined to change the way we live.

Steve Jobs probably didn't sleep much either. In the four years since his death at 56, the legend of Jobs has become immortalised in pop culture. The whole world seems to be fascinated by the man in the glasses and the black roll-neck sweater who took the reigns at Apple and revolutionised computer and mobile tech. He gave the world the Apple Mac, and the iPod, and the iPhone, each new product eclipsing the last in cultural impact.

And because we can no longer separate our lives from all this tech, Hollywood has witnessed the birth of a new mini-genre: "the tech biopic".

How The Social Network made a film about Facebook work

Because the tech biopic is a new-ish thing (you might argue that it's not a thing at all), there aren't a lot of comparisons, but one film invites comparison with Steve Jobs for several reasons, and that film is The Social Network.

Before The Social Network came out, people had their doubts. Could a film "about Facebook" really be very interesting? But as it turned out, the Facebook thing was a classic McGuffin, because the film wasn't really about the social network, but the man behind the social network. It was a character study. It presented Mark Zuckerberg in a light that made him unlikable but fascinating, and it established the "unlikable genius" as the main character trope of the tech biopic.

Steve Jobs follows suit. Unlike Zuckerberg, Jobs was already famous for having an allegedly abrasive personality, for going to war with his colleagues and being far more bothered about making history than making friends. All of which makes Jobs the perfect protagonist for a film like this. People will go to see Steve Jobs not because they want to know about how the iPhone came to be, but because they want to get inside the mind of a man who's not your typical hero.

Steve Jobs: the hero who's not really a hero

If anything, Jobs (Michael Fassbender, in what will be one of the defining roles of his career) is the villain of his own movie. In the trailer we see him clash with just about everybody from Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen), the guy who co-founded Apple and who got tossed aside whilst Jobs became an icon, to his estranged wife and daughter (he even attempts to deny his daughter is his).

Just about the only person he seems to get along with is Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet), who's at his side during each of the three major product launches seen in the film. Winslet describes Hoffman as the Apple CEO's "work wife / emotional compass", and her presence across the family marks one key difference with The Social Network, which had no female main or secondary characters - in that film, the women are almost exclusively decoration. Of course, the tech industry has traditionally been a man's world, but Winslet might be in Oscar territory if the critics' reaction to her performance as Hoffman is anything to go by.

Watching the trailer for Steve Jobs, it's impossible not to be struck by the evident tonal and thematic similarities with The Social Network, which is not coincidental considering both films were written by Aaron Sorkin, the screenwriter who rose to fame with The West Wing and whose series and films are always dialogue-rich, or "talky". His ability to make that talkiness interesting is what makes Sorkin a genius within his field.

When Steve Jobs was at Sony, they even wanted Fincher on board to direct, and though it ended up in Danny Boyle's hands, Boyle has been pretty open about the fact that "for [him], it's clearly the second part of The Social Network". The danger of modelling one film on something that came before is that it won't reach the same heights, but to Boyle's credit, and with a three-act screenplay from Sorkin that keeps the action concise, director and writer seem to have come up with something that compliments rather than copies the original. The most striking thing about the trailer is how exciting the film looks, which is no mean feat considering it's basically a bunch of people talking in corridors.

Taking tech to television: Silicon Valley

Although there haven't been many tech biopics yet (there's no point even paying lip service to that awful Ashton Kutcher as Jobs hack job), HBO have been quietly enjoying success with their comedy Silicon Valley, which is about a bunch of guys in the 1980s making advancements in the tech boom of San Francisco.

They're not all very likable either, but they are interesting. There's something fun about lifting the curtain into this world and finding out that the people who created the extraordinary products which we can't live without are actual, normal, screwed-up human beings. Meanwhile, AMC have Halt and Catch Fire, which is far more entertaining than its awkward title might have you believe, and has grown into a better-written, more satisfying series in season 2.

Audiences are clearly interested in this world, and films like Steve Jobs are likely to be the tip of the iceberg. But whether it, or anything else that follows, can reach the heights of The Social Network remains to be seen - sometimes, the first really is the best.

Will you be watching Steve Jobs? Could it surpass The Social Network? Is the "tech biopic" on course to become Hollywood's next big thing? Leave a comment and share your thoughts...


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