One of my favourite movies is The Social Network. I saw it twice in theatres, and it's one of the few movies I bought on Blu-Ray which is amazing because when I buy a movie now, I usually do so digitally. I love The Social Network so much because of how it makes me feel. As Jason eloquently stated immediately following our first viewing "now I want to go out and invent a website that changes the world". It's a movie that makes me want to do something. I like that.
Steve Jobs is not that movie. It is written by Aaron Sorkin, who also wrote The Social Network. It is full of great actors like The Social Network, and it's directed by an Oscar-nominated director (Danny Boyle who actually has an Oscar unlike Social Network director David Fincher who really should at this point). I read a preview of the film which said that Steve Jobs is a companion piece to The Social Network. The two films are somehow related. I think he's right, but I think it's for very non-obvious reasons.
When Jason and I started a website based around trying to tell stories, I started to think really seriously about the basic building blocks of what make up a story. At some point I came to the realization that stories exist on a grid of plot and characters. Every story has to have both elements, but it can choose to spend more time developing them. A character with no plot is the back of a baseball card. It's a list of static facts. A plot with no characters can't exist. You can't move nothing around. Even if your main character is just a box, there have to be characters to have a story.
But you can do so much in developing one of those elements to the exclusion of the other. Fables are good examples of stories which develop a plot, but not it characters. I don't know a whole lot about the inner demons of the tortoise and the hare at the end of that story. They're both pretty understandable. The plot is everything. Then in a biography, you hear a lot about what a person has done over the course of their life, and there might be moments of tension and climax and drama, but those events really exist as a vehicle for teaching about the person in the book and are not meant to be the sole focus.
So these two movies, both written by Aaron Sorkin, are companions. They both have fast talking dialogue, and they both deal with people in the technology industry. But they differ on how they develop plot and characters to an incredible degree.
In The Social Network, the movie is about the plot. The whole film pivots around a reveal that Mark Zuckerburg pushes someone out of his company. Every scene in the film shifts around that central conflict to some degree. At the conclusion of the first scene, there is almost no character development. In a David Fincher movie, characters don't change or grow. They remain static. All you are doing is discovering who the characters truly were the entire time (see Gone Girl, Fight Club, I could go on). The plot is what is developed. The plot which reveals the true nature of each character.
I don't know what happens in Steve Jobs. The movie occurs in three parts. Each part is centered around a different product launch that Jobs was present for. In each part, a cross section of important people show up looking to resolve serious personal issues before the event begins. Characters walk in and out of Job's green room constantly. I watched this entire movie and at the end of it, I did not come away with the sensation that something had been accomplished. Events had happened, but those events were not there to be woven in some kind of plot. Those events were there to peel back the layers on Steve Jobs and show me what he was like at each of those three time periods. Plot happens, but it is frivolous. What is important is Jobs reaction to each of the people in his life.
The Social Network is about plot. The characters don't really change. Steve Jobs is about Characters. The plot is barely there. But at the end of the film, you know that was the point because you feel like you knew Steve Jobs, or at least knew what Aaron Sorkin and Danny Boyle wanted to say about him.