In the interest of full disclosure: I’ve been captivated by Michael Fassbender since 2011, when I saw him as young Magneto in X-Men: First Class. I remember leaving the theater saucer-eyed, and husband Tim being a little embarrassed by my slack-jawed
reaction. I had always loved Magneto in the comics, with his sexy silver mane and his red cape. I mean, even though he’s a bad guy, he’s all about magnetism, right? There should be something sexy about him. And while I have no qualms about Ian McKellen’s portrayal of the older Magneto, when I saw Michael Fassbender, I knew what I had been missing. The intense magnetism.
I’d like to say I’ve seen everything Fassbender has done, but I can’t. (The actor stays incredibly busy). Here’s a very short list of what I have seen, by no means all-inclusive:
Jane Eyre (2011) – Multiple times. Can almost quote it verbatim. It’s my go-to movie when Tim isn’t around.
Shame (2011) – I’ve only seen it once, on a plane, via my Kindle Fire. Not a smart move on my part, since its full frontal nudity and multitude of sex scenes brought on my own brand of shame. I pulled the cover over the Kindle every time the flight attendants passed, hoping they couldn’t see what was on the screen. But listed here, because it’s a gut-punch of a movie.
12 Years a Slave (2013) – Edwin Epps is probably the most evil human I’ve seen Fassbender play. And worth a mention here because of the director, Steve McQueen, who also directed Shame. Here’s a director who’s the same age as me, who has blown me away with what he can convey on screen. More on that in a bit.
So here we are in 2015, and Fassbender is playing Steve Jobs. I’m all in on the prospect, even though I can take or leave biopics, in general. I prefer characterizations as part of a larger narrative. Like A Dangerous Method (2011). (Fassbender plays Carl Jung to Viggo Mortensen’s Sigmund Freud. Aragorn as the father of psychoanalysis! I was all over that movie like stink on a pig. This is my third Jung reference in as many posts, after all). Anyway, it was two actors playing historical figures, as part of a larger story. I wouldn’t consider it a biopic.
Fassbender as Steve Jobs – I enjoyed the movie, but probably mostly due to him. He’s pretty excellent at falling into a character. And it got me thinking, in a battle between Magneto and Steve Jobs, who would win? There’s several ways to go with this. In a battle of strength, Magneto’s the clear winner. Jobs is always around computers and computing devices, and that’s a lot of metal.
In a battle for the hearts and minds of humanity, definitely Jobs. For one, Magneto wants to subjugate humanity to mutants, so he’s not very interested in their hearts and minds. Take ‘em or leave ‘em, I think. As I pulled out my iPhone after seeing Steve Jobs to check the score of the Saints game, and as I type this on my MacBook Air, there’s a clear indication of Jobs’ dominance in this realm.
Here’s a tougher one – Magneto vs. Steve Jobs – who’s more unpleasant to be around? Let’s look at the portrayals. Magneto caused Professor X’s paralysis (going by the First Class narrative). He escaped prison by extracting the excess metal in a security guard’s blood. He turned his back on Mystique when she lost her mutant powers. A pretty treacherous guy.
Steve Jobs refused to publicly acknowledge Steve Wozniak’s contributions to Apple. He publicly berated employees when they didn’t measure up to his standards. He imperiled public safety by wanting the exit signs extinguished when making one of his presentations (for the effect of full darkness). But he didn’t cause someone’s paralysis by this act, as far as I know.
Steve Jobs had paternity issues, but so does Magneto. I’d say Magneto takes the most unpleasant trophy. Probably downright dangerous to be around, too.
And Steve Jobs could have probably corrected some of his unpleasantness if he had heeded the advice Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen) delivered in the third act of the movie: “It’s not binary. You can be decent and gifted at the same time.”
So what’s the end result of these battle royales? What’s the ultimate prize? I think it’s good movies. And good books. Steve Jobs opens in 1984, right after the seminal Apple Super Bowl ad aired. I found myself remembering where I was in 1984, what I was doing. Fourteen years old, I read George Orwell’s 1984 during Christmas break, because I wanted to know what may be coming. And then there’s a big fuss over the ad, and I remember thinking, “Wow, that’s referencing 1984. I was just reading that. What are they selling? Huh. Too bad I can’t afford a personal computer.”
The second act of Steve Jobs takes place in 1988. Right around the time I was introduced to the X-Men. And Magneto and his silver mane and red cape. (Still no personal computer for me.)
Good books give us a glimpse into other worlds, and other ways of thinking. Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs provided the basis for the movie. (Walter Isaacson – there’s a New Orleans-born writer with a career worth aspiring to.)
Good movies give us abbreviated glimpses into other worlds, and other ways of thinking. Abbreviated, but fully fleshed in sight and sound. Here’s where I have to bring up Steve McQueen again. The scene from 12 Years a Slave that I can’t forget is the burial scene. Chiwetel Ejiofor, as Solomon Northup, delivers a gut punch singing “Roll, Jordan, Roll.” I could feel everything he was feeling, just by his expression and his timing. I don’t think reading that scene could deliver the same impact.
And here’s the kicker – both books and movies are readily accessible in our current age, more so than at any other time. Via iPhone. And iPad. And MacBook. And Apple TV. Even Kindle Fire. So for that, I have to say I’m glad Steve Jobs won. Magneto can take his sexy cape and go home.