By Emily Donahue
While steampunk may still be a new emerging subculture, its blend of neo-Victorian science-fiction has been in the movies for years. As steampunk band Abney Park’s lead singer Robert Park put it: “We’ve had steampunk movies for just as long as we’ve had movies…it’s just recently been given a name.”
Movies that employ wildly imagined inventions and anachronistic technology set in bygone eras can all fall under this name. “The Prestige,” — a period piece of illusion, invention and teleportation — and “Wild Wild West” — which transcends a typical 1800s Western with its depiction of steam-powered tanks, a cyborg and mechanical spiders — are two of the most popular steampunk movies to date. Also high on the list is “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” which is dense with allusions to the works and characters of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne, both steampunk literary heroes.
Steampunk is more often seen in smaller doses onscreen, however. The seemingly impossible convergence of man and machine in “Iron Man” and “Edward Scissorhands” is straight from steampunk’s mechanical aesthetic and “anything is possible” philosophy.
The Victorian visual motif found in “Stardust,” “The Golden Compass” and “City of Lost Children” is a strong element of steampunk culture. And steampunk writer Catherynne M. Valente argues that “Hellboy” is “one of the more steampunk movies … that has come out in recent years” as Hellboy’s fight against an ethereal fairy world parallels the Victorian fight against the encroaching industrial world.
The next entry in the steampunk canon will be “Watchmen,” the adaptation of the graphic novel set in a dark parallel universe heavy with clocks, gears, electric cars and airships, set to open March 2009.
Does it seem like we’ve been watching steampunk all along? Are there any movies we missed? Sound off below!