Saturday, April 18, 2009

How do I know steampunk when I find it?

It took a while for me to answer that question, and for the sake of those coming in late, I'll give you a head's up. Steampunk can be found...well, everywhere, and it's slowly but steadily growing in popularity. There's no single reason why a person might be attracted to it (I have a laundry list of reasons myself...more on that in blogs to come), but it isn't just a form of science fiction-fantasy entertainment and art. It's becoming an increasingly (and I hope to hell it stays in a good way) fashionable aesthetic, influencing things from music to clothing...some are taking it so far to make it a lifestyle alternative! Others have made virtual, steam-driven lives for themselves in Second Life's New Babbage.

Here's some visual aids to help you, too. (AGAIN, LEGAL BULLSHIT DISCLAIMER: I don't claim to own these images, which I found in the public domain. I'm not making a profit from them either, so there!)

For even better visual aids, let me describe to you the best mainstream examples of streampunk that can be found on television and DVD...I'll start with the 1960's Robert Conrad-Ross Martin TV series "The Wild Wild West" and its cinematic remake from 1999.

I still remember seeing the original "The Wild Wild West" on syndication a lo-ong time ago (so long I’ve forgotten more than I remember of it!), and that show was the first mainstream example of steampunk before it even got its name. Definitely a classic, while in my opinion the "Wild Wild West" movie...isn’t classic, and probably will never be called that. Without a doubt, it has the Victorian/Wild West era and the steampunk aesthetic and devices, some of amazing scale...a giant steam-driven tarantula has to be one of the best extreme examples of steampunk! Unfortunately, for me and a lot of folks, the movie fell short for three good reasons:

1) Will Smith wasn’t so much playing a cowboy/secret agent as he was playing himself...nothing wrong with that, but he felt out of place in the story’s time and setting.

2) Kenneth Branaugh as Loveless chewed up everything in sight, but the rest of the actors outside of Smith didn’t seem to be giving even half as much energy for their parts.

3) The movie’s pace was slow too much of the time...a typical big-budget movie with too much money to spend and too little to say, outside of some novel key moments. (Like James West nearly being ambushed with Miss East in that ’trick room’; you’d have to see it to appreciate it. And seeing a giant robo-spider tearing across the Wild West is always interesting.)

One movie I’ve seen I know people will disagree with me liking is "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen", with Sean Connery. Before you sling your nasty words, I never read the original graphic novels the film is based from, and I don’t doubt that the source material is better than the film. (Just look at "Watchmen", whether or not you’ve read the book.) But "League" is still a good action/adventure film, and it has a lot of steampunk to it, with the exception of the Nemomobile...the tires and the headlights were too modern! I’m surprised people haven’t said more good things about the film’s take on Captain Nemo (which would have to be the closest to how Jules Verne envisioned him, especially in regard to his Indian roots) and the screw-propelled incarnation of the Nautilus.

For the best modern steampunk film, though, I haven’t seen "The Golden Compass" I’d have to recommend the Japanese anime film, "Steamboy". Whether you love anime or not, this movie is steampunk heaven from start to finish. There are too many reasons why, so I won’t bother counting them!

No comments:

Post a Comment