Steaming Celluloid

  • Historical steampunk tends to be more science fictional, combining alternate history with real locations, famous historical figures and different technology.
  • Fantasy-world steampunk places steampunk in an imaginary fantasy realm, often populated by legendary creatures, and focuses on steam-era or anachronistic technologies.

Originally published in Matrix 188 on 30.06.2008

by Martin McGrath


There are, I suppose, cases to be made for Hollywood seriously molesting every outcropping of science fiction at one time or another. But few of the branches on the sf tree can have been so comprehensively battered as steampunk. Think, for a moment, of the vast swathes of cash and human endeavour thrown at the screen in films like Wild Wild West, The League of Gentlemen, Van Helsing and Atlantis: The Lost Empire, and recall, if you dare, how little pleasure there was to be had from any of them.
"WildWildWest" None of these films fail because of a lack of ambition in capturing steampunk’s aesthetic. There is, in every case, a meticulous and in some instances almost fanatical eye for cleverly crafted props. But, for once, God is not in the detail and in the end these movies are all second-rate edging towards the downright disastrous because they ignore those basic elements of good storytelling

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