Is Avatar Steampunk? [2009]

Is Avatar Steampunk? Let’s have a look at some of the key elements of the movie in order to decide whether it meets the criteria in order to be classified as steampunk or not. If not, does it fit into one of the other punk aesthetics? Let’s find out. 

Before we get into whether Avatar is steampunk or not, let’s look at what the film is about to get a flavor as to whether it is steampunk or not. 

Movie Title: Avatar

Studio: 20th Century Fox, Lightstorm Entertainment, Dune Entertainment, and Ingenious Film Partners

Director: James Cameron

Story By: James Cameron

Release Date: Dec 18 2009 (US), Dec 10 2009 (UK)

Main Actors: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Stephen Lang, Michelle Rodriguez, and Sigourney Weaver

Synopsis: Avatar is set in the mid 22nd century, humans are colonizing Pandora. Pandora is a habitable moon in the Alpha Centauri star system. Here they mine unobanium. This mining threatens the existence of the Na’vi, a native humanoid species. The Na’ve have a genetically engineered body, operated from a brain that is remotely located. They live in harmony with the nature found on the planet surrounding them and worship the mother goddess, Eywa.

What Makes a Movie Steampunk?

Before we answer the question, is Avatar steampunk? Let’s have a look at some of the key characteristics of a steampunk movie.

There are a number of elements that need to combine in order to classify a movie as steampunk. Check out our in depth guide as to what makes a movie steampunk for more information on this. Whether something fits into the steampunk genre or not is a topic that is always up for hot debate in the forums. 

As steampunk sadly never existed, there is no history to check the validity against, however, there is some faux pas that means that something is clearly not steampunk. Thinks such as this we would class as being ‘steampunk inspired’, i.e. they don’t traditionally conform to the steampunk genre, but they have taken elements from it to inspire them. 

As a quick recap, we’ve lined up our top 10 elements to look out for in a steampunk movie. 

Top 10 Things to Look Out for In a Steampunk Movie

  • The Use of Steam – In steampunk, electricity has never been invented, everything is mechanical and powered by steam. This means that if you can see digital machinery in a movie, it isn’t traditional steampunk, therefore it may be classified as ‘steampunk inspires’  
  • Steam Powered Vehicles – In steampunk movies, as with the above, you will only see vehicles powered by steam, cars, ships, and even submarines.
  • Airships – Airships are popular within the steampunk genre – again, mechanically powered.  
  • Set In Victorian Era or an Alternative History – Steampunk is set in either the Victorian Era (19th Century), or in an alternative, future, occasionally depicted as a ‘wild west’ setting. 
  • The Clothing – Clothing can vary, but is normally focused around the fashions of Victorian England, or that of a colonial explorer. 
  • Augmented Mechanical Humans – In steampunk, persons can normally be seen with mechanically replaced elements to their body, sometimes these are full replacements, othertimes, a mechanical exoskeleton.
  • Gadgets & Gears – futuristic (mechanical) gadgets are common place in the steampunk genre. A personal favorite is a gun that mechanically springs from up a sleeve to the user’s hand, ready and poised for use. Gears can be seen throughout the steampunk genre, emphasizing the mechanical theme that is central to the aesthetic.  
  • Time Travel – Time travel is no an essential component of steampunk, however, it can be seen in some steampunk works. Just remember that the time travel device needs to be mechanical and not digital/ electronic.
  • The Paranormal – The paranormal is not traditional steampunk, however, the crossover between the genres is common. The villain in steampunk is normally a man made creation as opposed to being a mythical creature, demon, vampire, etc. 
  • Advanced Technology – Technology that is advanced for its time is a standard theme throughout steampunk. The technology must be mechanical in nature, such as the analog computer.

For more detail, check out our ultimate guide as to what makes a movie steampunk.

What Elements of Avatar Are Steampunk?

Unfortunately, the original 2009 Avatar film does not have many examples of steampunk within it, unlike the cartoon sequel, Avatar: The Last Airbender, which, although not steampunk, does have some elements that are steampunk inspired.  

Avatar shares more in common with the solarpunk genre, with society and nature living in harmony. 

Check out the Best Steampunk Movies

If you’re interested in steampunk movies, why not check out our guide to the best steampunk movies, and see if you can find a new favorite?

So, Overall Is Avatar Steampunk?

Is Avatar Steampunk? No, sorry, this is not a steampunk classic, unlike its sequels.

What are your thoughts? Is Avatar Steampunk? Let us know in the comments below what your opinion is and why.

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