Is Hugo 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 Hugo 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: Hugo
Studio: Paramount Pictures, GK Films, Infinitum Nihil
Director: Martin Scorsese
Story By: John Logan, Brian Selznick
Release Date: November 23, 2011 (United States)
Main Actors: Asa Butterfield, Chloë Grace Moretz, Christopher Lee
Synopsis: Hugo is an orphaned boy, who lives in the walls of a train station in 1930s Paris. The movie is an adaptation of Brian Selznick’s novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Hugo learned to fix clocks and other gadgets from his father, and uncle. He uses these skills to keep the train station clocks running. This is the only thing that he has left to connect him to his dead father is an automaton (mechanical man) that doesn’t work without a special key. Hugo needs to find the key to unlock the secret he believes it contains.
What Makes a Movie Steampunk?
Before we answer the question, is Hugo 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.
Things 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.
If you’re interested in learning more about steampunk, check out our article, ‘What is Steampunk?’, which will take you through the history, influences, fashions, gadgets, and much more.
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, other times, 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.
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, let’s take a look, is Hugo steampunk?
What Elements of Hugo Are Steampunk?
Where to begin! This movie is positive and hopeful, everything you would hope from a steampunk movie, especially with a child as the central character.
The broken automation (the mechanical man created to write with a pen) that Hugo and his father try to repair is a symbol of hope. The automation uses the power from the wind-up motors, carried through mechanisms to its right arm, to write and draw. Although this is not steam-powered, it is still mechanical, in keeping with the steampunk genre.
Furthermore, it is an invention, not necessarily futuristic in its build, but certainly intricate.
The clock. Clocks and gears (especially in brass) are seen all over the steampunk genre, they are synonymous with steampunk. The clock in the station is a work of steampunk art.
What Elements of Hugo Are NOT Steampunk?
Hugo is set in 1931, which is just outside of the Victorian era, when most steampunk movies are set and the fashion is in keeping with 1930’d Paris, and is not that of the Victorian ear, although influences can still be seen.
So, Overall Is Hugo Steampunk?
There is more than enough steampunk imagery in Hugo to classify it as a steampunk-inspired movie. Although set just outside of the victorian era, the hope, clocks, and inventions are enough to bring steampunk to life in this movie.
What are your thoughts? Is the movie Hugo steampunk? Let us know in the comments below what your opinion is and why.