Is Sherlock Holmes Steampunk?

Is Sherlock Holmes 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 Sherlock Holmes 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: Sherlock Holmes

Studio: Warner Bros., Village Roadshow Pictures, Silver Pictures

Director: Guy Ritchie

Story By: Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckham, Simon Kinberg

Release Date: December 25, 2009 (United States)

Main Actors: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams

Synopsis: After finally catching serial killer and occult “sorcerer” Lord Blackwood, legendary detectives Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watons Watson can close yet another case on behalf of Scotland Yard.

Then Blackwood mysteriously rises from his grave and resumes his killing spree, The duo must take up the hunt once again to bring Blackwood and his backers to justice.

What Makes a Movie Steampunk?

Before we answer the question, is Sherlock Holmes 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

  1. 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’  
  2. Steam Powered Vehicles – In steampunk movies, as with the above, you will only see vehicles powered by steam, cars, ships, and even submarines.
  3. Airships – Airships are popular within the steampunk genre – again, mechanically powered.  
  4. 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. 
  5. The Clothing – Clothing can vary, but is normally focused around the fashions of Victorian England, or that of a colonial explorer. 
  6. 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.
  7. 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.  
  8. 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.
  9. 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. 
  10. 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 Sherlock Holmes steampunk?

What Elements of Sherlock Holmes Are Steampunk?

Firstly, the movie is set in London, in Victorian England, The fashion is of its time all of which is in keeping with the steampunk genre.

We can see Sherlock with his victorian gentleman overcoat and hat and even the small round black glasses. Not to mention his femme-fatal, Irene Adler, can be seen wearing victorian style dresses, albeit slightly upgraded from what everyday Victorians were wearing. Her dresses are often full of vibrant colors.

The weapons are in keeping with the era. Holmes can be seen using a Webley RIC, and several of the characters can be seen using a Webley Bulldog. One of the henchmen employed by Blackwood can be seen using an Enfield Mk II, several other pistols and revolvers can be seen throughout the movie, all of which are in keeping with the Victorian setting.

There are inventions all over this movie, one of the most iconic being the pistol that projects from Moriati’s sleeve. We see this when Holmes falls in front of the carriage he is riding in after he has followed Irene Adler through the market and it is ‘drawn’ on him.

There is also the ship that is being built in the shipyard (which is prematurely launched) as well as the construction of London Bridge being underway.

What Elements of Sherlock Holmes Are NOT Steampunk?

There is nothing in this wonderful film that breaks with the steampunk genre. What are your thoughts?

So, Overall Is Sherlock Holmes Steampunk?

Sherlock Holmes is most definitely a steampunk movie. It’s set in the Victorian Era, has inventions and gadgets, fashion, and more, all in keeping with steampunk.

What are your thoughts? Is the movie Sherlock Holmes steampunk? Let us know in the comments below what your opinion is and why.

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