Is The Golden Compass 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 The Golden Compass 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: The Golden Compass
Studio: New Line Cinema
Director: Chris Weitz
Story By: Philip Pullman (Northern Lights)
Release Date: 2007
Main Actors: Nichole Kidman, Daniel Craig, Dakota Blue Richards, Ben Walker
Synopsis: The film follows an orphan (Lyra) living in a parallel universe ruled by the Magisterium, who oppose free inquiry. Children are being kidnapped with the support of the Magisterium.
Lyra joins a group of people who are all searching for these missing children.
What Makes a Movie Steampunk?
Before we answer the question, is The Golden Compass 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.
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, apocalyptic future.
- 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 not 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 The Golden Compass Are Steampunk?
Firstly, the setting for this movie is an alternative earth, this is very in keeping with the steampunk aesthetic.
Airships can be seen in The Golden Compass, which is a theme of steampunk. Gadgets such as the mechanical spy flies can also be seen, in keeping with the mechanical ethos of steampunk.
Even though the movie is set on an alternative Earth, that are still undertones of Victorian England, through the architecture of the buildings as well as the clothing worn by the characters.
What Elements of The Golden Compass Are NOT Steampunk?
The questionable element of the golden compass is the introduction of witches.
Witches are not present in traditional steampunk, however, it could be argued that witches are not paranormal, demonic, or mythical in any way, they are humans with powers. However, that is not a debate we are getting into here. We will agree that the witches in this movie are a grey area when it comes to steampunk.
The talking animals can be excused too as these exist in an alternative reality as opposed to being mystical.
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 The Golden Compass Steampunk?
Overall, I would say that The Golden Compass is more steampunk than not. The aesthetic, the alternative reality, and the gadgets all outway the witches and talking animals making this a steampunk movie.
What are your thoughts? IsThe Golden Compass Steampunk? Let us know in the comments below what your opinion is and why.