Is The Matrix Steampunk?

Is The Matrix 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 Matrix 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 Matrix (1999), The Matrix Reloaded (2003), The Matrix Revolutions (2003), and The Matrix Resurrections

Studio: Warner Brothers

Director: The Wachowskis

Story By: The Wachowskis

Release Date: 1999 (the original)

Main Actors: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, and Joe Pantoliano

Synopsis:  The Matrix is set in a dystopian future whereby humanity is trapped within a simulated reality (the Matrix). Within the matrix, humans are incubated whilst their energy is harvested to fuel the machines which run the matrix.

Neo (Keanu Reaves) is a computer programmer who lives outside of the matrix and uncovered the truth. He is drawn into the rebellion against the machines which has the ultimate goal of releasing people from the alternative reality in which they are living inside of the matrix.

What Makes a Movie Steampunk?

Before we answer the question, is The Matrix 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

  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, othertimes, 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.

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

What Elements of The Matrix Are Steampunk?

The mechanical nature of the sentinels which can be seen in The Matrix is in keeping with the mechanical developments that can be seen within the steampunk genre. However, these are not powered by steam, as above, the sentinels are powered by the energy harvested from humans.

What Elements of The Matrix Are NOT Steampunk?

As discussed above, nothing in the Matrix is powered by steam, which is central to the steampunk culture. In the Matrix, the ships and hovercraft appear to be powered by electricity, with electricity being stored in batteries for longer journeys.

As for the setting, The Matrix is set in a dystopian future, not Victorian England, or an alternative reality as in steampunk. Steampunk is not set in a dystopian future.

What About The Fashion?

You will often see the leather trench coats that can be seen in The Matrix advertised as ‘steampunk’, in clothing stores and online, however, this is not steampunk and instead are more in keeping with the cyberpunk genre.

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 Matrix Steampunk?

The Matrix does not fit within the steampunk genre. It is set in a dystopian future, outside of the era expected in steampunk, but, most importantly, steam is not the fuel source used, meaning that The Matrix cannot be deemed steampunk.

Instead, The Matix shares more similarities with the cyberpunk genre.

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

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