Is The Prestige Steampunk?

Is The Prestige 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 Prestige 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 Prestige

Studio: Touchstone Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures Group, Newmarket Films

Director: Christopher Nolan

Story By: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan, Christopher Priest

Release Date: October 20, 2006 (United States)

Main Actors: Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johansson

Synopsis: Set at the end of the nineteenth century, in London, Robert Angier, his beloved wife Julia McCullough, and Alfred Borden are friends and assistants of a magician. When Julia accidentally dies during a performance, Robert blames Alfred for her death, and they become enemies. Both become famous and rival magicians, sabotaging the performance of the other on the stage.

What Makes a Movie Steampunk?

Before we answer the question, is The Prestige 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 The Prestige steampunk?

What Elements of The Prestige Are Steampunk?

Firstly, the story is set during the Victorian era, which is a big tick for a steampunk movie. This is not only the time setting but also the victorian fashion seen throughout the movie.

It also explores the use of machines, albeit here within the magical setting. Furthermore, steam-powered machines are only growing in popularity, another big tick for a steampunk movie. Inventions are seen throughout the movie

Into the movie, we see Tesla’s magnifying transmitter as well as other gadgets such as Angier’s suit that he uses to make a birdcage disappear – it has leavers, corks, screws, and springs to make the trick work. These are all things that epitomize steampunk.

There is a subtext to the movie around the ethical use of machinery and whether it is best in the hands of a few of the hands of many.

What Elements of The Prestige Are NOT Steampunk?

Electricity can be seen to be used in the ‘teleportation’ device (that actually duplicates an individual. This is a step away from the traditional steampunk genre, where electricity had never existed.

So, Overall Is The Prestige Steampunk?

The Prestige is a great example of a steampunk movie. It is obviously heavily influenced by the steampunk culture and not just a happy coincidence. It covers numerous points associated with this genre including, being set in the victorian era, the accompanying fashion, the inventions and the conflict between the machinery advancements, and what this means for wider society.

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

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