Is War Of The Worlds Steampunk? [1953 version]

Is War Of The Worlds 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 War Of The Worlds 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: War Of The Worlds

Studio: Paramount Pictures

Director: Byron Haskin

Story By: H.G. Wells, screenplay by Barre Lyndon

Release Date: Aug 13, 1953 (United States)

Main Actors: Gene Barry, Ann Robinson

Synopsis: set in California, Dr. Forrester, an atomic scientist, is fishing when an unknown object crashes nearby. At the impact site, he meets USC library science instructor Sylvia Van Buren and her uncle, Pastor Matthew Collins.

Later that night, a hatch on the unknown object unscrews and opens. As the three men attempt to make contact with the occupants of the object a Martian laser gun opened fire on them.

Soon similar objects are landing all over the city, the Marines try and defend Earth. Although the machines appear indestructible by traditional weaponry, they have no resistance to the bacteria in the atmosphere.

What Makes a Movie Steampunk?

Before we answer the question, is War Of The Worlds 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 War Of The Worlds steampunk?

What Elements of War Of The Worlds Are Steampunk?

The fighting machines in War of The Worlds, which are known as the ‘Tripods’ due to their three tentacle-like legs are synonymous with steampunk inventions.

These tripods are composed of a main “body”, for which very few details are known. However, we are led to believe that the body contains a jet. These jets fire pressurized steam. What more do you want for a steampunk classic?!

Although all of the fashion is not in keeping with the Victorian era, there are a number of nods to colonial explorer fashion, which would be in keeping with the steampunk aesthetic.

What Elements of War Of The Worlds Are NOT Steampunk?

The original film is sat in the present, as in 1950’s – it was not sat back in the Victorian Era.

The majority of the fashion seen in the movie is not steampunk, plus regular, petrol-powered vehicles are being driven by the populace.

There isn’t that sense of gadgetry and invention that is normally seen in a classic steampunk movie, post WWII tanks are being used to battle against the tripods.

So, Overall Is War Of The Worlds Steampunk?

The original 1953 War Of The Worlds movie is not steampunk in the traditional sense of the genre. However, I think we can all agree that it is certainly steampunk-inspired, and definitely a classic to watch if you are interested in the steampunk genre.

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

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