Is Wild Wild West Steampunk?

Is Wild Wild West 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 Wild Wild West 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: Wild Wild West

Studio: Peters Entertainment, Sonnenfeld Josephson Worldwide Entertainment, Todman, Simon, LeMasters Productions

Director: Barry Sonnenfeld

Story By: Jim Thomas, John Thomas, S.S. Wilson

Release Date: June 30, 1999 (United States)

Main Actors: Will Smith, Kevin Kline, Kenneth Branagh

Synopsis: Jim West is an all guns-a-blazing former Civil War hero. Artemus Gordon is an inventive U.S. Marshal who excels in disguises. When the United States is threatened by psychotic Confederate – Arliss Loveless, President Ulysses Grant teams the duo up to bring him to justice. On a hazard-packed train journey from Washington, D.C. to Utah, West and Gordon must combine their skills to best Loveless and his machines.

What Makes a Movie Steampunk?

Before we answer the question, is Wild Wild West 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 Wild Wild West steampunk?

What Elements of Wild Wild West Are Steampunk?

Firstly, if steampunk isn’t set in the victorian era, you will normally find the story set in a wild west setting (occasionally an alternate reality). So this movie definitely ticks the wild west element (the title is a good clue to this one!)

The gadgets in this film are where it excels with the 80-foot steam-powered spider-like war machine that is enough to give arachnophobics nightmares for months!

Not to mention Dr. Loveless’ steam-powered wheelchair and steam-powered world which he tried to create. This includes a steam-powered military tank that changes into a car, weapon, railroad cart, and a submarine!

US Marshal, Artemus Gordon is also an inventor. He invents a “bivalve interior combustion twice-exhausted bi-axle nitro cycle.” Then, toward the end of the movie, he invents the “Air Gordon,” which turns his nitro cycle design into a full-fledged flying contraption, all in keeping with the steampunk aesthetic, as well as being hilariously imaginative.

The clothing is also in keeping with the steampunk aesthetic.

What Elements of Wild Wild West Are NOT Steampunk?

I’m struggling here! There are no elements of the Wild Wild West that are not steampunk to me. Is there something that you have picked up on that would suggest that this movie is not steampunk?

So, Overall Is Wild Wild West Steampunk?

Hell yes! The Will Smith Wild Wild West is the epitome of a steampunk movie. The setting, fashion, vehicles, weapons, inventions are all in keeping perfectly with the steampunk aesthetic.

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

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