I like Steampunk stuff – the books, the fashion, the comics, and the general DIY aesthetic of it. Hell, even the fantasy series I’m working on borrows from the genre. But it’s odd that a movement with as big of a following as steampunk enjoys has yet to produce more than a couple decent films.
We watched Victor Frankenstein last night and for a while it showed some imaginative spark. My wife ended up liking it better than me but I suspect it was more because she liked the chemistry of James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe. I just looked at the world-building, the plot, the potential in the source material, and found the whole exercise wanting. And it happens again and again. Hollywood pinches this and that from steampunk but it never quite commits fully.
I think the only film that succeeded (and that’s a relative term) was Guy Ritchie’s first Sherlock Holmes film. As a straight Holmes film it was an atrocity. But as a swashbuckling steampunk adventure, it worked pretty well. Of course having Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law as Holmes and Watson does give a director a leg up but Ritchie’s manic energy seemed to work well with all the gears and contraptions and brawling. It didn’t please the Holmes purists but I don’t suspect anyone involved in the picture cared about that.
But has there not been another decent movie in this realm. I scanned a few lists of the supposed “bests” and man, there were a lot of mediocre to bad movies on that list. Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was a masterpiece but the movie based on it was a crime against God and man. Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow was breathtaking to see but the plot actually hurt. The Wild Wild West is simply one of the worst movies ever. And it goes on and on. No one seems to get it right.
It’s not for lack of material. For example Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker would be an awesome film. It even has zombies in it. Zombies! And goggles, gaskets, and a tunneling machine that rivals all tunneling machines. Did I also mention zombies? And there are countless others graphic novels and print novels. George Mann’s Newberry & Hobbes series has a few ripping yarns that would transfer to film easily. So it’s not like Hollywood would have to craft something out of nothing. But instead we get Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Give me a fucking break.
A few years ago I whined about the lack of decent science fiction series on television. And was rewarded by a spectacular adaptation of James SA Corey’s The Expanse on SyFy. So maybe that’s the answer. Someone needs to make a series on one of the cable networks (forget broadcast, I saw the Dracula piece of shit on NBC and it was ridiculous) and pronto. So come on SyFy. You’re my only hope.