Steampunk Movie Top Ten – No.4 & No.3

Recently I polled active members of the Pandora Society’s Facebook group to nominate and vote upon their favorite “Steampunk” movie. Many films were nominated, but this week we shall present those that were voted into the top ten by looking at two films per day as we count down to the Pandora Society’s favorite “Steampunk” film ever!

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No. 4 – Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes PosterThe role of Sherlock Holmes holds the record for having been played by the most different actors on screen. For many years Basil Rathbone was the iconic Sherlock Holmes making the deerstalker hat quintessential to the great detective’s image, even though in the books he seldom wears one. Some other great actors to have played the role are Christopher Lee, Rupert Everett, Michael Caine, Tom Baker, Jeremy Brett (my personal favorite), Peter Cushing, and Ian McKellen. More recently, in 2010, the modernized Sherlock television series with Benedict Cumberbatch has striven to make the world’s most famous detective even more beloved, but this was all proceeded in 2009 with Robert Downy Jr. taking up residence in 221B Baker Street under the direction of Guy Ritchie.

So while Sherlock Holmes is no doubt one of the most popular characters to come from Victorian literature, what qualifies him as “Steampunk”? British film director Guy Ritchie, known for Lock, Stock, & Two Smoking Barrels, and Snatch, brought a new edge to the classic detective by making things far more gritty and darker than many previous interpretations. While “futuristic” technology does not play much of a factor in this movie, it is the “punk” aspect that propels this movie into what might be considered “Steampunk” status. Robert Downy Jr.’s portrayal plays upon the diamond in the rough archetype; his hair is unkempt, he wears stubble, he is slovenly, and he is more physical with both fighting and romance. Rather than the refined gentlemen with perfectly creased everything, Downy presents a Bohemian rebel who defies social convention. Of course the original Sherlock Holmes of the novels and short stories is not infallible, the character suffers from a drug addiction which despite the edginess, Ritchie chose not to include in his 2009 movie.

Today it seems that Benedict Cumberbatch holds the “deerstalker crown” of Sherlock Holmes, but it is definitely worth noting that it was Robert Downy Jr. and company that broke the ground for a whole new generation of interpretation on the world’s greatest detective . . . and apparently a third movie installment is in the works, rumored to bring back Holmes’s love interest and nemesis Irene Adler played by Rachel McAdams.

 

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No. 3 – The Prestige

Prestige PosterThe Prestige, released in 2006, presents science as magic and magic as science . . . plus it features David Bowie as Nikola Tesla!

The basic premise of the film, for those rare few who have not seen it, revolves around a long term rivalry between two magicians, Robert Angier played by Hugh Jackman and Alfred Borden played by Christian Bale, who were once friends before a tragic on stage accident that resulted in a death of Angier’s wife. After this schism the magicians compete to out perform and humiliate the other, which leads Angier to seek new technology and employ the help of Steampunk’s favorite inventor . . . Nikola Tesla.

Directed by Christopher Nolan, who brought us the latest Batman movie trilogy along with other great films such as Inception and Memento, this is a film with many twists and turns. The pace of the film is gentle and very character driven as the rivals try to figure out and debunk each others illusions while passions and plots for revenge seep into the wounds that they inflict upon each other. The story is very well crafted and cleverly shifts its audience’s sympathies and emotions from character to character, leaving you confused at times as to for whom you’re feeling sorry. In a similar vein the film twists and confuses the lines between science and magic, revealing the mechanics of the stage illusions, but shrouding science in a veil of mystery and wonderment making Tesla the true wizard of this story.

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Next up, movies two and one in our top ten countdown, but previously six and five 🙂

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