The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: let's put aside the fact that this is nothing like the comics. That's another battle altogether. Neither the comic books not the film are entirely Steampunk, but the comics do get closer to the spirit of Steampunk. The film tries to rest on Sean Connery's waning star power, and throws some monumental CGI Steampunk accessories into the mix to flesh out the life and death situations. The problem? That big fancy machinery isn't really what Steampunk is about. It's part of it, but it's the independent, ingenious, creative mindset that is missing here. Not even a sexy vampire can save this wreck. I will say one good thing for this movie: the Invisible Man is an intriguing character and I'd like to see more of him in another setting, no pun intended. Result: one star for effort, and one star for fairly good CGI. No Stars for Steampunk. **OOO
Van Helsing: What can I say? Is there a more hated attempt at putting Steampunk on the big screen out there? Poor Van Helsing. I personally like the film. Well actually, I only like it for Hugh Jackman's muscles. (Can you blame me?) Now the gadgets in this are pretty cool and took a certain amount of ingenuity and creativity to think up (well ok, not that much), and they (and Kate Beckinsale's costumes) are the only Steampunk elements here. So perhaps on a Steampunk front this is a mild success. But a confusing or perhaps completely absent plot and a hero who we never learn anything about (is he the archangel Gabriel? why is he on earth and is he immortal?) make this a failure. Rotten Tomatoes agrees. Result: one star for Steampunk gadgets, and one star for really gorgeous eye-candy. **OOO
Wild Wild West: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Ok, I'm done now. I don't even know what to say here... This is certainly a fun movie, if you're looking for two hours of balls-out brainless entertainment. I've watched it a few times when I need to kill a few brain cells. But the acting's horrible and embarrassing, the plot's ridiculous, and the ludicrous Steampunk gadgetry is overkill. Not even the always-lovable genius Kevin Kline can save this fiasco from crashing and burning, though he does give a good effort. I'll give them some credit for the creativity of the machinery, but not much. Result: one star for sheer fun, one star for Kevin Kline, and one star for Steampunk. ***OO
Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters: This is probably going to be my favorite movie of 2013, despite the facts that it has an abysmal script, a confusing mix of accents, and there are so many more fabulous movies slated to come out this year. But Hansel and Gretel has charm. It knows it's crap, and it embraces its folly. You can tell the actors are having the time of their lives. It doesn't hurt that the leads are gorgeous. This movie aims to be a piece of modern schlok on the campy level of the B horror movies of the 80s and it has wild success in this arena. The characters are 2-dimensional but a joy to behold, and the gore is well done. (I hate horror movies, as a general rule, so it's saying a lot when I approve of gore.) The weapons... they are awesome. They have been called Steampunk in that they are before their time and display the sort of creative mechanical genius that Steampunk requires. The best elements of modernity in the gritty past, so to speak. Other than that, this is fantasy/horror. Result: one star for Steampunky gadgets, 3 stars for sheer fun (and another half-a-star for eye-candy). ****O
Now there are plenty of other pseudo-Steampunk movies out there for your viewing pleasure, and I'd recommend googling a list just for fun. A lot of movies use Steampunk elements, like Hugo, A Series of Unfortunate Events, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, City of Ember, The Golden Compass, and The Secret of Moonacre (not to mention the film adaptations of any Jules Verne or H. P. Lovecraft works, which tend towards Steampunk almost more than towards fantasy/sci-fi). Watch a few and see what you think. And keep a lookout for Steampunk-ish movies on the horizon, like Lone Ranger, the new Riddick, The Boxtrolls, and Bioshock (yes, it's going to be a movie). If you know of any more, let us know in the comments!
(Yes, I'm aware that I left the debacle that is Jonah Hex off this list. I just can't talk about it. The wounds are still fresh.)
The Lonely Alchemist