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Tag: Hayao Miyazaki

Editorials

Steampunk: The Origins, the Looks and the Films

February 26, 2021
Steampunk classic Castle in the Sky

Steampunk art has become very popular in recent decades. But what is it? Today we’re going to look at what the steampunk aesthetic consists of. As well as analysing the origins of the subgenre and some key films that are part of this movement. Let’s get steamy.

Steampunk’s Aesthetic

Steampunk is a retro-futuristic aesthetic. The genre largely focuses on the fashion and/or settings of the Victorian/American Wild West era. And juxtaposes this against intricate technology. Which is too advanced or fantastical for that time. Often it emphasises adventure stories and a sense of discovery.

“Instead of offering science-fictional interpretations of a future that leaves the past behind… steampunk fictions see both the past and future blended”.

Robbie McAllister in Steampunk Film: A Critical Introduction

But creators aren’t restricted to working in the specific time period mentioned above. Steampunk stories have been set in many periods between the industrial revolution and the Edwardian era. Some creators make science fantasy stories divorced from our world. Others tell of futuristic/post-apocalyptic scenarios where the world we know is replaced by continuations of the steampunk era. Meaning the genre’s aesthetics allow for a lot of possibilities.

Steampunk fancy dress
An example of steampunk fancy dress [Source: Arizona Daily Star]

Genre Origins

Author K.W. Jeter coined the name in a 1987 letter to Locus magazine. In this letter, he jokingly referred to a group of writers who like him were writing Victorian fantasy science fiction as “steampunks”.

The genre also has roots in the Victorian science fiction stories of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells. Works like The Time Machine and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea contributed a lot to the genre. And there are examples of steampunk works that predate the name such as The Wild Wild West TV show, books like Michael Moorcock’s The Warlord of the Air, and some of the manga of Osamu Tezuka. But how has cinema represented the genre?

Steampunk Precursor Movies

Arguably one of the earliest films to use elements that steampunk would later incorporate was Georges Méliès’ A Trip to the Moon (1902). Which features anachronistic technology, rocket ships landing on the moon, alongside characters from the Edwardian period. It was also influenced by Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon and H.G. Wells’ First Men in the Moon.

Other titles that would influence steampunk include Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954) and Karel Zeman’s The Deadly Invention (1958). Both are Jules Verne book adaptations. Both also feature advanced machinery and submarines in Victorianesque settings. George Pal’s The Time Machine (1960) and Nicholas Meyer’s Time After Time (1979), are also examples of early cinema steampunk. Both having Victorian heroes with retro-futuristic time travel devices.

The time machines of H.G. Wells in cinema // Credits: MGM (Left) & Warner Bros (Right)

Modern Steampunk Movies

1986 saw the release of Hayao Miyazaki’s Castle in the Sky, considered one of the first true steampunk films. Then the 90s saw the release of the big-budget Hollywood adaptation of Wild Wild West (1999) and Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s wildly imaginative The City of Lost Children (1995). Which takes place in an undetermined time full of retro clothing, oil rigs, sea mines, and eyepieces that seem both advanced and simple.

However, steampunk cinema arguably became most popular in the 21st century. This time saw the big-screen adaptation of Alan Moore’s popular steampunk comic The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003). Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle (2004) employed retro-futurist technology alongside a magical fantasy world to showcase the wonders and atrocities that mankind is capable of. And short films like the Oscar-nominated The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello (2005) helped to showcase the genres growing popularity. Even films like Martin Scorsese’s Hugo (2011) showcased a fascination with the genre’s aesthetics. Despite being set after the steampunk era. Hugo’s world is full of steam trains, old-fashioned dress, and mechanical automatons. Eventually, the film even becomes a tribute to genre influencer Georges Méliès. And that’s only a few examples of steampunk cinema throughout this time.

Howcastle - Studio Ghibli
Howl’s fantastical mechanical moving castle // Credits: Studio Ghibli

Conclusion

Steampunk is a fascinating movement. Full of imaginative stories and worlds. And while it isn’t the biggest genre in terms of cinematic content its roots stretch back to the birth of cinema. And it has continued to grow in popularity over recent years. Not bad for a genre that got its name from a joke.

Also Read: From Blockbuster to Mockbuster: Big Films and Their Copies

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Editorials

10 Great Sci-Fi Movies on Netflix

January 31, 2021
Netflix Sci-Fi [Source Variety]

Sci-Fi is an incredibly versatile genre because it allows you to explore new worlds and interesting scientific theories in many entertaining, thought-provoking ways. And today we’re going to recommend 10 great sci-fi movies that are currently available on Netflix for you to watch.  

1. Netflix Original Sci-Fi – Okja

A corporation sends 26 creatures, which were developed as a food source, across the world as a PR stunt. However, when they take one of the creatures (Okja) away, Mija (Seo-Hyun Ahn), sets out to get her back. What makes Okja special is its direction, which mixes many different elements (Science fiction, horror, comedy) together without feeling tonally confused, and Seo-Hyun Ahn’s performance which easily invests us in her struggle to get Okja back.

Netflix Original Sci-Fi Okja [Source: The Guardian]
Netflix Original Sci-Fi, Okja // Credit: Netflix

2. Hard Sci-Fi – The Martian

Mark Watney (Matt Damon) becomes stranded on Mars after his expedition team evacuates. Mark has one goal, survive. Thankfully, the world’s space agencies begin mounting a mission to rescue him. The Martian is great sci-fi. The entire cast makes their characters and the technical dialogue feel very natural. The special effects really sell the experience. And, it does a great job making the science feel accurate.

The Mars landscape in The Martian [Source: Time Magazine]
The Mars landscape in The Martian // Credit: Twentieth Century Fox

3. Sci-Fi Comedy – The Truman Show

Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey) slowly realises that his life is a TV show. He’s being filmed from every angle 24 hours a day. And lives inside the world’s biggest set. The Truman Show is a fantastic dark comedy that uses its sci-fi trappings to make great statements on humanity’s voyeuristic nature. In fact, with the continual expansion of surveillance technology, the Truman Show is more relevant now than ever.

Living in a set in The Truman Show [Source: Vulture]
Living in a set in The Truman Show // Credit: Paramount

4. Sci-Fi Action – Dredd

While on a training exercise Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) and rookie judge Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) get locked inside a futuristic skyscraper full of bloodthirsty gang members. With no retreat, the only option is to fight to the top to get out. Dredd’s futuristic setting explores many pressing issues such as the justice system and overpopulation, but it also facilitates some of the best action of the past decade.

Dredd is a wonderful sci-fi action film [Source: Syfy]
Dredd is a wonderful sci-fi action film [Source: Syfy]

5. Sci-Fi Horror – A Cure for Wellness

Lockhart (Dane DeHaan) goes to a remote wellness centre to retrieve his CEO. However, he soon becomes injured, meaning he can’t leave, and he begins to believe the facility is hiding something sinister. But what is happening and can Lockhart escape? A Cure for Wellness feels like a classic Universal horror film. Where the gothic atmosphere is thick and engaging. And the minor sci-fi ingredients greatly amplify the horror.

The Doctors are hiding something in A Cure for Wellness [Source: New York Times]
The doctors are hiding something in A Cure for Wellness // Credit: Twentieth Century Fox

6. Sci-Fi Drama – Proxima

Sarah (Eva Green) is training to become an astronaut but she must try to balance her training with her family life, particularly preparing her daughter Stella (Zélie Boulant) for when she leaves. Proxima is an amazing look at the physical and emotional hardships astronauts go through to prepare for space travel, but it’s also an affecting family drama and an inspiring tribute to female astronauts. It’s also buoyed by Green and Boulant’s excellent performances.

Eva Green gives a fantastic performance in Proxima [Source: Screen Daily]
Eva Green gives a fantastic performance in Proxima // Credit: Dharamsala

7. Alien Sci-Fi – Close Encounters of the Third Kind

After Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) has a mysterious encounter with an unidentified flying object he and the government begin investigating and trying to contact alien life. Close Encounters is a fantastic exploration of how obsession with the unexplainable can negatively affect people and can also be used to cross boundaries.

Close Encounters is a classic sci-fi film  [Source: mxdwn Movies]
Close Encounters is a classic sci-fi film // Credit: Columbia Pictures

8. Steampunk Sci-Fi – Castle in the Sky

Sheeta (Keiko Yokozawa) holds the key to finding Laputa, the castle in the sky, and along with Pazu (Mayumi Tanaka), she must try to outrun the pirates and a government agent trying to find Laputa for greed and conquest. A touchstone of modern steampunk fiction, Castle in the Sky is a thrilling adventure with a fun story and wonderful characters who populate an inventive fantasy world that melds modern and primitive technology together beautifully.

Castle in the Sky is a great mix of sci-fi and fantasy [Source: Dazed]
Castle in the Sky is a great mix of sci-fi and fantasy // Credit: Studio Ghibli

9. Children’s Sci-Fi – Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse

When Peter Parker dies Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) must become his world’s Spider-man and defeat the Kingpin with the help of the spider-people of several realities. Into the Spider-Verse is perfect kids science fiction because it’s full of great action, gorgeous visuals, and creative use of sci-fi concepts like alternate realities. But it’s also grounded by a fantastic lead, a great supporting cast, and a positive message about carving your own path.

The Spider-people of the multiverse [Source: We have a hulk]
The Spider-people of the multiverse // Credit: Sony Pictures

10. Surreal Sci-Fi – Sorry to Bother You

Cassius (LaKeith Stanfield) begins losing touch with his roots after being promoted at his telemarketing company until he discovers a new project the company is working on. Sorry to Bother You is a vehicle for social commentary. This movie critiques capitalism, race, media and uses sci-fi elements to create a riveting dystopian portrait of contemporary life.

Effective, surreal sci-fi in Sorry to Bother You [Source: Vox]
Effective, surreal sci-fi in Sorry to Bother You // Credit: Annapurna Pictures

Those are just 10 great sci-fi movies available on Netflix. If you have any favourites we missed, let us know.

Also Read: The Future Is Now: How Sci-Fi Imagined the Future

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