Why has no one come up with a steampunk movie? Seriously, how can this genre of fiction that has a pretty cool background: Victorian era steam power and setting combined with technology bits of today as if imagined by the Brits (sometimes Americans). It has been around for 20+ years with plenty of good works to adapt or use as a fresh idea's infrastructure. It is also a wealth of ideas that could be mined and then exploited until everyone got sick of it like "vampires" are right now. Steampunk has the extra wrinkles of selling an alternate history story and nostalgia in the same stroke. Imagining stuffy, Victorian era Brits with a steam powered carriage or computer is appealing. Plus it would give directors an excuse to cast British people.*
Here's my attempt at a steampunk movie: The Automatons of London
It is 1890s Victorian era London, England. A gentleman is going to bed. He has that "Scrooge" curtains around the bedposts set up. He turns off lights and goes to bed. He sees two yellow lights dimly through his curtains and thinks he left two on. He grabs the curtains opens them and then screams and the camera pans away as odd mechanical sounds and his thrashing continue. Camera shows some steampunk looking computer on his desk. We then get introduced the next morning to a newspaper editor's office. He declares some changes anda guest visit by an American correspondent (our lead, Alex Hamilton) and his quiter partner (Theodore Reynolds) from a subsidiary American paper. The Brits will constantly think or address the quiet partner as the lead's valet. The editor declares how the killed man from scene one was a Ministry man working on forming a security unit (early MI5). He had limbs torn off and his CPU was destroyed.
Yanks see the crime scene, ask questions yadda yadda finding out what the guy was up to. Little cultural things pop up, and classic British expectations of good behavior work against them. They see his daily schedule and notice a name pop up often out of the victim's caste and social circles. They meet up with this guy Chet Silverworks who will sound like an uneducated Brit or maybe give him a western accent (i saw me mum de udder day). They drink with him, and he says he can't say details, but that the victim kept going on about realizing Leonardo's dream. The Yanks then track down a name on the schedule of involved with historical studies. Research assitant Shelly Shirtsmith says he was working on unearthed Da Vinci scrolls, which the British Museums had for years sent there before Italian unification, deciphering his work like the wooden car and another oddly 'ignored' by the murder victim, Leonardo's robot.
After this revelation, back at their pad, the assistant Yank tells the lead of tales Scots in Canada and the US told of iron giants that killed and rounded up the Scots during the Highland Clearances. This could be a cool flashback/dream type sequence. He told the lead Yank that no one believed these stories and they seemed to be used to scare children and make them appreciate their opportunities in the USA or Canada. After this story and goodnights are said, the lead Yank looks out his window and sees two yellow lights in an alley where there is no window and too high, large and perfectly symetrical to be a pair of cigarettes. He decides to awake his assistant and investigate. They go down to the alley, only to hear something lumbering through their hotel/apartment and trashing their steampunk CPU.
Yanks go to Scotland Yard to inquire about the murder and talk to the man who took over for the murder victim. They get stonewalled, and ask about the Highland Clearances. They get a death stare from the new head of security, Benajmin Collingstone, and he recovers to laugh at their question. The Yanks take a steam powered supertrain up to Scotland to invesitgate. They ask around in Edinburgh taverns about the iron giant legends, and at closing they get stalked by a young guy, Aidan McElwain. After several blocks, they split up and one feigns passivity while the other blindsides him. He says he knows a legend of the iron giant the Scots broke. His clan did it, they moved to Edinburgh rather than Canada and worked as fisherman/boat carpenters. He tells them he'll take them there. The next morning by steam powered boat, he takes them up the coast and to a spot at some rocky cliff area where they see the remains of a large rusted robot. It would be in pieces. I envision a large cross between the scarecrow and the tin man from Wizard of Oz. The Yanks put pieces together and return to London.
On train ride back, they discuss course of action. See Shelly about Leonardo's robot. They will tail Collingstone. See where he leads them. They go to Shelly about iron giant robot, and she states that a rusted robot that lined up with the Highland Clearances timeline would have to have been huge to hold the coal and smallest steam engine of those days. Makes sense why the murder victim didn't care for her work deciphering it. The Brits in charge had already deciphered it years ago and put it to work. At night in London, they tail Collingstone. He goes to a warehouse with blacked out windows in the Industrial center of London with tons of black coal dust in the air. The lead seperates from the assistant, and there's some creepy, muffled sounds. The lead grabs the assistant and says he found a way in. They get into the warehouse, up to a 2nd level, and see steampunk robots slightly larger than a man but much smaller than the iron giant bots, and Collingstone recording something into a CPU. He states things like "roll out of robot bobbies on target for release" yadda yadda. He wraps up and leaves. The Yanks whisper about evidence and going to Scotland Yard, printing a story or contacting a member of the House of Lords/Commons. Their whispers awake a steambot acting as a sentinel on the 2nd floor. The eyes glow on and he starts towards them. They turn and make a run for it. A quick turn and slide down a metal ladder prove too much for the steambot, and it falls to the 1st floor, breaking up. They creep closer towards it and see the inner workings that resemble the Leonardo Da Vinci drawing and a tightly compressed steampower engine. They notice in the steambots broken arm that it has concealed guns. This would be a huge shock to the UK as bobbies don't carry guns.
The Yanks realize with the broken steambot that Collingstone will know that someone has broken in, and snooping newspaper men that previously were asking about iron giant legends make likely suspects. Lead yank and assistant Yank record a huge expose report on the steambot bobbies with guns and proof of the steambots primitive use in the Highland Clearances. Lead notices glowing eyes in alley again. Assistant goes to finish and submit the report to their editor, while lead takes the steambot for a ride. Lead knows the speed of a steambot and its weaknesses as well as awesome potential to kill. There is a chase through the streets of London. This is action adventure eye candy. Drunks and whores witness a man running from a steambot and yell things like "Oi, somefing looks quee-ah tanight". The steambot closes in, but the lead creeps into a crevice between buildings. We see the steambot raise its arm to shoot and the lead squirms through to the other side. He hears the steambot make its way around the block. As he gathers his breath, he says "the cliffs". He takes the steambot towards the river. We get a steambot cam shot and it is a bouncy steady cam shot. That cam turns a corner and sees the lead standing 20 yards from an edge of the river. The steambot charges for him, the lead runs for the edge, and jumps. The steambot's heavy weight forces its momentum too far forward and it plunges towards the stonewalk by the river. The lead is hanging from a rope he fashioned to something on the wall's edge. Hanging there he puts his hands to his hair and we cut close. As we pull back he is pulling his hands from his hair in the editor's office as the paper prints the shocking headline of the steambot bobbies. Collingstone is arrested. His files uncovered revealing a plan to have roving steambot bobbies all over London to keep peace. It also uncovers a program Collingstone wrote to control individual steambots for assassinations. The steambots have their guns removed and are placed into wooden crates in another warehouse with windows blacked out in London's Industrial section. At a pub, the Yanks and Prof Shelly discuss the boys next assignment, some fluff report on some British cultural thing to write for the American paper... laughter and beer for the both of them.
*In an average year, you might run into one British person. Somehow in Hollywood movies and TV shows, there are British characters that float in and out of every lead's life. Where are these Brits?