Dieselpunks

Dieselpunk + Steampunk Culture

Star Wars - one of the original dieselpunk movies?

I jokingly posted a video a few days ago where someone had scene-by-scene taken the trailer for The Empire Strikes Back and juxtaposed old 50's video clips in their place. But in all seriousness, couldn't Star Wars be considered an example of dieselpunk?

I noticed this article on Wired.com today while I was searching for references for the Wikipedia article, and I got to thinking about it. Lucas did draw heavily on both WWII and pulp iconography when making Star Wars. The swashbuckling, ray-gun toting hero who shoots from the hip, the wise-cracking princess to be saved, the farm boy who makes good, the bigger-than-life villains, the comic "stooge" sidekicks... and the spaceship movements and radio chatter in the final battle were straight out of WWII films.

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Star Wars has a lot of Dieselpunk elements, or rather early 20th century elements to it. I'd consider it more of a Dieselpunk styled space opera.

 

I think it draws its inspiration from the same era as DieselPunk does... but comes up with something else entirely...

I remember finding somewhere on You Tube the climatic attack scene from 633 Squadron being overdubbed with the dialogue from the attack on the Death Star, to say it fit well is an understatement! 

 

The other main point point about the SW trilogy and DP is the shabby-chic look Lucas used for the vehicles throughout the original movies. It was the first time I believe spaceships were not depicted as gleaming streamlined wonder machines but instead, every day workhorses.

 

Yeah, in no way would I say it's a Dieselpunk movie. By drawing on the early 20th century style in it's high technology it incorporates Dieselpunk elements, but it is it's own entity.

 

Jean-Luc deVere said:

I think it draws its inspiration from the same era as DieselPunk does... but comes up with something else entirely...

Virgil Briggs said:

Yeah, in no way would I say it's a Dieselpunk movie. By drawing on the early 20th century style in it's high technology it incorporates Dieselpunk elements, but it is it's own entity.

 

*nods* I think 'Dune' and 'Children of Dune' actually have a more DieselPunk 'look' than 'Star Wars' ... tho' I hasten to add I wouldn't call them DP either...

 

 

Dune how I love thee.

Jean-Luc deVere said:

Virgil Briggs said:

Yeah, in no way would I say it's a Dieselpunk movie. By drawing on the early 20th century style in it's high technology it incorporates Dieselpunk elements, but it is it's own entity.

 

*nods* I think 'Dune' and 'Children of Dune' actually have a more DieselPunk 'look' than 'Star Wars' ... tho' I hasten to add I wouldn't call them DP either...

 

 

Just for you my Post Apocalyptic Buddy... 8^D

 

A true DP version of Star Wars...

 

 

lol brightened my day.

Jean-Luc deVere said:

Just for you my Post Apocalyptic Buddy... 8^D

 

A true DP version of Star Wars...

 

 

OH MY GOD. You just took 2 of my favorite things in the world, Star Wars being #1 and then Dieselpunk and made them even better. I'm gunna go have a stroke now.

'Streamlined' isn't a word I'd use in conjunction with Star Wars's aesthetic. I always figured that SW's contributions to the 'punk' genres (primarily cyberpunk) come from its use of elements that are exactly the opposite of streamlined. I don't believe SW to actually BE dieselpunk, or punk of any kind, but you can trace its influence to dieselpunk if you look at the production design of films and comics from then until now.

 

Prior to Star Wars, Hollywood's vision of the future was always much more streamlined -- all those shiny rockets from Raygun Gothic, the minimalist mod designs from '60s and '70s sci-fi that weren't too far off from what Apple's doing now. No moving parts. It was with films like 2001, that boasted 'realistic' depictions of spaceships and space travel, that the pendulum began to swing back toward an aesthetic that looked more utilitarian.

 

Star Wars took that 'realistic' look as far as it could go. It still adhered to old space opera tropes, but reinvented the aesthetic. The world those films (by way of Ralph McQuarrie's art) depicted was lived-in, beaten-down, and seemingly assembled from scrap metal. Everything bristles with hissing pipes and sharp antennae and confusing geometry. Everything is rusty and greasy and patchwork. Even the Death Star, a big minimalist sphere from a distance, looks like a junkyard up close. The aesthetic is reflected in the stories themselves, in a curious undermining of the pulp tropes that inform them -- the droids of Star Wars are constantly malfunctioning and losing parts, the Millenium Falcon is a junk pile that needs constant tinkering, even the Galactic Empire's wonder weapons are failures, disorganized and easily sabotaged. And those mystical lightsabers, too, are visibly industrial things -- they're made from spare lighting parts lying around an effects lab, and they look it. They aren't Excalibur; they're things the Jedi build in their basements. Everything in Star Wars is predicated on the idea that people could actually build these amazing devices, given enough sheet metal and rivets and fibreglass. This goes a LONG way to making Star Wars an enveloping world that draws audiences in from the get-go, even 30-odd years later.

 

A couple years later, Alien took that vibe further into darkness. Alien depicts an industrial, corporatized future, a bleak and boring place full of endless space commutes on ugly space barges staffed by underpaid labourers in ugly utilitarian spacesuits. The film actually takes place on a mining ship, and everything looks like industrial equipment from a smelting plant, including the Alien itself -- a confusion brilliantly milked in several scenes as the Alien camouflages itself into the grimy architecture of the ship. It's so realistic as to be oppressive. It was about as far away as you can get from the look of pulp sci-fi -- although, like Star Wars, it still IS a pulp story, full of action and violence and creepy monsters.

 

Even if audiences weren't consciously aware of this aesthetic shift, it definitely became apparent to filmmakers. That same low-tech vibe was recurrent in sci-fi and cyberpunk all through the '80s and '90s. Aliens, The Terminator, RoboCop, Blade Runner, etc. all take an industrialized, clanking, patchwork look at the future, extrapolating from that same look; the look that implies that technology is not gee-whiz and wondrous, but rather low-budget, utilitarian and sparsely mechanical, faulty, industrial and dangerous, even if it can do amazing things. I think that self-aware, high-functioning / low-tech dichotomy runs to some extent through the whole 'punk' world -- cyberpunk, steampunk, dieselpunk -- to some extent. That's Star Wars' relationship to dieselpunk to me. Others' mileage may vary, of course.

That was awesome.

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