Completing the trio of well-known, big budgeted attempts at putting Steampunk on the big screen (the other two being The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Van Helsing), Wild Wild West is loosely based on the 1960s TV series of the same name. Will Smith and Kevin Kline play Jim West and Artemus Gordon respectively; two special agents dispatched by U.S. president Grant to foil the plans of an ex-Confederate mad scientist called Dr. Loveless (Kenneth Branagh).
Restricted to a steam-powered wheelchair, Loveless plots to tear the country apart with his mechanical forces (including a giant steam-powered spider) if President Grant does not disband the Union. Gadding about on a gadget-filled train called The Wanderer, West and Gordon pick up Rita (Salma Hayek), daughter of professor Escobar who has been captured by Loveless.
Wild Wild West’s brand of silly humor wasn’t well received in 1999 and the film remains unembraced by Steampunks and casual movie fans alike. It’s a shame that the genre never really gets the big movie treatment it deserves. As with other attempts, the visual style is there; the effects, gadgets and period feel is Steampunk to a tee, but that’s where the comparison ends. These films are more style over substance. One might say they are all steam and no punk.