IRON SKY (2012)
Towards the climax of IRON SKY, when President Sarah Palin (yes, you read that right) learns that the enemy attacking America is Moon Nazis, she lets out a resounding, “Yes! They’re the only ones we ever really beat!”
A debatable statement, and perhaps a more appropriate exclamation would have been, “Yes! They’re the only ones everybody hates!” Because let’s face it, you put any particular people up as the bad guys in a movie, and there’ll always be someone in the audience who’ll complain, “Oh, Hollywood always makes Muslims/blacks/British/Narnians the villains!” Who’s gonna identify with Nazis and not be chased into a river by the Bluesmobile? Of course, Nazis in movies tend to have English accents, but that’s okay, it’s just that combination of attractive uniforms and plumy patois that works so well.
Anyway, recently Scott and I partook of the Asylum’s offering NAZIS AT THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH (read Scott’s review here), which turned out to be a surprisingly gory and balls-deep tasteless whackjob of a movie (how else can you describe a movie with Hitler’s head mounted onto a dieselpunk Transformer body) But now the makers of IRON SKY, a Finnish-German-Australian production, have tried to go one better: Nazis… on the Moon! Which really is a freakingly enticing, delicious concept. To paraphrase JAWS: ‘You yell “Libertarians on the Moon”, everybody says, “Huh? What?” You yell “Nazis on the Moon”… well, we got a panic on our hands.’
We open in 2018, as the Liberty Lunar Mission capsule sets down on the dark side of the moon, ostensibly to find sources of Helium-3 (a substance I heard about from Duncan Jones’ superlative MOON (2011), but which I assumed was fictional like Unobtainium, but it apparently exists, and will be the exigent motivation for returning to the Moon), but really the launch is meant to be a publicity boost for President Palin’s re-election, hence the inclusion of James Washington (Christopher Kirby), a black model good for election demographics (posters in Times Square for her re-election bear the slogan “Black to the Moon!” Yeah). The genuine astronaut is killed by what appeared to be a space-suited SS Stormtrooper, and Washington is captured and brought into the Nazis’ extensive underground. There we meet the current Fuhrer Wolfgang Kortzfleisch (played by genre favourite Udo Kier) and his second in command, the ambitious Klaus Adler (who played the villainous henchman Stamper in James Bond’s TOMORROW NEVER DIES), both of whom are less than pleased at having a brother in their Aryan paradise. Washington escapes, running into young teacher Renate Richter (Julia Dietze), who saves her from accidental explosive decompression – though in the process she loses her skirt.
Did I mention that this was a comedy? Yeah.
Washington is recaptured and his iPhone is recognised as a far superior computing machine than their huge vacuum-tubed monstrosities, and so Adler and Renate are sent back to Earth to acquire more. Oh, and they also bring back Washington, but not before they ‘Aryanize’ him. So for most of the rest of the movie, he plays it in… whiteface. Oh boy. And the comedy comes from him not realising this until he encounters a stereotypical movie black street gang and tries to talk Jive to them. Hilarious! Not. Thankfully, this hilarity is soon put aside, as Adler and Renate meet Vivian Wagner (Peta Sergeant, GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE 2), the beleaguered campaign adviser to President Palin, who doubts their story but takes their Nazi speeches and adapts them into successful campaign soundbites for Palin.
Did I mention that this was a comedy? Yeah.
Eventually Renate learns the hard way that people on Earth have good reason not to like Nazis, while Adler assassinates Kortzfleisch and assumes Fuhrership, finally ready to conquer both the Earth and the Moon, and Palin has the war that will get her re-elected…
I have to admit, I was initially disappointed when I heard that this was supposed to be a comedy. Comedies rarely work, let’s face it. And my hopes sank further at the initial instances of slapstick and the whiteface incident. But these quickly vanished when the comedy began leaning towards satire (my favourite scene has to be when the UN Security Council tries to discover the origin of the moon fleet, North Korea tries to claim credit for it, and they get laughed at!). And once they started treating it like an action/adventure film with some laughs in it, it really began working. I was majorly impressed with the awesome CGI work used (the movie was made for an astonishing 7.5 million Euros, about 9.5 million US dollars, probably less than what James Cameron spent on gold statues of himself for his mansion’s Wanking Room. Allegedly.)
The fleet of Nazi saucers and their Zeppelin-like motherships dragging asteroids to bombard Earth in a Meteorblitzkrieg are a joy to behold for any pulp sci-fi/dieselpunk fan. The subsequent attack on and dogfight over New York was amazing for the budget. And I almost wanted to cheer when the US and other countries revealed their secret space fleet for dealing with the invaders. As for the Nazis’ ultimate weapon, the Death Star-like battlecruiser Gotterdamerung… holy shit! Somewhere in Hell, Hitler just got a boner over that.
The acting is fine all around, the look is superb, and there are some genuinely funny lines. Another point of note is that there are three principal female characters taking action: Palin, though she remains more a caricature than a person; Vivien Wagner, who gets promoted to commander of the spaceship USS George W Bush(!) and attires herself in something out of Flash Gordon; and Renate, who goes from naïve Nazi acolyte to committed heroine. I won’t give away the ending, but it descends into farce reminiscent of DR STRANGELOVE, and is even touching in places.
Production of IRON SKY began in early 2006, and the production team took their teaser trailer of the film to the Cannes Film Festival in May 2008 seeking co-financiers. During the 2010 Cannes Film Festival they signed a co-production agreement with the Australian production company New Holland Pictures. IRON SKY is one of a new wave of productions, produced in collaboration with an on-line community of film enthusiasts, that are creating a new kind of participatory cinema. At Wreck-a-Movie, a collaborative film-making web site, the producers had invited everyone interested in chipping in with their ideas and creativity to read the tasks given to the community and to take a shot. The hardcore Slovenian metal group Laibach provided the soundtrack, at times borrowing from Richard Wagner, of course.
The movie has had a limited release, and here in the UK there was some controversy regarding the decision of the distributor, Revolver Entertainment to release for only one day, causing the film makers to issue a public condemnation of their UK distributor, and accusing Revolver of misleading them. After fan pressure, the release dates were extended, and I was glad to see this on the big screen.
Check out the trailer below, and if you can, catch it in the theatre like I did. The oddball concept works better than the humour, but the action sequences more than make up for it.
Director: Timo Vuorensola
Plot: 4 out of 5 stars
Gore: 2 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Derek “Deggsy” O’Brien