A Finnish-German-Australian sci-fi black comedy takes place in the year 2018, when the Nazis, who fled the Earth to the dark side of the Moon in 1945, return to claim the Earth.
I can’t recall a film that has struggled more painfully with the co-existence of its two key elements than Timo Vuorensola’s Iron Sky. As a low-budget testament to the current standard of image-enhancing software, it’s a marvel, offering the same fanboy FX buzz that swept over me when I first saw Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers (1997) or Christian Duguay’s Screamers (1995). But these films also had the added benefit of clear intent, solid dialogue, competent acting (give or take...), and narratives that enhanced the genre’s tropes with nuance and blackly ironic humour.
Iron Sky, regrettably, possesses not a single frame of self-aware smarts; it’s an achingly amateurish sci-fi/political black comedy that emerges from the collective psyche of the gamer/internet generation. Steam-punk Nazi imagery, tinges of lunar conspiracy and alien invasion clichés combine to create a very long, altogether nonsensical, 93 minutes of puerile genre posturing.
It all kicks off with an opening sequence that inspires a palpable sense of awe (despite risible dialogue that sets the tone for the entire film). Two US astronauts land on the moon and discover an immense Nazi outpost, constructed by Hitler’s elite military and scientific personnel in 1945 after WWII became a lost cause. 'Nazi Moonbase’ is a thriving society; pretty school teacher Renate (a wooden Julia Dietze) teaches der kinder Herr Fuehrer’s philosophies as if it were their ABCs. She loves Klaus Adler (a suitably imposing Götz Otto), the right-hand man to 'Moon Commandandt’ Wolfgang Kortzfleisch (Udo Kier, adding another hilariously one-note villain to his resume).
One of the original astronauts is African-American James Washington (Oz-based US actor Christopher Kirby), who soon escapes the imbecilic clutches of the German moon people, only to end up on the streets of a large metropolis on Planet Earth. Most think him mad, but he is soon reunited with a reformed Renate, lately awakened to her former employer’s ruthless planet-conquering. Meanwhile, Klaus has wooed US presidential adviser Vivian Wagner (Peta Sergeant) and now plans to take over the Oval Office, occupied by a Sarah Palin lookalike (Stephanie Paul, the only actor in the cast who squeezes any laughs from her role).
Iron Sky is a Finnish-German-Australian co-production and was largely crowd-funded, with input from web denizens on everything from characters’ names to spaceship design. That doesn’t surprise me; the general tone of the film’s humour bears the hallmarks of late-night web traffic.
Anything not computer-generated looks cheap, and the sets, costumes, and physical effects are akin with old-school Doctor Who. The film’s obvious budget constraints would be a non-issue if the script’s politically-charged bullets hit home, but no satirical target (US politics, media, dictatorial brutality, greed and/or ambition) is convincingly undercut.
As a product of the web, Iron Sky may yet be better served by its online stakeholders. Someone is bound to create a mash-up of the film’s effects sequences into a very cool half-hour highlight package"¦ and that will ultimately become the best way to watch it.