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Iron Sky – film review

May 10, 2014

IRON SKY

It’s Mars Attacks! … with Nazis!

iron sky - preproduction art

A Finnish, German, Australian co-production. Directed by Timo Vuorensola. Screenplay by Michael Kalesniko and Timo Vuorensola. Story by Johanna       Sinisalo and Jarmo Puskala. Starring: Julia Dietze, Christopher Kirby, Gotz Otto, Peta Sargeant, Stephanie Paul and Udo Kier. Year of release: 2012. Running time:     93 mins.

As screenwriter Dan O’Bannon famously lamented following the financial failure of     his seminal sci-fi movie Dark Star – comedy is difficult to do successfully, as not everyone will necessarily find the same things amusing. A case in point is the 2012 ‘Nazis on the moon’ satire Iron Sky. I have recently listened to a number of US-based genre film podcasts which haven’t found this whacky little film particularly amusing and in some instances; even feel that it is borderline offensive. Although this may have more to do with it being an unfettered send-up of US foreign policy and the absurdity of particular political figures than anything else.

In 2018, in a bid to boost her re-election chances; the first female president of the United States (Stephanie Paul) sends an African-American civilian named James Washington (Christopher Kirby) to the moon, where he is inadvertently captured by Nazis who had fled there at the end of World World War II and established a lunar colony with plans to take back the Earth. Withstanding a process of attempted mind control, Washington is sent back to Earth to gather intelligence (and microchip technology) in preparation for the invasion where – with the help of his disillusioned minder, Renate Richter (Julia Dietze) – he sets out to thwart the Nazis’ plans.

A Finnish, German, Australian co-production; Iron Sky is the first theatrically-released feature from writer-director Timo Vuorensola, VFX producer Samuli Torssonen and co-writer Jarmo Puskala – a trio of Fins who had collaborated previously on Star Wreck: In The Pirkinning – a Finnish feature-length Star Trek parody released online in 2005. Star Wreck has been a massive internet hit, having clocked up an estimated 8,000,000 legal downloads since its release. Iron Sky has a much larger, but still relatively modest budget of 7.5 million euros, and was made with the participation of the online community; crowd-sourcing a percentage of fan-based funding and utilizing an enthusiastic army of up-and-coming visual effects artists from around the world; happy to offer their time for less money or simply a credit – in order to see the film become a reality.

iron sky stormtroopers

First up, I must say, Iron Sky is visually impressive – with its diesel-punk aesthetic giving the production design an incredibly unique flavour seen only fleetingly in other films (Del Toro’s Hellboy springs immediately to mind). It does recall the pulp aspects of Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow to some extent, although the graphics here are more hard-edged and not nearly as stylized. The space battle sequences are impressively staged; the filmmakers clearly drawing inspiration from similar scenes in Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers. And the climactic sequence involving the Moon Nazis’ ultimate war machine: the mile-wide behemoth and aptly-named ‘Götterdämmerung’, is particularly impressive – especially in depicting the machine’s gigantic scale.

Aside from genre vet Udo Kier (Blood For Dracula, Flesh For Frankenstein) – here playing head Nazi Wolfgang Kortzfleisch (the Nazi uniform oddly seeming a perfect match for him), the rest of the appealing cast are mostly unknowns; with ex-pat American actor (now Australian resident) Chris Kirby doing well with the bizarre transformation his character undergoes. Likewise, German actress Julia Dietze is     a joy to watch as the idealistic ‘Earthologist’ Renate Richter – while Aussie actress Peta Sargeant unfortunately pushes the envelope just a little too far into high-camp as the president’s campaign manager Vivian Wagner – which is a shame.

Iron Sky very much recalls the tone of Tim Burton’s underappreciated alien invasion comedy, Mars Attacks! – especially in terms of poking fun at the White House (with Kiwi actress Stephanie Paul virtually stealing all her scenes as the future US president, clearly taking inspiration from failed presidential hopeful Sarah Palin). Although the film’s humor is more amusing than laugh-out-loud hilarious, there are some genuinely funny moments; Wagner’s quip that whoever designed the obscenely gigantic Götterdämmerung has “the smallest dick in the universe” is a comedic highlight. And the scene where North Korea’s UN delegate falsely boasts that it was his beloved leader who designed and built the invading spacecraft – only to be met with uproarious laughter – is also bitingly funny. The movie’s playful tone has been criticised as being inconsistent and not nearly pushing the exploitational boundries     far enough – as if it’s chomping at the bit to be all-out provocative – but is being held back from doing so. This may be so, but there is still much that may ruffle feathers here; the movie being less a send-up of Nazism and more a comment on the international perception of the effects of US foreign policy – which may indeed be     the issue which some in the States have taken offence to. The justification of the     US president here for taking advantage of the Moon Nazi threat; by declaring that     “All presidents who start a war in their first term always get re-elected” may have cut a little too close to the political bone for some. Indeed, the refreshing and, dare I say, typically European candor inherent in Iron Sky culminates with the film’s closing moments, which recall those of perhaps the most celebrated satire ever made, Dr. Strangelove – as cynical and bleak an ending as that of Kubrick’s blackest satire     (for it appears it’s not Nazis from the moon we have to fear – but escalating conflict between ourselves).

Fast-moving and fun, with appealing characters and an impressive visual aesthetic, Iron Sky is the perfect good-time beer and pizza movie. Recommended for those     with a keen sense of irony.

3.5 stars out of 5

Star ratings: 1 – poor / 2 – below average / 3 – good / 4 – excellent / 5 – unmissable

Greg Moss is a film school graduate with a background in directing music videos     and is currently seeking representation as a screenwriter. He likes creative people, feeding the cat and watching genre movies. Greg can also be heard on the Blu-ray commentary track for the 1980 sci-fi thriller Saturn 3, out now from Scream Factory.

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4 Comments
  1. Hated this. Thought it was an awful film, a non-stop CGI Blitzkrieg (sic) and not at all funny either. Just so amateur it was bizarre, and hardly as clever as it thinks it is. There’s a Directors Cut floating around now too. Avoiding that like the plague.

    • gregory moss permalink

      Gee – so you really liked it, huh. 🙂 It’s okay Ian, just take a deep breath and keep on repeating … it’s only a movie … it’s only a movie … it’s only a movie …

      • Ho, ho! To be honest I’ve tried to be more selective these days with movies, watching fewer of them. Back when I had unlimited rentals through Lovefilm (a postal rental service over here with streaming alongside), it got cheaper the more films you watched, but goodness some of the rubbish I watched… (Iron Sky amongst them). I’m getting too old to waste time with the bad ones. As I get older I can I increasingly understand why the critic John Brosnan was such a cynic about so many films.

        My biggest beef is with bad screen writing, and in the case of Iron Sky, other than a neat (if daft) premise, the story was really poor. Just an exercise in linking CGI sequences far as I could see, it was like watching a very long fx demo reel. So no, I really didn’t like it!

      • gregory moss permalink

        I’m pleased you got the Brosnan reference (a fellow Aussie, you know) 🙂 He was never my favorite Starburst contributor though (way too cynical). Although he was one of the few journos to stand up for Saturn 3 back in the day. So he had that going for him … which is nice …

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