Space Nazis, Explosions, and Laughs: Iron Sky Movie Review
Nothing about Iron Sky, Finnish director Timo Vuorensola’s insanely satirical sci-fi comedy, can be called ordinary. A co-production of Finland, Germany, and Australia, filmed partly in New York City and featuring a multi-national cast with nearly half the dialogue in German, the movie depicts a laughably venal, war-hungry US President at odds with similarly deceitful UN heads of state, all trying to prevent an invasion of Nazis from a secret base on the moon. Sounds like a sure summer hit, right?
The very existence of the film is almost as unlikely as its plot. Iron Sky was the buzz of the Internet when the idea was first pitched to the international SF community – the film’s producers sought (and received) crowd sourced funding and technical assistance from excited space Nazi enthusiasts worldwide, and managed to produce a polished feature film with enviable special effects for an astonishingly low budget. The trailer, released to promote Iron Sky’s debut at the Berlin International Film Festival in February, looked professional and hilarious, with plenty of explosions, goose-stepping bad-guys, mad scientists, and racial and political satire, all set to a ponderous musical score by Laibach.
With such an enticing introduction, would-be fans waited impatiently for the film’s planned general release in April … but sadly most are still waiting, due to problems with distribution. Without advertising and promotional support for a large scale release, the film’s run has turned into a series of special one-night screenings, held wherever enough tickets can be sold. (Upcoming shows are listed on the Iron Sky official website.) Luckily my location coincided with one such screening last night, and I was able to experience Iron Sky on the big screen.
Presumably, anyone going to see Iron Sky understands what they’re in for: a ridiculous B-movie romp. The cultural and social themes are played completely for laughs. The US President, as portrayed by Stephanie Paul, is a Sarah Palin clone who spends most of her time in the Oval Office working out on an elliptical trainer surrounded by taxidermied Alaskan animals. Her campaign advisor is hard-as-nails advertising guru Vivian Wagner (Peta Sergeant), whose recent brilliant idea to ensure the President’s re-election was to complete a successful moon mission with an African-American astronaut (for which the posters read “Black to the Moon? Yes, she can!”). Although intended only as a publicity stunt, the moon landing goes horribly awry when the hapless black astronaut, James Washington (Christopher Kirby), stumbles upon a secret Nazi base on the moon and is taken captive by predictably racist Nazi scientists. When they discover the power of Washington’s iPhone, the Nazis are spurred to invade Earth so that they may retrieve this advanced technology and TAKE OVER THE WORLD!
Further hilarity ensues as mad Nazi scientist Doktor Richter (Tilo Prückner) succeeds in bleaching Washington into a blond, blue-eyed Aryan, and up-and-coming Fuhrer Klaus Adler (Götz Otto) and his idealistic fiancée Renate (Julia Dietze) accompany the now-white Washington on a mission back to Earth. Adler’s attempt to reach the US President by storming Vivian Wagner’s office turns out to be quite a bit more effective than he had hoped, as Wagner decides to use Adler and his team as the models for a militant new presidential PR campaign … which fits surprisingly well with the President’s over-the-top right wing Republican ideals.
Meanwhile, sweet and innocent Renate becomes disillusioned by the Nazis’ plan, and develops a relationship with Washington (who has been trying desperately to convince anyone who will listen that he’s actually a black astronaut, and the Nazis are invading). Things really take a violent turn when Adler’s rival, the current Fuhrer Kortzfleisch (Udo Kier), arrives on Earth. Soon the US President and the leaders of all the UN countries must come together to fight the Nazi menace and their terrifying massive warship, in a scathing parody of international cooperation (and with many humorous lines reminiscent of Dr. Strangelove).
Unfortunately, just as the movie reaches its peak of biting satire and hilarity, the tone becomes suddenly serious. The filmmakers seem to have made a choice to end the film with an actual social message, which is a huge mistake. After nearly ninety minutes of cleverly snide dialogue and hysterical bombastic nonsense, we are treated to a series of ham-handed somber final scenes which are truly cringeworthy. The change in tone is completely out of place, and brings the audience’s mood crashing down; the crowd at our showing, which had been laughing and cheering uproariously until that point, became almost silent in obvious discomfort. I’m baffled as to what the director was thinking when he went in this direction … I’d personally love to see a recut version without the preachy ending, which I believe would make an infinitely better film.
Disappointing ending aside, the battle scenes alone (accompanied by Laibach’s soaring “Flight of the Valkyries”-inspired musical score) make it worth the effort to see Iron Sky in a theater, and I highly encourage anyone who plans to see it eventually to try to find a local showing. And even if you don’t manage to catch it on a big screen, if dark but silly political SF comedy is your thing, I urge you to find it on DVD (where I’m sure it will end up sooner rather than later).
Iron Sky is playing (sporadically) in theaters now.