Every once in a while, in amongst all the remakes, reboots, adaptations and ‘re-imaginings’, a film comes along with a premise that seems fresh. A premise so bizarre that it genuinely excites. A premise that makes you wish you could have been there to see the pitch. Timo Vuorensola’s Iron Sky is just such a film. The premise? Space Nazis… from the Moon!
Iron Sky is set in a world in which a secret Nazi space programme enabled members of the Third Reich to flee the earth during the climactic stages of World War Two and set up a secret colony on the moon. The colony goes undiscovered until 2018, when a very Sarah Palin-eque President of the United States decides to put an American citizen on the moon as a re-election ploy. When James Washington – an African-American model selected by the president to be the civilian astronaut due to his vote-winning attributes – stumbles across the lunar base, he (and his iPhone) inadvertently bring about the long-in-gestation Nazi invasion of earth.
As you’d expect with a plot like that, Iron Sky has tongue firmly lodged in cheek throughout. Understandably so really: any film set in a world where countless satellites and moon missions failed to notice a whacking great swastika on the moon would have to go that way. While it’s definitely to Vuorensola’s benefit to play it fairly silly, the goofiness does occasionally detract from some slick one liners and sharp, if sometimes obvious, satire. A lot of the slapstick feels somewhat hackneyed and more often than not falls flat.
Despite these foibles, Iron Sky is, if not laugh out loud funny, consistently amuses and is not without its moments of comic gold. The satire is at its strongest in the latter stages, notably concerning the duplicity of the various members of the United Nations and the nature of (mostly American) foreign policy and domestic politics. It’s a given that some will find many of the jokes in poor taste, but frankly, the ones that run closest to the knuckle are among the funniest and they’re largely justified by context. It’s all part of the fun. Vuorensola also runs a decent line in visual gags too and a there’s a neat doff of the cap to parodists’ Nazi favourite Downfall.
Given the relatively small, partially crowd-sourced budget, Iron Sky is quite impressive in visual terms. The Nazi base and vehicles have a fantastic and distinctive Dieselpunk aesthetic that isn’t too disimilar from the likes of Sky Captain on a fraction of the budget. Credit should be given to the effects team who have clearly milked their resources to the full. The action sequences are never high-octane but look the part and Vuorensola and his crew pull out some decent shots.
A cast largely consisting of (to English audiences, at least) unknowns, turn in a mixed bag of performances. Julia Dietze is effective as the naive Renate, who believes the Nazis are intent on saving the world through kindness and love. Gotz Otto is suitably dastardly as primary antagonist Klaus Adler, plotting not only to conquer the world, but also to overthrow Udo Kier’s incumbent Fuhrer, Kortzfleisch. As far as dimensions go, Renate and Klaus are probably the only characters with more than one each. That’s not necessarily a criticism – character development isn’t exactly a concern here. Christopher Kirby is fine as Washington; Stephanie Paul’s Palin imitation passable; Peta Sargeant’s presidential aide grates more and more as events progress.
It’s hard to really place Iron Sky, being as it is, in equal parts original, derivative, funny, frustrating, inspired and insipid. There’s as much good in here as there is bad and it’s worth checking out as a curio, even if only for the pure novelty factor, because there is enjoyment to be had. It’s ultimately just a little disappointing that it doesn’t quite live up to the giddy promise of its insane plotline.
Words > Dan Benfield
Note: Rather strangely the distributors, Revolver, have decided to only show the film for one day at the cinema. Our suggestion is to see it while you can, or better yet go to the Iron Sky web site and demand the film be shown.