Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Film Review: Iron Sky

Certificate: 15
Directed By: Timo Vuorensola
Cast: Julia Dietze, Udo Kier, Peta Sergeant, Kym Jackson, Götz Otto, Stephanie Paul, Christopher Kirby, Monika Gossmann, Tilo Prückner, Michael Cullen
Budget: €7.5 million
Runtime: 93 minutes
Trailer: Watch

When an American president (Paul) strangely resembling Sarah Palin launches a mission to the moon in a cynical election ploy, the lunar expedition stumble upon a colony of Nazis who managed to escape the failure of World War II. After seventy-years of hiding out on the moon, it is time for them to return...

The pseudo-history of occult practices in the Third Reich isn't the only conspiracy theory surrounding what 'really' went down in Nazi Germany. All sorts of wild myths have sprung up in the wake of WWII, ranging from most of the Nazi leadership (including Hitler himself) escaping to South America by U-Boat to there being secret bases in Antarctica which are supposedly still populated today. In one of the more batshit crazy branches of this alternate history it is posited that the Nazis had managed to build a fleet of flying saucers which were designated 'Haunebu'. For conspiracists at least these craft supposedly explain the very real phenomenon of what allied pilots called 'foo fighters'. What's more, these theories aren't always seen as mutually exclusive, some imaginative souls having gone to great lengths in piecing together an admittedly fascinating secret history of the war. With regards to Nazi UFOs, the theory often stems from the fact that, at the time, the Third Reich was technically the most advanced nation on Earth, building the world's first ballistic missiles as well as deploying the first frontline jet fighters. Such advances lead many to believe that these were only the tip of Nazi ingenuity, who were actually much further ahead than anyone could imagine. This is certainly true insofar that at the end of the war the Allies scrambled to capture German scientists in hope to learn their secrets. Wernher von Braun for example was thrust into the highest echelons of NASA, his rocket knowledge essential in propelling the United States to the moon a mere twenty-four years later.

'History lesson' out of the way then, one can see that the premise behind space oddity Iron Sky isn't just some half-baked concept which Finnish creator Timo Vuorensola came up with when he was stoned. Well, actually it probably was, but it does have a grounding in a very peculiar yet intriguing subculture. That aside this isn't a film which takes itself very seriously, a prime example of a B-movie if ever there was one. Nazis on the moon back to restore the glorious Fatherland? With an added sheen of kitsch and camp, this is firmly planted in the realms of Mel Brook's The Producers. Iron Sky is daft beyond reason, one of those films you can't believe they actually made and one which is more than proud to be called 'trash'. And here is where the debate about the film begins. Mainstream critics have berated Iron Sky, while obviously trash, for being bad trash. For some, it is nothing more than a poster, a gag, and little else. Yet one might feel obliged to question such statements where those making them clearly don't know what to expect from a trash movie.

Sure, there are many things wrong with Iron Sky. It certainly could have gone through another round of script editing, some of the dialogue and jokes in definite need of tightening up. But Iron Sky also elicits a multitude of genuine laughs. Certainly, the brilliant thing about the premise of having 'Mondnazis' is the pretext it gives for some enjoyably silly gags. One particularly sharp one for example is how the Nazi schoolchildren on the moon only have access to an edited version of Charlie Chaplin's biting satire, The Great Dictator, which is viewed as a celebration of Hitler and not the mockery of him it is. As well as digs at the obnoxious Nazi architecture championed by Albert Speer (their moon fortress is in the shape of a swastika), there are also some amusing bites at the Nazi obsession with Wagner. Their super-duper battleship for example is named the 'Götterdämmerung', after one of his operas. Likewise, deadly electrified fascist salutes and buttons labelled "National Anthem; break glass for morale!" can't help but bring at least a smirk.

Perhaps one of the most interesting things about Iron Sky is how it is a completely fan-funded project. The €7.5 million it cost to make came mostly from people around the world desperate to see Timo's 2008 short CGI showcase made into a full feature. Certainly it is a unique funding model which may well evolve in the future, but what's more impressive is how well the small budget is stretched. Not only have they somehow managed to attract recognised actors in Udo Kier and Michael Cullen to this crazy spectacle, but the special effects are top notch and worthy of any Hollywood blockbuster. And it's not just that the effects look cool, but that they're also incredibly well designed as Nazi spacecraft are all gears and levers like a technology that has barely advanced since the 1940s. Yes it's all very silly and in keeping with the kitsch aesthetic of the film, but it is nonetheless very visually impressive.

The biggest let down about Iron Sky is its script. While the film is totally self-aware of its B-movie pastiche, you can't help but feel irritated by how directionless a lot of it is. In many instances it feels a lot like a GCSE drama lesson where this could have benefited greatly from a more taut structure. Indeed, with a more developed script it could have been something special. As it stands however this will still garner the cult following it was expected to generate. Sheer lunar-cy.