There can be few premises quite as exquisite as the one mooted by Iron Sky. 1945 and with the Third Reich on the verge of collapse, the last vestiges of the Nazi party flee earth to establish a base on the dark side of the moon, waiting patiently for the perfect moment to return to Earth and restore Nationalsozialismus. That would be enough to whet most appetites, but the story behind the six year long production adds an extra dimension to this already stellar promise.
Presumably loosely inspired by Robert A. Heinlein’s 1947 novel Rocket Ship Galileo, a rambunctious yarn about three teenagers who venture to the moon only to discover a secret Nazi moon base, as well as multiple urban myths about a covert Nazi space program, the Finnish production team descended on Cannes in 2008 armed with little more than a five minute trailer and a fantastical dream. The teaser proved a smash and with a co-production deal signed, director Timo Vuorensola et al embarked on a vociferous two year funding drive to bankroll the film.
Soon enough, the interwebs caught a sniff of the story and a dedicated and extensive online community flocked behind the cause, rallying behind the vision to the tune of over €1 million, a true manifestation of the power of the digital mob. But with the dream came the reality, actually making the film. Perhaps appropriately, the end result is as piecemeal as its unconventional production.
It’s 2018 and with a Sarah Palin-esque US President (a hackneyed Stephanie Paul) facing a re-election battle, a thinly veiled propaganda moon mission runs into trouble when James Washington (Christopher Kirby) and his astronaut buddy happen across a swastika shaped base. Apprehended by said moon Nazis, Washington’s day takes a turn for the even worse, given that he just so happens to be black. Cue uncomfortable gags aplenty, when it becomes apparent that the Nazi ideology is very much alive and well.
As the Nazis interrogate Washington with the intent on harnessing his 21st century knowledge to enable them to fly their secretweapon, the cleverly named Gotterdammerung, back to Earth, de-facto Fuhrer Kortzfleisch (Udo Kier) the ever ambitious Adler (Gotz Otto) provide the appropriate levels of villainy, whilst Julia Dietze’s Nazi with a heart Renate provides the requisite flirty eye-candy.
There’s a deliciously lo-fi feel to these early proceedings, but happily the special effects pass muster given the miniscule budget. Less successful is Johanna Sinisalo’s script, which is a mishmash of political satire, taking a swipe at imperialist US foreign policy and international diplomacy, and a dash of Friedburg and Seltzer style gags. As it is, it never reaches the heights of the pitch perfect satire of Dr Strangelove which it so desperately strives for and this more serious commentary feels at odds with the strictly for belly laughs moments of ridicule.
The uneven tone is unfortunate, given that intelligence and thought has obviously gone into some of the more knowing nods. A riff on Chaplin’s The Great Dictator is a pertinent statement about the power of propaganda, but a misjudged Downfall pastiche falls comparatively flat. Where Iron Sky excels is when it revels in campy B-movie sentiment, so it’s frustrating that the end product is neither one thing nor another.
As the action transposes to Earth, things take a turn for the farcical. The idiocy and futility of international diplomacy comes under fire, whilst North Korea get the standard kicking before events unravel into what can only be described as science fiction for the insane. And whilst the inevitable Nazi invasion of New York (isn’t it always?) is visually impressive, there’s always a niggling sense that this was a missed opportunity.
The didactic denouement sits somewhat uncomfortably with the mayhem that precedes it, although crucially it isn’t overplayed, which is a rare win for Vuorensola in terms of achieving a balance of tone. Iron Sky always had a battle on its hands to deliver a film as strong as its pitch and whilst it doesn’t quite live up to moon high expectations, there is ludicrous fun to be had if you embrace it for being the utterly bonkers film that it is.