Directed by Timo Vuorensola
Distributed by Entertainment One
Cinematically speaking, when it comes to film villains you can’t do much better than Nazis. The swastika is a universal symbol that evokes disgust, anger, fear, and visions of a “master race” attempting to cleanse the world. Anyone who wears the uniform of an SS soldier is instantly recognizable as a foe, no questions asked. As they are no longer around (aside from some fringe lunatic groups), and they were so damn evil, there’s no concern in portraying them in the worst light possible (which, really, can’t ever be too bad), unlike, say, China, because you know why. With revisionist history films enjoying a surge in popularity, mostly due to Quentin Tarantino’s recent output, filmmakers have been going back and having a little fun with age-old enemies. Some serious, others – like Iron Sky (2012) – not so serious. Even more than revising history, the filmmakers behind Iron Sky have decided to inject a heaping dose of Scandinavian dark humor into this unquestionably ridiculous B-movie that could have been the baby of Ed Wood and Roger Corman. Nazis, having been defeated in WWI, escaped to the Moon in 1945 and have been quietly planning their revenge, which is set to occur in 2018. A story so outlandish can’t possibly take itself seriously, and so Iron Sky sets forth with tongue planted firmly in cheek as we once planted a flag on that very Moon.
The year is 2018, and the U.S.A. has sent two astronauts to the Moon on a mission. More specifically, the President (Stephanie Paul) – never named, but clearly a parody of Sarah Palin – sent male model James Washington (Christopher Kirby) to plant a flag bearing her re-election poster. While Washington is busy trying to simply stand up, his astronaut buddy walks across the plain and sees a gargantuan Moon base hidden in a crater. Before he has time to process anything, a Moon Nazi shoots him dead and Washington is taken captive because the Nazis want to examine a Black man. Having been born on the Moon, nobody has ever seen one before. The head SS doctor, Dr. Richter (Tilo Pruckner), finds a cell phone in Washington’s pocket and is astounded the learn it has more computing power than anything the Reich possesses. Desperate to obtain more cell phones in order to power their behemoth space battleship, Gotterdammerung, the Nazis, led by Fuhrer Wolfgang Kortzfleisch (Udo Kier), decide they’ll fly down to Earth and get as many as they can so the invasion can finally begin. Klaus Adler (Gotz Otto) is selected to go, as is Washington since he’s a friend of the President. Dr. Richter injects Washington with “albinism serum” before they leave, a concoction which slowly turns him into something resembling the love child of Thor and Apollo Creed. Remember that infamous Eddie Murphy skit on SNL when he’s in whiteface?
The group arrives in America before discovering Adler’s Aryan partner, Earthologist (you know, the study of the Earth) Renate Richter (Julia Dietze), has stowed away on board. They rendezvous with the President and her assistant, aiding in her re-election campaign using their obvious skills in propaganda. Three months pass by before Fuhrer Kortzfleisch arrives and demands to know what Adler has been up to, which, it turns out, is plotting to kill him and take over as supreme Fuhrer of the entire world. Everything leads up to a full-scale assault, with the U.S. sending in their ultimate space battleship, the USS George W. Bush, to meet the Nazis head-on in a cosmic clash that will decide the fate of the world once again.
The mere premise of the film is enough to solidify its place in B-movie history. Too often filmmakers will produce a movie intended to harken back to the unintentionally cheesy sci-fi films of the ‘50s and completely miss the mark by either playing it too straight or going way too tongue-in-cheek, playing more like a parody than anything. Iron Sky knows damn well how outlandish it is, and it is rife with zingers and blink-or-you’ll-miss-it jokes – many of which are already horribly dated by today’s standards. Sarah Palin jokes? How irrelevant are those in 2014? Very. The reason so many of these should-be bad jokes work is likely because the team behind them isn’t American. There’s something to be said about the tonally dark humor of Scandinavians. They aren’t afraid to hit below the belt for the sake of humor. I’m not saying American films aren’t capable of doing the same, just that sometimes an outsider’s perspective can provide a unique slant we aren’t used to getting here. To even attempt an overview of the film’s best jokes would fill up more space than this review needs. This is a film you’ll want to watch more than once simply because they don’t pause to let a joke mug for the camera; you need to keep a sharp eye, and ear, on every scene. I will, however, say that no matter how incredibly played out that Downfall (2004) scene of Hitler losing his shit is, seeing it redone here managed to work despite the obvious detriment that cultural memes will instantly date your film.
Don’t go thinking it’s all golden, though. Despite the nearly endless stream of jokes, not all of them kill it. This is definitely a case of “everything including the kitchen sink”; throw 10 lbs. of shit to a wall and hope 5 lbs. sticks, you know? I found most of the sight gags to work the best, like the Moon base being in the shape of a swastika (naturally), and the young Aryan children play hopscotch using – what else – a swastika-shaped outline. You can’t play a film like this straight, so the humor needs to be broad and constant in order to keep most of the people laughing most of the time.
This Blu-ray contains the 110-minute director’s cut of Iron Sky, which runs a full 17 minutes longer than the theatrical cut. It isn’t outlined exactly what has been added in, but I can say the movie feels like a bloated epic. Director Timo Vuorensola clearly had impossibly huge ambitions here, wanting to make his tiny, low-budget picture look bigger than some Hollywood films. And I can’t say he didn’t succeed, though maybe a little restraint would have produced something tighter. You feel nearly every one of those 110 minutes. Thankfully, it’s not a painful experience, just a long one. Iron Sky is the type of movie that would kill at midnight screenings; you want an audience to share in the sheer lunacy of it all.
Despite being a relatively low-budget effort, the 2.35:1 1080p image is quite proficient. Shot using the Red One camera, the picture is nearly pristine. Everything tangible – from faces to uniforms – has sharp, defined edges and an impressive level of detail. Nearly the entire film was shot against green screens, and those effects more or less seamlessly integrate themselves with the live-action footage. There’s a commendable level of depth to the image, too. Colors appear to have been desaturated, depriving them of any on-screen pop. The palette veers toward an appropriately steely grey hue, especially on the Moon where the Nazis clearly prefer a monochromatic color scheme. The CGI effects are rendered well enough that they don’t look horrid, though a few more passes to add in minute details might have made things look less artificial. The English/German DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround sound track provides a powerful sonic experience that registers with great fidelity. Dialogue has a solid presence in the mix, never drowned out despite constant flurries of gunfire and sound effects. Bass levels bring the boom when machine guns are popping off rounds or the massive German warships are preparing to launch. The score was done by the Slovenian industrial band Laibach, imbuing the film with the kind of ferocious power you feel at a Rammstein show. It’s very befitting for this kind of picture. Leitmotifs recur frequently, with the music of Wagner used liberally throughout. A film such as this requires a bold presence and crushing audible power. And it delivers. Subtitles are included in English SDH.
This new director’s cut edition of Iron Sky is mostly devoid of special features, aside from a lengthy making-of documentary that covers everything you’d want to know. Also included are a photo gallery and some trailers. “Making-Of Featurette” is actually a documentary, running for 1 hour, 18 minutes. Director Vuorensola and his longtime crew talk about their humble beginnings making the Star Wreck series of no-budget films. When he got the big break to make something with a budget, this insane idea of Nazis on the Moon came to mind and his producers loved it. The film took nearly six years to complete from the time it was conceived, with the script continually being refined and honed. No stone is left unturned here. “Photo Gallery” runs for a little over a minute, with a paltry amount of pictures included. The film’s theatrical trailer and three “teasers” are also included, the latter of which are basically short clips more than anything, sort of like propaganda. The two-disc set comes housed in a sturdy steelbook case, with the discs overlapping each other in a plastic tray. The inside of the case holds a 30-page booklet full of great production art photos.
3 1/2 out of 5
3 out of 5