Friday, 17 February 2012

Review: Iron Sky

Iron Sky (c) 2012 Energia Productions.
Iron Sky is so popular and all over the map right now because it's an underdog story. That has nothing to do with the film's actual plot, but everything to do with its production. A group of dedicated finnish film fans have had an outrageous idea, then have battled to get it done for six long years. The end result is a collaboration between fans from all over the world. And the finished film looks amazing, considering its special effects have been made in the basements of nerds, not in the large offices of high-profile effects companies. The production design, wardrobe and sets are also stunningly well-crafted and suitably appetizing for the imagination. The film looks a lot more expensive than it actually is. A lot of work has been clearly put into accomplishing this. So if ever a movie deserved to make it big with just the story of its creation, it's this one. And it's about Futuristic Steampunk Moon Nazis.

So is the end result any good? Sadly not that much, even though the film does have its moments, which might make the film more enjoyable for more forgiving audiences. But personally, I like my nazi exploitation nasty and dirty. Simply put, Iron Sky isn't mean enough to be a cult exploitation film, nor is it funny enough to be a good sci-fi comedy. To be fair, there are plenty of chuckles throughout, but no belly-laughs. The film's also been in production for so long, a lot of the gags feel polished to the point they have no edge, and even worse, seriously outdated.

Flieg, Zeppelin, Flieg! Flieg nach Krieg.

In 2018, a Sarah Palin-like President of the United States (see?) has put a man on the moon again. This time, one of these astronauts, James Washington (Christopher Kirby), happens to be black. This is of course mere white-washing to make the president seem more diverse, and to ensure her re-election in an upcoming vote. The real reason for the expedition is to find some of the precious energy source Helium 3. But on the moon Washington soon runs into trouble as he finds a long-hidden Helium mine and Moon base on the Dark Side. And gets himself captured by the runners of the facilities, long lost Nazis.

These Nazis, led by their Führer Wolfgang Kortzfleisch (Udo Kier) are planning an all-out invasion of Earth. The Führer's sinister second-in-command Klaus Adler (Götz Otto) attempts to use these plans to organize a coup d'etat among their own ranks. He also realizes that the captured Washington could help him gather some of modern Earth technology to ease his attempt. Adler's wife-to-be Renate Richter (Julia Dietze) is a happy-go-lucky supporter of the Reich, believing Nazism to be a peaceful ideology. When she decides to help Washington survive in the hostile environment, it begins to dawn to her that maybe there's more to Nazism that has met her eye on the Moon.

So, the film juggles between all these characters that actually come together only occasionally.  Washington himself is played as a stereotypical movie black man through and through, altough this might be part of the joke.  Nevertheless, as a lead he would need to have more to do. His blossoming romance with Richter, along with her change of heart, seem tacked on. As do a lot of the movie's other various plot threads. Director Vuorensola can't really seem to grasp the film as a whole. He has troubles choosing whether the film is a light-hearted parody or played-as-straight exploitation. So he has to balance both of these options. Maybe also the film's production has forced the crew to shoot the scenes so seperate from each other that there is scarcely much connection between them. But one shouldn't give pity points to sloppy storytelling, no matter what the reason.

Vuorensola has troubles trying to build up the film's suspense to it's climatic space-battles. At least those are cool-looking, innovative and silly enough. The film's comedy tends to be goofy, and there are some fan-pandering to both tech-savvy nerds and film nerds. The funniest parts are seen in an International war conference room, channeling the spirit of Dr. Strangelove. It's just too bad that the film's political commentary is so dumb and black-and-white. It wipes the viewer's face with its comparison of Nazis and Right-wing conservative Americans. With a little more ambition it could've had the ingredients for a smart satire, but most of the tricks it does utilize have already been used better in classic films, which are also referenced.

"As Nazis rear their heads and come into the air space of the USA, where do they go? It's Alaska. You betcha!"
Even though it is easy to find flaws in the film, I still do really want to see it succeed and to find its own audience across the world. It is a ground-breaking piece of Finnish cinema. Not with its cinematic qualities, but it's unique advertizing campaign. During all of the six years it has been made, fans have been treated with script exercpts, stills, effect test footage and even chances to gather funding and appear as extras. The thank you list at the end credits lasts almost as long as long as the Cold War. But, like it was so aptly put in Twitch's review, it is probably because it's lot more fun to think what sort of a movie might a film about Secret Moon Nazis be, than to watch the finished product.

★★ 1/2

Language: English

Director: Timo Vuorensola

Screenplay: Michael Kalesniko, Timo Vuorensola, based on a story by Johanna Sinisalo, and an original concept by Jarmo Puskala
Director of Photography: Mika Orasmaa
Julia Dietz, Christopher Kirby, Götz Otto, Udo Kier, Stephanie Brown, Peta Sergeant

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