Monday, 5 November 2012

Iron Sky

In 1945 the Nazis went to the Moon, in 2018 they’re coming back. The film with possibly the best tagline of 2012 turns out to be pretty much what I expected, a nice idea which is overstretched, a film which can’t sustain itself for a full 90 minutes and unfortunately a film that isn’t enough fun. In planning and development for around six years, the trailer was first taken to Cannes in 2008 in order to drum up finance and that’s when I first heard about it. After four years of excitement the end product is a little bit of a let down but I have to commend the Finnish film makers for their tenacity and drive.

The plot can be pretty much explained by the tagline but there is a little more to it. The Nazis have been living on the dark side of the Moon since 1945 and are preparing an invasion. When America’s Sarah Palin-esque President (Stephanie Paul) sends a mission to the Moon in order to win an election, the astronauts come across the Nazi Moon base and one of them (Christopher Kirby) is taken in and interrogated. Earthologist (Julia Dietze) takes an interest in the Earth man but her fiancĂ© and future Fuhrer (Gotz Otto) has plans for world domination and leads a small expeditionary force to Earth ahead of the main attack.

The film is described as a Science Fiction Comedy but the comedy aspect is very thin. I chuckled a couple of times and enjoyed the odd moment but overall the film fell way short of the ‘Mark Kermode six laughs makes a comedy’ test. I did like the satire of American politics though and most of the laughs and smiles came from this strand. There is talk of the ridiculous expense of American elections (something which is quite apt as I write this on November 5th 2012) and the President’s idea to send a mission to the Moon no matter what cost, just to improve her approval ratings is a funny one. Her decision to also send a black man up there, any black man, in order to gain support is also reminiscent of the sort of stunts which are seen in American politics. As a result she sends a model instead of an astronaut. The satire goes further by comparing the right wing President to the Nazis with increased iconography and overly patriotic speeches at huge rallies. There is also a sneaky reference to the bombing of Dresden which I thought was well handled.

Something else I rather enjoyed as a huge Charlie Chaplin fan was the inclusion of his 1940 film The Great Dictator. That film was released as a piece of anti Nazi propaganda and helped draw America’s attention towards the threat of Nazism but in this film the Nazis use one scene in which Chaplin, playing a version of Hitler, plays with a blow up Earth like a little boy. They use this as pro Nazi propaganda and tell their children that the film was used to show that the Fuhrer wanted the whole world to live peacefully in his hands. I liked the reference and the way it was used and the film comes back later on to form the basis of a change in direction for a central character.

While the comedic aspects of the film fail, the Science Fiction is slightly better but is a bit over complicated and muddled. The Moon’s physics didn’t make a lot of sense and there was a lot of standing and breathing that wouldn’t be possible on the surface. The base itself though was quite realistic and fit the period reasonably well. A lot of the film though is just utterly ridiculous, even if you forget about the Moon Nazis. One character is a leather clad advisor or campaign manager to the President who ends up in space as the commander of a nuclear armed space ship. This sounds like it should be fun but just isn’t and her woman scored character doesn’t really work. Other characters are more realistic and grounded in reality though and the acting on the whole is a lot better than I expected.

The lead is played by the delightful Julia Dietze whose perceptions of her kind are changed following interaction with an Earth man. She is pretty good and manages to just about hold the film together. The Earth man is played by Christopher Kirby who isn’t so good but plays the film with the right amount of camp and tongue in cheek as the role requires. Gotz Otto is very good as the stereotypical Nazi, his huge figure suiting the role. Stephanie Paul’s Sarah Palin impression is passable but she at no point feels like a President or even a Politician, although perhaps that suits the Palin impression.

The CGI is a hit and miss affair with more misses than hits. Occasionally there is an effect which looks really good but for the most part they feel cheap. The film was made for just €7.5 million so I shouldn’t really complain but as I often mention, Gareth Evans’ Monsters was made for just $500,000 US and looks an awful lot better. The effects aren’t bad enough that they ruin the film but sometimes they are quite shoddy. The physical sets though are generally OK.

Overall Iron Sky is a decent B Movie with some nice ideas and an interesting premise. It brings together some capable actors who perform a slightly dry and overly complicated script which runs out of steam far too early. There is talk of a prequel and sequel and although this first film was a bit of a let down I would almost certainly watch each of those but it comes nowhere close to the likes of Black Dynamite or even Snakes on a Plane for sheer fun and enjoyment.


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