Iron Sky Reviews
So I think we all know right from the start this film is not to be taken seriously in any means or fashion in the slightest. A completely farcical UFO B-movie that is a mix of classic old 40's/50's sci-fi and complete schlock, any sci-fi or horror that involves the Nazi's tends to be trashy nonsense right?
Only this film isn't entirely a cheap tasteless excuse for smut in smart uniforms oh no, its actually a pretty neat little film that actually looks pretty good. Its almost in black and white for a lot of the Nazi sections, a virtual grey scale of dull rusty metal bolted together with lots of sturdy fat rivets, thick 50's looking sci-fi cables and lots of impressive steel gantries for the kraut officers to leer from triumphantly.
I have to admit I wasn't expecting the earth here (no pun intended) but the CGI effects on most of the space battles, spaceships and Moon shenanigans all look quite crisp and clean with clearly much effort involved. The spacecraft are all your classic UFO shapes (with nice WWII influence) but one has to admit they do look kinda cool with the German kit on them. There is also a really nice steampunk, cogs n gears, 'Wolfenstein' vibe going on throughout the German Moon based sequences which really works well, kinda reminded me a little of Del Toro's work in 'Hellboy 2'.
Plot aside (seeing as there are plot holes you could fly a Zeppelin through) the film is good fun and does what you would expect with plenty of other invasion films copied in certain sequences. The acting is poor but Götz Otto makes an impressive display as the Fuhrer wannabe 'Klaus Adler', he snarls his way through his dialog in wonderful form really enjoying the villainy, and of course who can forget Udo Kier as the new Fuhrer. I believe Kier is in the dictionary under the word 'cult'.
For some reason I did expect more blood n guts in this, not extreme but it just begged for more claret to flow and maybe some Nazi experimentation, say Nazi space mutants or Nazi killer space robots made with human parts etc...I dunno maybe that's just me and my warped mind. I guess ze crazy German scientist 'Doktor Richter' gave the impression that might happen, nice character, complete stereotype but nice.
A combination of political satire and spoof mixed with B-movie UFO's and space Nazi's, the best part being its not trashy and the space battles do look cool in a 'Starship Troopers' kind of way. I also liked the US president being a woman who looked suspiciously like Sarah Palin. Pure trashy genius methinks, yet such a simple idea.
With Iron Sky, I made an exception to my rule. The idea of a crowd-sourced, modern-day B-movie about Nazis hiding on the Moon seemed so absurdly brilliant that I had to see it. Having followed the film's progress via Kermode Uncut and the official newsletter, I went as far as writing to the film's distributors, complaining that I couldn't see the film on the only day when it played in my then-home town of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Finally I saw the film on DVD, and was promptly given a taste of my own medicine - because Iron Sky is perhaps the biggest disappointment of 2012.
What makes it so disappointing is that the premise of Iron Sky is so damned irresistible. The very phrase "Moon Nazis" conjures up feelings of glee; it's a notion or setup that is so ridiculous that it just has to work on some level. As I mentioned in my review of The Boys from Brazil, Nazis have been reliable pantomime bad guys for decades, with Moon Nazis following swiftly on the heels of zombie Nazis in Dead Snow. Add in the presence of trash veteran Udo Kier (most famous for Andy Warhol's Flesh for Frankenstein) and you have the makings of a genuine oddball gem.
Iron Sky is at its most basic a high concept B-movie. It has a trashy story with broadly drawn characters built around a single idea - in this case that Nazis hid on the dark side of the Moon in 1945 and are now planning to return to Earth to stage an invasion. Being a high concept film we know from the start that it might not sustain its premise or promise, but what's startling is just how quickly the film drops the ball. Where Indiana Jones managed to take hackneyed components and make them feel fresh and exciting, this feels like it's desperately trying to ditch its B-movie baggage, like it doesn't really want to be about Nazis at all.
The biggest problem with Iron Sky is that the story that the filmmakers settle on completely ignores or overlooks all the most interesting aspects of the central concept. The most dramatically intriguing aspect of the central idea is how the Nazis would have got to the Moon in the first place, and how they survived for so long. There are a great many science fiction films about humans stumbling upon ancient civilisations (Prometheus being a recent example), and this film could have told that kind of story from a different, less expository perspective.
Having Nazis on the Moon raises all kinds of questions that could have been answered very creatively. How did they survive to create a fully functioning space colony on technology lifted from gramophones and Volkswagen Beetles? How was their social order reshaped after the death of Hitler? We get a certain amount of insight into their understanding of Earth, with schoolchildren being shown a severely edited version of The Great Dictator, but this could also have been explored in greater detail. Rather than being about the act of coming to Earth, Iron Sky should have stuck with the lunar astronaut staying on the Moon, acting as our way in to this bizarre and intriguing civilisation.
With this opportunity being swiftly squandered, the film could at least have used the arrival of Nazis on Earth to give us a half-decent fish-out-of-water story. There are moments where this thought comes through, such as the remarks in the stolen VW van or when Renate wanders out of the cinema, having finally seen The Great Dictator in full. But for the most part the film ops for comedy so broad it's insulting, epitomised by the running gag about the black astronaut having been turned white. In Bubba Ho-Tep, that kind of joke was a funny little throwaway which added to the overall charm and absurdity of the plot; here it's overplayed so much that it just smacks of desperation.
Speaking of desperation, the film's attempts at satire all fall flat. B-movies have a rich history of sending up contemporary social and political attitudes, but Iron Sky aims so low that in places it resembles the Scary Movie series. Having the US President be a stand-in for Sarah Palin is fine, but this isn't developed in any meaningful way; the film just makes the same old jokes about her being an idiot and presidents waging wars to get elected (Wag the Dog, anyone?). The film's pop culture references are already dated, and when the characters resort to ripping off the 'angry Hitler scene' from Downfall, you know they've run out of ideas. At its worst moments Iron Sky can feel like a bunch of lazy Europeans shouting about how dumb Americans are, in a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black (or should that be white?).
A further indication of how far short Iron Sky falls is found in its profanity. The film is a 15 certificate, and being an action B-movie we don't expect the characters to always talk with decorum and restraint. But very soon the film comes to rely on its swearing to define itself, a tactic that backfires for two reasons. Firstly, there's nothing so shocking or outrageous that the film becomes defined by it - there isn't the equivalent of Hit-Girl using the c-word in Kick-Ass, which was also a 15. And secondly, the swearing isn't used to build up the characters or convey genuine emotion, as it is in something like Sexy Beast. In the end it's all sound and fury, signifying nothing and making the characters look more pathetic than tough.
As for the characters themselves, they're all something of a disappointment. The Sarah Palin shoe-in (Stephanie Paul) is completely naff and flat; at times she resembles a porn star trying to act, complete with too much make-up and stilted delivery. Her aide Vivian Wagner (Peta Sergeant) spends much of the film as a vamp with no real motivation, and her final costume feels like it was ripped off from The Hunger Games. Renate gets a little more to work with but still has to spend much of her time either playing second fiddle or just being half-witted. As for the men, Götz Otto is unmemorable as Klaus Adler, Tilo Prückner phones in the Metropolis¬-style mad scientist, and Udo Kier makes the most out of a very small role, something in which he has great experience.
What makes Iron Sky so heart-breaking is that all of its major problems could have been so easily fixed. It wouldn't have taken a lot to flesh out the characters a little more, whichever story or setting they had opted for. The satire could have been strengthened and made a part of the film's underlying themes, with the jokes punctuating rather than puncturing the tension. We could have ended up, in other words, with a film with all the calibre and character of To Boldly Flee, instead of a horrible mish-mash of half-realised ideas that never come together in a meaningful way.
The only aspect of Iron Sky that really gels together is its effects. With digital technologies becoming steadily cheaper and more accessible, it might seem fruitless to praise the effects work - not to mention the speed at which CG technology advances. But even with this caveat Iron Sky does boast a number of memorable spacecraft, particularly the enormous Gotterdammerung which rises from the Moon base in the last act. The battles aren't as engaging as those in To Boldly Flee, because we don't care about the characters, but purely on a technical level they are executed in an efficient and visually professional manner.
Iron Sky is a crushing disappointment on almost every level. Its impressive effects are not enough to redeem the film of its meandering plot, paper-thin characters and tired, lazy humour, all of which conspire to turn a fantastic premise into a truly dismal failure. The Boys from Brazil offers far more laughs, intentional or not, and Dead Snow makes a little more of its central concept than these filmmakers managed. Nazis on the Moon was a great idea; a better one would have been to leave them there.
Not that good! Overall I don't really know if I feel that much empathy towards the guys who made this film. The film industry especially on the lower end has lots of good talent, and there are many more interesting films, comedies and even sci-fi than this that never got/get any attention. I would praise the film if it really deserved it, but making a great trailer for promotion is just not enough. The film is clearly aimed at the "so-bad-it's-good" crowd, but films in that genre/category actually have jokes in them. Sure, the jokes make you wince and are painfully lame, but that's the point. However Iron Sky was devoid of jokes (or even one-liners) for the most part, and that's it's fatal flaw. There was no bad acting, just dull acting. There were no lame jokes. The writer's clearly hoped that the quality of the moon Nazi idea would carry the poor script, but it just sinks like lead under it's own weight. See at own risk!
The movie starts out with an American manned landing mission returning, in 2018, to the Moon. The lander carries two astronauts; one of them a black male model (James Washington, played by Christopher Kirby) specifically chosen to aid the current President of the United States (played by Stephanie Paul) in her re-election. Upon landing on the dark side of the Moon, the two encounter Nazis who have been there since 1945, and Washington is taken captive.
The Nazi scientist Doktor Richter (played by Tilo Prückner) is called in to investigate Washington and finds his smartphone. Although initially skeptical, he recognizes that the computing power of this device far outmatches anything they have come up with themselves and integrates the device into the Götterdämmerung, the Nazi space battleship. Unfortunately for Richter, the phone stops working due to an empty battery just as he is demonstrating its power to his superiors, especially the new Führer Wolfgang Kortzfleisch (played by Udo Kier). Nazi commander Klaus Adler (played by Götz Otto), who is (for genetic reasons) destined to marry Earth specialist Renate Richter (daughter of Doktor Richter; played by Julia Dietze) offers to go to Earth to find another device with the same computing power. Adler takes a spacecraft to Earth, taking Renate and James with him, the latter having been aryanized (i.e., his skin turned to white) by Richter.
Meanwhile on Earth, the President of the United States is having some problems of her own; she desperately needs a miracle to ensure her re-election. Her aide, Vivian Wagner (played by Peta Sergeant) presents her with the two Nazis. Adler and Richter go on to transform the Presidents' campaign Nazi-style, with apparent success, although Richter is unaware of the plans of Adler to both annihilate the United States and of overthrowing the current Führer.
After three months, Kortzfleisch seems to have figured out Adler's plan. He sends his armada (though without the Götterdämmerung) to Earth orbit. He himself lands on Earth, confronting Adler; at the same time, Renate Richter finds Washington, now a homeless person, in the streets and recognizes Adler's true intent as well. Adler kills Kortzfleisch and takes his position, returning to orbit with Kortzfleisch's flying saucer.
The United Nations meets to discuss the Nazi threat in orbit. The President is thrilled to finally have a war which will likely get her re-elected, and appoints Vivian Wagner as commander of the spacecraft USS George W. Bush, which orbits the Earth carrying nuclear weapons. As it turns out, most other nations have also developed armed spacecraft (all against international agreements) and join in to defeat the invading Nazi armada.
Back on Earth, Richter convinces Washington to come with her back to the Moon to stop Adler. They take their flying saucer back to the Moon and to the Götterdämmerung, where Washington attempts to disable the weapons system (thereby confronting Doktor Richter) while Renate goes looking for Adler. Meanwhile, the international space craft armada has destroyed the Swastika moonbase and is heading for the Götterdämmerung as well. In the final battle, Washington manages to disconnect the tablet device now controlling the Götterdämmerung while Richter takes out Adler. The spaceship crashes into the Moon, but not before Adler has taken out a considerable chunk of the Moon attempting to get a clear shot at the Earth.
The U.S. President calls Wagner from the UN session, congratulating her on her victory. However, Wagner mentions the large tanks of Helium-3 she has seen on the Moon. As it turns out, this material would keep the U.S. independent of foreign power sources for a millennium; thus, the President immediately lays claim to it. As a result, the UN members and the international spacecraft start attacking each other resulting in apparent mutual destruction of the spacecraft.
Richter meets up with Washington (now turned back to black) in the burning Swastika moonbase, where they kiss to the unbelieving eyes of the other Nazis. Richter remarks that "a lot has to be done still". The final moments of the film show the Earth, where ballistic missiles are launched across the globe. At the very end of the credits, the planet Mars is revealed with a man-made satellite in orbit of indeterminate origin.
Despite a relatively small budget of 7,500,000 euro, the visuals effects are almost as dazzling as that of your average Hollywood blockbuster. There's a permeating "blue-screen feel" in the character shots, but I was very impressed with the meticulous detail put into the space crafts. The same can be said for the decor and production design; the steampunk-style of which I took a very strong liking to.
I wouldn't say it's über-funny humor-wise, but it's pretty amusing overall and had me chuckling quite a bit. As for the acting, well, that's where the movie lacked the most. I understand they couldn't afford any A-list names for this one, and although adequate on the whole, there were a couple of actors who seemed liked they had been recruited from the adult film industry. And Stephanie Paul as "Sarah Palin" - much too corny and over the top.
It's good fun altogether though, including cleverly placed references to films like Der Untergang (Downfall) and Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator. An entertaining fusion of sci-fi and comedy, which although uneven in quality, makes the grade as a better-than-average piece of lighthearted satire.
If you only see one movie about Nazis on the moon this year, then definitely check out the entertaining, daft, if a little predictable "Iron Sky." This comes from the venerable tradition of alternate historical fiction, as in this world the Nazis probably were further advanced in rocket technology while the Americans developed the atomic bomb earlier, allowing them to use it on Germany during the war. Overall, the movie makes the best out of its limited budget to come up with some inconsistent computer effects to help in detailing the steampunk of this world.
It should also be noted that none of this trivializes the evil of the Nazis in the least. Just as much, the movie is concerned with the modern world in a subversive way as it takes a pointed look at propaganda, thus making great use of a "The Great Dictator" reference and proving how right Bill Hicks was when it came to people who work in marketing. But in any case, Sarah Palin is hardly relevant right now, so it is hard to think of her being the center of attention in the near future.
For most people a story about Nazis on the moon could be far-fetched, especially with their plans to invide the Earth, but I have to say, it has some background in the documents which survived and are available to the public... At the end I decided to give it a positive review, because actually I liked it. It seemed odd enough to keep my interest the whole time, it looked terrific, performances were quite satisfactory ... really, the only thing which could increase the rating was the screenplay. They had plenty to develop but it seems that the time was the issue... or could be the way they did it! Iron Sky is one of a new wave of productions, including Artemis Eternal, The Cosmonaut, A Swarm of Angels, and RiP!: A Remix Manifesto, produced in collaboration with an on-line community of film enthusiasts, that are creating a new kind of participatory cinema. At Wreck-a-Movie, a collaborative film-making web site, the producers have invited everyone interested in "chipping in" with their ideas and creativity to read the tasks given to the community and to take a shot (write an entry) - and something like this is a result.
Check it out - because there are plans for a prequel and a sequel- you'll have to know what happened in the middle!
In all seriousness, watching this film is like watching a Porno, but without the sex. As far as bad films go this one is a complete howler. It's worse than the worst film you have ever seen (and for me that's a toss up between Sleep Walkers and A Nimphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell). The script is bad, the acting is bad, the sets are bad, the jokes are bad and together all these things add up to a movie that reminds me of a Michael Jackson song, but the name escapes me right now. If it were a car it would be a Yugo, if it were a sex symbol it would be Jackie Stallone and if it were a burger it would just be the bun ... or maybe just two slices of bread. I would suggest that you avoid this movie at all costs, along with anything directed by Timo Vuorensola.
I have no idea what possessed Udo Kier to sign up for this movie. I am a fan of most of his work ... MOST. I am sure he will refrain from adding this little movie to his C.V. though. I would usually say that this movie should never have made it past pre-production. But I don't feel this way. The boy inside was excited by the concept and is now massively dissapointed. Where there should have been contentment there is just an empty space, a void in my soul. This film has forsaken me and now I have to wander the earth as a tortured soul searching, longing, craving fulfilment.
I suppose it's only fair to point out that the movie does look quite good in places. The special effects aren't bad and the two main actresses are very attractive (Julia Dietze and Peta Sergeant). It also pokes a satirical stick at the American government. However, these couple of points are not redeeming and will not stop it from receiving a very low score from me. A few years back, when I would go to the barbers, I would ask ask for a 0.5 all over. I never thought that my coiffure and a movie would have so much in common!