Mania Review: Iron Sky (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, June 13, 2012
It should come as no surprise that there are an enormous number of films that present Nazis as our prime antagonists; they are, after all, the ultimate bad guys. The horrors wrought by them aren't defensible and so they make perfect, unsympathetic baddies for our heroes to slaughter wholesale. It comes as something of a shock then when watching the foreign made, sci-fi satire Iron Sky to find American imperialism, resource warmongering and modern political race baiting all similarly skewered over the flaming pit beside the loathsome third (fourth?) reich. It's even more surprising how well this works and how simple, yet biting, the satire is.
In the world of Iron Sky, the Nazis secretly escaped to the dark side of the moon during the waning days of the European theater of World War II. It's now 2018; they've spent the last seventy years constructing vast war machines with which to conquer Earth from their concealed space bunker (shaped like a giant swastika, obviously) . However, their ultimate engine of destruction requires far more computing power than they left Earth with or have been able to develop on their own. And so their plans of conquest are stalled like the Russian front in bitter winter. Cue the spark which sets our action into motion: In an effort to secure guaranteed re-election, The President of the United States (never named but clearly based on Sarah Palin, played by Stephanie Paul) sends black male model turned astronaut James Washington (Christopher Kirby) to the moon as part of the first manned lunar exploration in decades. The advertising slogan crafted to drum up voter support? "Black to the moon". (yup folks, it's that sort of silly)
Trouble's quickly upon Washington as his copilot is killed and he is captured by the Space Nazis, whose chief scientist discovers that the astronaut's cell phone contains the computing power to bring their ultimate weapon online. There are humorous turns aplenty at both the Nazis' expense and practically everyone else. The parody is sometimes so close to reality that it's frightening, but that's kinda the point of excellent satire; it's meant to bring our own failings into sharper focus, so that we can learn from them. On the shallower surface of this sort of self evaluating humor is the ability to provide laughs for those who aren't looking for a deeper purpose or meaning. There's definitely enough of both to keep the attention of either disposition.
The acting is good for what this is: campy spoof land. There's one noticeable standout and that's prolific actor Udo Kier (who was born in German in 1944 and played Franz Hess for the Werewolf Women of the SS portion of Grindhouse, among many, many other things) who has a great, if slightly under utilized turn as space fuhrer, Kortzfleisch. The rest of the cast does a decent job, with no one in particular shining above and beyond the material. The heroes and villains aren't always who you expect them to be and "evil" isn't cut and dry in this clever comedy. It's almost Mel Brooks-ian in it's sarcasm and lambasting (pre Dracula, Dead and Loving It Brooks, mind you).
Having awarded that level of praise, it must be noted that the CGI is a little rough around the edges, which may be intentional but is likely a product of a slim budget. It's serviceable and only jars your attention at the very outset; I grew accustomed to it and allowed the story to unfold within it's limited confines after only few minutes. I'd be remiss though, not to mention the anachronisms present in the German technology, which includes 1930's model cars and motor cycles which function in the nearly nonexistent atmosphere on the Moon, space suits that seem to consist of nothing more than shock trooper ensembles with enclosed gas mask based helmets, and World War II era structures functioning in ways that shouldn't be possible. It's completely intentional and works within the established myths of the film (I think it's actually pretty cool).
Boiling all of that down into one sentence: Iron Sky is slightly strange, diesel punk sci-fi satire that dishes up a wicked lashing on a number of targets who completely have it coming. It's a right rotten shame that it has no U.S. theatrical or home market release slated. If you've got the equipment, it's available as a U.K. Region 2 DVD. Seek it out for a sarcastic smack in the senses.
Chuck Francisco is a columnist for Mania writing Saturday Shock-O-Rama, the weekly look into classic cult, horror and sci-fi. He is a horror co-host of two monthly film series at the world famous Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, PA (home of 1958's 'The Blob'): First Friday Fright Nights and Colonial Cult Cinema.You can delve further into his love of all things weird and campy on his blog, The Midnight Cheese or hear him occasionally guesting on eminent podcast You've Got Geek.
Mania Grade: C+
Starring: Julie Dietze, Peta Sergeant, Udo Kier, Stephanie Paul, Christopher Kirby, Gotz Otto
Written By: Johanna Sinisalo, Jarmo Puskala, Micahel Kalesniko
Directed By: Timo Vuorensola
Studio: Entertainment One (2012)