Jarv’s Schlock Vault Special: Iron Sky
Nazis? They’re the only people we ever beat in a fair fight
Oh yes. Oh yes my pretties. We have waited. We have kept the faith. We, the devoted few, those that held their heads up high while the masses poured scorn by the bucketload down on to us never once forsook the cause. Oh, how they mocked, how they heaped derision on our hopes and dreams that one day a nutty Finnish director named Timo Vuorensola would somehow bring his vision of Nazis hiding on the dark side of the moon to the screens. And now, my loyal flock, our faith has been rewarded because Iron Sky has landed.
They come in peace.
Contains NAZIS ON THE FUCKING MOON and spoilers below.
First up, change your expectations. This has no business being in The Vault and the only reason it is in is that I originally covered it here when it was but a trailer. At the time, the appeal had gone out and it looked unlikely that Iron Sky would ever receive distribution. Funded almost entirely by Crowd Sourcing, Iron Sky is, in many ways, a truly revolutionary film. However, the trailers are selling it as something it isn’t; it looks like a piece of space silliness, something for the likes of me to laugh at. The reality is completely different, as this is something to laugh with. What Timo and crew have turned out here is a legitimate comedy! Iron Sky is, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, laugh out loud funny on more than one occasion, and I don’t believe there’s one single laugh in the film that isn’t unintentional.
Now that I’ve asked you to change your expectations, I’m also going to ask you to lower them. This is the 21st Century where comedy is desperate, and given that Iron Sky was made by Scandinavians (not renowned for their sense of humour), not forgetting that it is cast with Germans (really not renowned for their sense of humour), this seems like it doesn’t stand a cat in hell’s chance of being remotely amusing. That it is funny is little more than a minor miracle, but if you are expecting a full on feast of schlocky goodness, then you are, I’m afraid, going to be sorely disappointed.
I’m barely going to talk about the plot here, instead I’m giving a brief synopsis of the premise. Iron Sky takes place in 2018. The Nazi’s have been hiding on the Dark Side of the Moon since the end of the Second World War. Living in isolation, they are indoctrinated by generation into National Socialist beliefs as if these are natural. Two hapless American Astronauts (one white, and one black, in, hilariously, a black suit) discover the Nazi base, just as the Nazis are preparing to invade earth again. What follows next is some surprisingly sharp satire, a lot of superb visual references, and some really, really funny jokes.
Visually, this film is absolutely stunning. I have checked the budget for this, and I am astonished to discover that it’s only €7.5 million. Given that they started with little more than a teaser trailer and some concept art, to have turned in a film as gorgeous as this for so little cash makes an absolute mockery of the trend of modern comedy to fork out tens of millions of dollars on absolute trash. Your Highness, for example, one of last year’s plethora of deeply unfunny crap cost the better part of $40m and that’s before marketing, and isn’t a fraction as good to look at as this film. The sets are brilliantly realised, the texture of the film is lush and rich and there is a fucking great big space battle at the climax of the movie. Really, this is as close as it is possible to get on this budget to actually bringing concept art to life.
And it’s just as well that the concept art is spectacular. The steampunk Nazi moon base is a superb bit of design with massive greasy chains, huge turning cogs and so forth. It looks simply fantastic. The attack ships themselves are masterpieces of design, being huge zeppelins and small and zippy flying saucers, not to mention the giant ship Götterdämmerung with its seething metallic parts and ridiculous level of armament.
Julia Dietze plays the naïve Renate, teacher and all round “Earthologist”. This is a fresh performance, she’s clearly in on the joke, and seems to be having a great time. Renate’s heartfelt speech about the nobility of the Nazis (that forms the best satirical gag in the film) is brilliantly delivered, her eyes practically glisten with tears, and it’s simply superb. Udo Keir is solid as the aging Fuhrer, and Götz Otto is suitably Teutonic as Klaus, aspiring leader, and Peta Sergeant is amusingly predatory as Vivian. The only real weak link is Christopher Kirby as Washington, but he gets plenty of laughs of his own, even if I don’t buy for a minute that he’s a male model. Finally, on the acting front Stephanie Paul is quite good as
Sarah PalinThe President of the United States.
Mentioning the President brings me on to the main thrust of the comedy in the film. It’s satire, yes, but as it took Iron Sky 6 years to get to the screen, this is a joke that’s already past its sell by date. Yes it is funny, and who doesn’t love laughing at Palin and America, but the chances of her being in the White House diminish by the minute. The childish UN Panel on the other hand is far more plausible, and there’s a great joke about half way through with North Korea. I always imagine the Security Council as overfed bickering bureaucrats, and Iron Sky does hit this one on the nose. Some of the references for comic effect are supremely well done, with the iPhone powering the Nazi invasion force being a very funny dig at Independence Day, and the film is laced through with visual references to other material such as Star Trek. Aside from that, though, there are many legitimately funny jokes in the film. Some do, admittedly, work better than others, but little touches such as the “break glass if in need of motivational speech panel” did indeed make me smile. There are also some clever and highly amusing lines delivered (usually by Dietze) and as such, when this is on form it works a treat.
Above all else, though, Iron Sky is simply fun. I know that’s an unusual thing to say about a comedy, but it pokes fun at itself, and isn’t particularly trying to be broad and heavy social satire. Well, not beyond “Hur hur hur, Palin is a Nazi”. It’s a pleasant and eager to please film, and I don’t honestly see anything wrong with that, particularly when you consider that it looks so good. The attitude and heart of the film buy it a lot of forgiveness in my opinion, and I really think that some so-called “Broadsheets” and their pompous film sections should be feeling ashamed of themselves. I suspect it’s because it is light and airy, it doesn’t deliver the savage critique of the modern society of the 1% that they need to “like” a comedy. This isn’t a film to pick on, it’s just for the fun and the glory of it, and I wish more movies, particularly comedies, had this attitude.
On the downside, as it is comedy, there’s a hefty failure rate to some jokes. However, more importantly, this is going to date extremely quickly. The problem is that the digs at Palin and the like already feel old, and as such will keep the film as a product of its time. In 10 years this will be a curio, the first of the crowd sourced films, and it will have earned its place even if the content of the movie may not justify this.
On a different note, before I sign off: a nice big sarcastic round of applause to Revolver Entertainment for burying the film. The bought it purely for the DVD rights, but had to guarantee a cinema run to get it. So what did they do? They buried it for 1 day in absurd and hard to get to cinemas. On that note, a nice heartfelt “thank you” to the Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square for reacting to public demand and screening it for a week. Admittedly, they did this not for love, because it has sold out solidly, but given that, it strikes me as dim-witted that Revolver couldn’t have given it some time as a proper release.
Overall, I like this film, but if I’m honest, I was always going to. It’s not as fresh as it wants to be, and yes, it is terribly lightweight, but I honestly don’t care. I had fun, and considering the pompous and overbearing horseshit that seems to pour out of the cinema now, or the crass and cretinous drivel of the likes of Apatow, then I’m glad we’ve got a comedy that is actually amusing and is actually entertaining. Not perfect, by any stretch of the imagination, I can say that a hell of a lot more here works than doesn’t and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. I’m approving this one, and I do recommend it.
Iron Sky: nailed on 2012 OUTLANDER Award winner. You heard it here first.
Until next time,