Film (2012; rev vt Iron Sky: Dictator's Cut 2014). Blind Spot Pictures Oy, 27 Films Production, New Holland Pictures. Directed by Timo Vuorensola. Written by Jarmo Puskala from a story by Johanna Sinisalo. Cast includes Julia Dietze, Udo Kier, Christopher Kirby, Götz Otto, Stephanie Paul, Tilo Prückner, Peta Sergeant, Johanna Sinisalo. Theatre release 93 minutes; DVD release 111 minutes. Colour.
The first sf story in which Nazis escape into space after World War Two is probably Robert A Heinlein's Rocket Ship Galileo (1947); it is not a conceit which has worn well in print, though Nazis in Space can be found in Comics and Cinema. As for Iron Sky itself, there may be viewers with fond memories of the original theatre release of this garish, po-faced, occasionally hilarious, pratfall-prone Satire of the story-type, but the 2012 release was not widely distributed. The default version for most viewers will be the smoother but at times more excruciating "Dictator's Cut" released in 2014.
In 1945 a cadre of unrepentant Nazis, led by Hitler's self-appointed successor Wolfgang Kortzfleisch (Kier), escapes to the Dark Side of the Moon, where they build a vast armoured Keep, and prepare for their Invasion of Earth, slated for 2018, through the construction of an enormous space dreadnought called Götterdämmerung (the funeral march from this opera is much in evidence: Richard Wagner's music, intermixed with a contemporary score by the Slovenian experimental band Laibach, is used heavily). But before these plans can hatch fully, an American expedition lands on the Moon, debouching a black astronaut, former male model James Washington (Kirby), who is soon captured, his untermensch blackness flummoxing Kortzfleisch and his deadly second-in-command, the insanely ambitious Klaus Adler (Otto), though Washington's self-advertised sexual prowess intrigues naively idealistic young Nazi teacher Renate Richter (Dietze). Washington then inadvertently reveals the powers of his smartphone to Nazi scientist Doktor Richter (Prückner), Renate's father, who convinces the high command that with this advanced Technology the invasion can brought forward. Adler, stowaway Renate, and Washington – suitably Aryanized by Richter through an albinoizing serum – take off for Earth to prepare the way.
There they become involved in the hyperbolic Media Landscape shenanigans stirred up by the American President (Paul), who is running for re-election; her resemblance to Sarah Palin (Republican Vice-Presidential candidate in the 2008 campaign) is conspicuous, but lacks here any Satirical point. In any case the main German armada now arrives and attacks New York, spectacularly destroying the Statue of Liberty. Fortunately, the nations of the world, having universally ignored every disarmament treaty ever signed, are able to amass a ferociously armed countervailing force, with which they invest the Moon. The Götterdämmerung is blown up. Adler dies humiliatingly. Washington gets back his skin and Renate falls into his arms. Lacking an external enemy, the United Nations now attack one another like rats in a sack; a slapstick scene in which world rulers come to blows may have been meant to evoke the unmade custard-pie fight once projected to climax Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964).
Iron Sky was made on a tiny budget, with the financial aid of fans; but shows remarkably few signs of compromise, maintaining a professional gloss throughout almost certainly enabled by a highly intelligent use of CGI. The tint of the scenes shot on the Moon startlingly evokes the extremely-expensive mise en scene of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004); less fortunately – certainly for a film ostentatiously fitted up as a Satire of the modern world – Iron Sky proves even more inward-looking than the highly claustrophobic Sky Captain. It would be going too far to suggest that no shaft of wit escapes this black hole of cinematic self-reference; but certainly the overwhelming sense imparted by the film is of in-jokes insisted upon. Connoisseurs of sf movies over the past decades will almost certainly be amused and flattered by the amount of attention directed toward their field of knowledge.
This closedness of reference or implication may explain the retro tonality of the film, which seems iconographically bound to the rag-and-bone shop of twentieth-century cinema; and it may partially excuse the embarrassing rendering of James Washington as a fast-talking smart-ass with chops, a caricature of a decades-old shtick which soon becomes as insulting as the ostensible target of 1970s black comedians, the slavish cowardly-custard comic-relief Steppin Fetchit figure popular in Hollywood until after World War Two. This hermetic approach to the world on the part of Iron Sky's makers may further explain their apparent ignorance of the Nazi use of Eugenics to justify extermination of the mentally unfit and lesser races in general, like blacks, a process that began as soon as Hitler came to power; but even after viewers have been forced to understand that Iron Sky's makers do not know the meaning of the jokes they tell, the comic Nazi consternation when Washington's race is revealed, as depicted here, does seriously fail to amuse, as does his subsequent Aryanization-by-serum, which ignores a central Nazi tenet: that no one can pass as Aryan: for Aryans are born (hence the Nazi obsession with genealogy) not made. Even in spoof country, Adler's response to Washington would be to exterminate him.
The acting is professional throughout. [JC]
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