Monday, June 13, 2016

Picks from Chip: Iron Sky

Films: Iron Sky
Format: DVD from NetFlix on rockin’ flatscreen.

This is the sixth in a series of twelve movies suggested by Chip Lary.

When we created our lists for 2016, Chip warned me that he was specifically giving me a movie that was really dumb. That movie was Iron Sky, a film in which the central conceit is that in 1945, a group of Nazis escaped to the dark side of the moon, built a gigantic base, and have continued to teach their ideology to those who made the trip. This Fourth Reich is building weapons with the intent of, naturally, returning to Earth and conquering it. Yeah, it’s one of those premises that is simultaneously ridiculous and makes you wonder why it took someone until 2012 to think of it (and yes, I’m aware that there might be earlier movies with the same basic premise).

Anyway, we learn about the swastika-shaped base when a new American mission to the moon lands on the dark side, coincidentally close to the base. The two astronauts, one killed immediately, are on the moon as essentially a publicity stunt/public relations move/re-election stunt by the American president, who is clearly intended to be Sarah Palin (Stephanie Paul). The second astronaut is captured, and much to the shock of the moon Nazis, astronaut James Washington (Christopher Kirby) is black.

Under interrogation, Washington reveals that his cell phone is actually a powerful computer—much more powerful than all of the combined old-school computers on the base. However, it runs out of power, meaning that replacements are needed to power the moon Nazi fleet. The moon fuhrer Wolfgang Kortzfleisch (Udo Kier) sends his ambitious second in command Klaus Adler (Gotz Otto) to the Earth to acquire more iPhones. Going with him are James Washington, turned white by Nazi science and Adler’s proposed mate, Renate Richter (Julia Dietze).

Hilarity ensues, or at least it’s supposed to. Adler kidnaps Vivian Wagner (Peta Sergeant), the public relations manager of the president. Vivian decides that the military look of these new visitors is just what the president needs to ensure her re-election. Adler, of course, would rather conquer the planet for himself, provided he can find a way to dispose of Kortzfleisch. Renate learns that what she’s been taught about National Socialism isn’t the truth. And James Washington deals with being legally dead on the moon, and now being white and homeless.

Here’s the thing--Iron Sky had a great deal of potential to be the sort of goofy science fiction spoof that it really wants to be, but it fails on a number of levels. Primarily it fails because it’s almost too professional to be the B-movie it clearly wants to be. This is obviously a spoof in a lot of different directions, but it’s actually hampered by how professional it looks in many places. The film clearly doesn’t take itself that seriously, but it also seems to be trying to make a serious statement in places. It’s camp, but it’s forced camp, and that’s difficult to make work. It’s a rare movie that sets out trying to be a cult film and that actually succeeds in becoming a cult film. Iron Sky shoots for that and falls really short.

There are some good ideas here. I love the look of the different aspects of the moon base. It’s very close to being steampunk. It’s a sort of retro-high tech, technology starting from 1945 and moving forward based on an entirely different trajectory—one without microprocessors and transistors. That’s really well done and shows a lot of thought. But so much effort seems to have been put into the idea of “let’s make a movie about moon Nazis” that not a great deal was put into making it something that actually works. The acting is terribly over the top intentionally, but because it is, it frequently doesn’t work.

It tries, and I respect the effort. It also fails rather spectacularly. I went into Iron Sky hoping for a movie that would give me 90 minutes of goofy fun and ridiculousness. I got that, but only kind of. For a movie that runs 85 minutes with a disturbingly long credit sequence afterwards, a lot of Iron Sky really dragged. There were too many things that could have used a lot more development and too many things that we spent too much time on.

I get why people enjoy this. I really wanted to. I just didn’t. It’s the first miss for Chip’s list this year.

Why to watch Iron Sky: Space Nazis!
Why not to watch: It’s too camp to be truly camp and too camp to really be any good.


  1. Yeah, this one isn't good. I didn't even think it was that fun. And for a lot of the same reasons... it just doesn't work on practically all the levels it wants to. The film "Nazis at the Center of the Earth" came out the same year and is practically the same film and does it MUCH, MUCH better. And it's Asylum, which says a lot. It's so much more entertaining. I did a review of it, and even got the director to comment, which was cool.

    1. I think I remember you saying that at the time. If I get the time, I'm not averse to campy Nazis attempting super-science world domination, at least on film.

  2. I suppose Iron Sky is not for everybody. I liked it and found it hilarious, but then I dig Finnish deadpan humour. When I watched it in the cinema with my Swedish colleague I remember we commented that this movie probably would not work in America.

    1. I really wanted it to work. For what it's worth, I did enjoy Rare Exports.

  3. I enjoyed it, but it does go off the rails quite often. If I remember right, it falls apart pretty much when they leave the moon. Up to then, it's kind of fun.

    1. Yeah, I'd say that's about got it right. I really was prepared to at least give it a marginal review, but the second half pretty much sucked.