Movie Review: IRON SKY (2012)

iron_sky (Small)

Starring: Julia Dietze, Götz Otto, Christopher Kirby, Udo Kier

Written by: Michael Kalesniko & Timo Vuorensola

Directed by: Timo Vuorensola

Although I probably should be, I’m not ashamed to admit that I have been waiting with bated breath for Iron Sky ever since it was “the weird Space Nazi movie that probably won’t be made” project floating around the web sites and message boards. And much to my shock, after six long years Timo Vuorensola and company actually did it. Iron Sky is a gosh-darn real-life movie that you can buy or rent (or or watch on Netflix!). But after six years of hype, and six years of anticipation, does the finished product of Iron Sky actually deliver? That’s where things get a little murky. While there is a lot of good to be had (impressive SFX, good casting, high entertainment value, and even some political satire to boot), Iron Sky feels like the product of “too many cooks in the kitchen”, with nonsensical plot twists and jarring tonal shifts. It’s like five different people tried to make five different movies and somehow cram them all together in 90 minutes.

Iron Sky takes place in 2018, where the President of the United States is a woman in a familiar red dress and wearing familiar glasses adorned with a familiar hairdo (let’s just pretend her name is Shmara Shmalin). Looking for a good publicity stunt, her team sends an African American model named James Washington (Christopher Kirby) to the moon to take a photo op. Unfortunately he runs into the aforementioned Space Nazis, led by Wolfgang Kortzfleisch (Udo Kier, because of course he’s playing a Space Nazi), and they proceed to take him prisoner and “cure” him of the whole being black thing (yup, we’re talking whiteface here!). The Nazis discover Washington’s iPhone, a machine far more advanced than their own (they are pretty much still in the 40’s tech-wise), and realize that it contains the computing power needed for their secret superweapon, the crown jewel of their planned attack on Earth. Unfortunately the battery runs out and Washington (still white) flies to Earth along with Fuhrer in training Klaus Adler (Götz Otto) and his Americologist crush Renate Richter (Julia Dietze) to obtain a new one to get the whole “enslave Earth” thing going. And from there the movie goes off the rails, leading to Adler and Richter working Shmalin’s campaign manager (Pete Sergeant) and ultimately a change in plans.

From the trailers and the photos, Iron Sky looked to be like the sort of B-movie that would be fun because it was a goofy concept played completely straight; however the movie itself is actually a comedy. And a drama. And sci-fi. And political. And a whole lot of other things. Although director Vuorensola and Michael Kalesniko are credited as the two “screenwriters”, the story itself was worked on through Wreck-a-Movie, a site where filmmakers allow non-professionals to pitch their own story and plot ideas (the technical term being “participatory cinema”). And Iron Sky definitely feels like a movie cobbled together from a whole bunch of unrelated ideas. One minute, Washington is trying to interact with the “brothers” while still white and wearing a Nazi uniform (leading them to shoot at him, Adler, and Richter as they steal their Volkswagon) and in the other Iron Sky attempts to make a political statement about the United States and its foreign relations in a series of U.N.-like roundtables featuring stereotypes from every country (the guy from India wears a turban and such). As you can probably imagine, this creates a general imbalance throughout the movie that feels jarring.

It also doesn’t help that the plot itself is also a jumbled mess of different ideas. There’s the basic invasion storyline, but within that there’s the whole “black man gets turned white” story plus Washington and Richter’s sort-of romance plus Adler and Richter helping to run Shmara Shmalin’s campaign plus Adler’s secret motives for coming to Earth. There is a lot going on and none of it seems to relate to one another or serve a general through-line. A whole lot of mess for such a simple idea.

However even though I had a ton of issues pertaining to tone and storyline, I found myself really enjoying Iron Sky more often than not. The special effects are pretty damned impressive and far better than you would expect from a movie like this; the moon base looks excellent and the space battles are well-done and good-looking. The overall synthetic feel to everything is a little off-putting at first but it gives Iron Sky a unique “comic book” visual look. I’d compare it to Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow but I want people to see this movie and not immediately run away from it.

And despite the tonal shifts and awkward plot progression, Iron Sky had some stellar moments regardless. The political satire is on the nose and not at all subtle (SHMARA SHMALIN!), not to mention a bit dated at this point, but I found myself laughing at some of it especially the fake U.N.’s war-room scenes. The movie has some interesting things to say about politics and the world at large, and none of them all that positive. When Iron Sky gets serious, and it does weirdly enough, it also has some tremendous scenes especially concerning the (not earned at all) last 10 or so minutes. The final 10 minutes don’t really fit with the rest of the movie (hell most of the scenes don’t fit with one another), but isolated it’s pretty powerful and would make a great ending to a movie that earned the right to end like that.

Iron Sky is a giant mess of a film, one that wears many genre and tonal hats and doesn’t appear to know what movie it really wants to be. Considering it was composed by committee in essence that’s understandable to a degree, but not something forgiveable. It’s a shame too because there is a lot to like about it overall, from the visuals to the dated and on the nose but still amusing political commentary. And, come on, it’s a movie about Space Nazis who built a base on the dark side of the Moon. You just don’t get many of those sorts of movies now that Robert Altman is dead.

Grade: C+

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