They say that variety is the spice of life. In a continuing attempt to embrace that variety here with One Movie | Each Day, I’ve decided to dedicate each Wednesday review to the stranger side of cinema, the type of movies that I’d never normally watch, or, at least, admit to watching, but that I’m kind of secretly glad exist. So, in celebration or in condemnation of the eccentric, the odd, the freaky, the kinky, the ghastly, the freaky, the fearful, the flaky, and the freaky, I now present one of the greatest wastes of a premise that I’ve ever seen in this, the twenty-fourth edition of Wednesday Weirdness.
If you were setting out to create a modern crowd-funded B-movie spectacle, it’d be hard to go wrong with a premise of Moon Nazis, coming to conquer the Earth. Unfortunately, despite some fantastic visual effects, and a few amusing bits, the people who made today’s movie, Iron Sky somehow managed to really blow it.
The film’s premise is fantastically goofy, in a “it’s so crazy, it’s brilliant” kind of way: In 1945, as Germany was facing defeat in World War II, a detachment of Nazis, escaped to the dark side of the Moon where they established a colony and began building up resources to eventually complete the Aryan conquest of the world. Then, in 2018, the Sarah Palin-esque President of the United States (Stephanie Paul) launches a new mission to the Moon (as a campaign stunt), when the astronauts encounter the Nazi colony, (complete with massive Swastika shaped headquarters), the Nazis are convinced that they’re the scout party for a larger attack, and begin plans for their invasion.
Unfortunately, the film decides not to deliver much on that premise and instead decides to try to be a ham-handed political satire that while goofy, sometimes takes itself a way too seriously. It seems to want to score some political cheap-shots, (that the filmmakers clearly think are legitimate), while at the same time protecting itself from criticism by draping itself in a mantle of goofiness.
Nazis are in many ways the perfect movie villains, they can be tremendously menacing, their powerful use of icons and symbolism lead to a strong visual presence, but their historical defeat, (both military and ideological), is so well-known and thorough that they can also be cast as, bumbling, somewhat pathetic, and even funny. Hence, the premise of Moon Nazis in the modern world is rife with potential. However, in Iron Sky the Nazis and Nazism aren’t the real threat. It’s clear that in the mind of the European filmmakers, that America is the real menace. Unfortunately, in terms of movie villains, faux-Sarah Palin is no substitute when we’re expecting the literal successor to Adolf Hitler… from space!
Still, this all might work if the film could settle on a tone, or if the comedy was consistent, or if it just made any sense at all. The film’s main characters are James Washington (Christopher Kirby), an African American model recruited as an astronaut for the moon mission, in the President’s attempt to attract minority votes, and Renate Richter (Julia Dietze), the Nazi Earth-expert/mad-scientist’s daughter. Both characters are ridiculous. Washington is a jive-talking doofus, who we’re supposed to believe is a model, but seems more like an average Joe recruited for the space program because apparently the President’s political mastermind, (the lovely Peta Sergeant in an over-the-top performance as Vivian Wagner), couldn’t find any African-Americans who were actually qualified to be an astronaut. He’s alternately quick-witted and oblivious as demanded by the particular scene he’s in. Meanwhile Renate, is so ingrained by propaganda, that she honestly believes that Nazism is all about bringing peace and love to the world. This might be somewhat believable, but, aside from thinking that Washington must sincerely desire to be white, she doesn’t really seem to believe anything that the Nazis actually believed.
This goes to a recurring problem with the movie, the Nazis aren’t really Nazis, they’re just generic bad guys in fancy costumes. In fact, even when the movie decides to try to be “serious’ Nazism is largely given a free pass. It’s portrayed as benign in the face of the specter of American hypocrisy.
I’m not saying that America is above criticism, but if you’re going to make a political satire, then make a political satire, if you’re going to sell me a goofy B-movie about Moon Nazis, then give me that. I’m sure that in the hands of a deft filmmaker it’d even be possible to combine the two. However, its clear that director Timo Vuorensola and the gaggle of writers, (the film credits four, which is an indication, if not a source, of the film’s serious creative problems), aren’t up to the challenge.
There were plenty of moments in this movie that I enjoyed, (the brief scene where Vivian angrily berates her campaign staff in a shot-for-shot send-up of the internet-famous “Hitler is Angry” scene from Downfall, is a prime example). However, the fun scenes aren’t enough to keep the film together, or actually make it enjoyable.
One of the recurring themes on this blog is that stupid movies, when they know that they’re stupid, can be a lot of fun. Iron Sky is a stupid movie that knows it’s stupid, and it really needs to be stupid in a fun way. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way the filmmakers decided to try to be clever (they weren’t actually clever, but it’s clear that they’re quite pleased with thinking they are.) This only gets worse as the film goes along, leading to a conclusion that actually tries to be very serious. So it’s a stupid movie, that starts out cleverly embracing its own stupidity, get’s caught up with how clever it is, then tries to get clever, but it isn’t actually clever, it’s just stupid. This stupidity overwhelms everything. The film has fantastic visual effects for a low-budget film, the virtual sets and fantastic space sequences really should be what grabs one’s attention in this film, but they aren’t.
While I’m using this movie as an installment for Wednesday Weirdness, I’ve been aware of it ever since the first trailer launched (several years ago to promote the film’s Kickstarter funding campaign). I’d always thought I’d get around to watching it, but now I wish I hadn’t. The premise was ripe, and it could have gone in any number of directions and been fantastic. I’m sure that there are viewers out there who’ll love it. Certainly if you’re well in-tune with the film’s political bent you’ll probably not see the nonsense, and think that all the semi-informed cheap shot politics is just hilarious. For anyone else, though, Iron Sky is simply a failed piece of dopey entertainment. I’d recommend you Avoid Seeing it.