The Nazis have been the subject of many films, from Indiana Jones to Inglourious Basterds, but have always been restricted by their short, historically-bound lifespan.
To bring the Nazis from 1945 to the near future, Iron Sky cleverly circumnavigates this apparent pitfall by relocating them to the Moon where they have built a society, as well as some kick-ass new spaceships, ready to return to Earth in 2018 and wreak vengeance upon humankind. When US astronaut James Washington (Christopher Kelly) stumbles upon their moon base he uncovers their evil plan, as the world unites to repel the futuristic fascists. This unashamedly crazy premise has built a cult following to rival Snakes on a Plane, but is it worth the hype?
Iron Sky starts out like a Freidberg/Seltzer collaboration (the blokes responsible for Disaster Movie and Meet the Spartans) with clichéd race jokes which set their sights fairly low, and writing which is less side splitting, more eye rolling. Much of the humour here derives from a repetition of the film’s ludicrous premise, which gets tiresome. It’s also severely lacking in terms of character development and emotional resonance, leading to almost complete indifference to everyone onscreen.
But once the premise is established, and the US President (Stephanie Paul, playing a thinly-veiled piss-take of Sarah Palin) enters the fray, it pulls out all the stops to deliver genuinely exciting sci-fi action. The space battles look fantastic for such a low budget, and scenes of New York pack as much punch as those in Cloverfield or Independence Day.
There’s a sense that the film’s weak opening and deliberate silliness is a ploy to get to what the filmmakers really wanted, which is a satirical comedy sci-fi featuring several innovative, clever scenes which send up politicians with a vitriol and bite that couldn’t be done in a more mainstream movie. For film buffs there are plenty of nods to other popular movies, complete with the first funny Downfall parody ever.
It’s enthusiastically made, and particular credit should go to the soundtrack (including the best use of ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ since Apocalypse Now) and whoever designed the 1940s-style Nazi spacecraft. There are questions over the suitability of using history’s worst criminals for what is essentially a piece of light comedy entertainment. But Iron Sky is quick to deal with this criticism, reminding us this was even being done in 1940 with Chaplin’s The Great Dictator, here referenced as propaganda used to teach the space Nazi children about their former Fϋhrer.
For a film about Nazis on the Moon, Iron Sky exceeds expectations. It delivers not just a fun sci-fi movie which matches many of its better-financed rivals, but brings some political satire and an ending that stays with you. While it never attempts to venture outside B-movie territory, what it lacks in character development, misfiring comedy and subtlety it makes up for in its entertainment value, originality and sheer audacity.