Review: ‘Iron Sky’

Alright – it seems appropriate that the first review we feature on Shotgun Critic is an Australian co-production about space Nazis. I don’t know– maybe it’s just me, but there aren’t enough films that are produced by a contingent of Germans, Australians and Finnish nationals that make light of humanity’s darkest decade. Enter: ‘Iron Sky’ – something of a ‘Mars Attacks!’ parody wrapped in the gung-ho, tongue-firmly-in-cheek nationalism of ‘Starship Troopers’. It’s not quite the winning combination this should be, but Iron Sky fights through routine stupidity to be nothing if not entertaining.

Produced in part from crowdsourced funding and a wellspring of fan support, Iron Sky sets up a tantalizing premise: after their defeat in 1945, the Nazi party fled Earth and established a gigantic swastika-shaped base on the dark side of the moon. From here, the colony thrived and powered their insane steam-powered creations with reserves of Helium-3, free from Earthly interference.

The lunar surface – and sequences involving the massive Nazi base, are all impressively rendered and convincing.

The Unites States, presided over by a Sarah Palin-alike (Stephanie Paul), sends an African American model, James Washington (Christopher Kirby) and an astronaut to the moon in an attempt to spark some national pride and ensure her re-election. However, it ultimately triggers a war as the pair of explorers stumble on Germany’s dark secret.

There are some fascinating ideas at play here; the gears and pipes 1940s aesthetic that underpins the Nazi moon base is completely engrossing and makes for some brilliant digital set-pieces. Certainly the first act of the film works within this setting, building an almost Buck-Rogers-style adventure with our hero Washington smacking Nazis around with his helmet and falling for the stunning, doe-eyed Julia Dietze as Nazi ‘Earthologist’ Renate Richter.

Where ‘Iron Sky’ falls down isn’t in its visual approach – or even in its humour, which lays on the fairly tasteless commentary like a thick coating of peanut butter (that is, full of nuts and hard to swallow). Instead, fault lies with director Timo Vuorensola; he just can’t pull together the disjointed storytelling and poorly fleshed out characters. We never feel enough to care for Washington – despite some heavy-handed racial pontification and a tacked on love story.

It doesn’t completely derail Iron Sky however. It has a certain puff-chested swagger to the humour, riffing on the Internet-adopted final scenes of ‘Downfall’ (check YouTube), as well as plenty of ‘ooh – I’ve always wanted to try filming something like this’ indulgent action moments. The one-liners certainly garner laughs and there are some genuinely clever sequences staged in the shadowy meeting rooms of the UN too.

In all, Iron Sky feels exactly like the culty, fan-funded passion-project that it is: it suffers from an overabundance of ideas – not all of them witty. To its credit, while routinely stupid, it is playfully so – and it gets over the line through sheer force of charm. A “triumph of the will”, if you catch our drift. (Sorry.)

2 stars

–Patrick Kolan

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