E1 Entertainment // 2012 // 93 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Michael Rubino // October 10th, 2012
The Reich strikes back.
What is an appropriate level of expectation for a movie about Nazis on the moon? I would assume it's cautiously high. Right? Turns out, whether or not Iron Sky delivers on the promise of campy sci-fi and Lunar-Nazi comeuppance depends solely on your ability to withstand four-year-old political satire.
In 2018, a politically motivated mission to the moon leads to two astronauts discovering The Fourth Reich. Since the mid-40s, these Nazis have been living on the dark side of the Moon in a swastika-shaped space station planning their revenge on the planet Earth. Well, now's as good a time as any.
There's something pretty awesome happening in the Northern European film community. What was once the land of cold, depressing (and beautiful) art house cinema has now blossomed into a burgeoning community of genre-oriented filmmakers. Dead Snow, Troll Hunter, and now Iron Sky are showing that you can make decent-looking, low-budget pulp without it turning into a terrible Syfy channel "movie of the week." That said, Iron Sky doesn't quite live up to the hype in the way the zombie Nazis did in Dead Snow.
The film's main problem is apparent within the first scene of the movie: a Lunar Lander arrives on the Moon and is immediately ordered to unfurl its banners. In comes two glowing red signs that read "YES SHE CAN" and are adorned with the face of the President of the United States: Sarah Palin...or a third-tier impersonation of Sarah Palin by Stephanie Paul (Film School Confidential). While they never call out Palin by name, the bangs and red jacket are as blatant as it gets. Maybe it took that long for this film to get financed, or perhaps writer/director Timo Vuorensola thought shoving her in there would still be relevant; either way, it's a bad choice that ends up hurting the film. Iron Sky has plenty of lame jokes, including some uncomfortable racial humor, but I couldn't get over how immediately dated everything felt when it came to the film's politics -- I'm not even a Palin supporter, I just hate bad satire.
When the film isn't being bogged down by jokes stolen from Jay Leno's monologues in 2008, there's actually a fun story to be told. U.S. astronaut, James Washington (Christopher Kirby, The Matrix Revolutions), who first discovers the Nazis, ends up being the film's hero alongside turncoat Renate Richter (Julia Dietze, Love in Thoughts). Together, the two of them are racing to stop the Nazis from using the President's reelection campaign as a means to invade the Earth. It's a loosely constructed story with motivations and tone all over the place, but it offers extended periods of thrilling chases and goofy action.
The film's villainous Nazis are awesome. Halfway between the vintage-futurism of Captain America: The First Avenger's Hydra troops and steampunk time capsules (with the "fish out of water" humor of Encino Man), they're both cartoonish and menacing. Their space-age technology is all rooted in the gears and mechanics of the 40s, unchanged despite decades on the moon. Once Iron Sky begins its climax, and Earth is bombarded by "meteorblitzkrieg" from space zeppelins, you'll be sold on the concept. The cool space battles make the film's dumb jokes even more upsetting.
Iron Sky had a budget of about $11 million, which is less than even cheap indie films get made for. Despite this, the film's effects artists and animators do an admirable job creating a near future that's kind of believable but ultra stylized. Most of the movie's backgrounds and environments are CGI, with the actors occupying real sets in the foreground. The depth and design put into the moon base machinations looks as good as anything Michael Bay would come up with. The team's green screen technique (placing actors on small, real sets and adding in the background) works about 75 percent of the time. While on the Moon, Iron Sky almost resembles Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow with its monochrome palette, hazy video filters, and bold shadows. Things get a little off whenever the film returns to Earth; thanks to the high-def Blu-ray, the seams begin to show.
Iron Sky looks really good for what it is. The special effects are generally believable in 2.35:1/1080p HD; the colors are crisp and bold; the contrast is as sharp as a knife. It's that pristine contrast that makes the green screen work somewhat obvious, but it never detracts from the action. The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track is mixed well, with pounding explosions, clear dialogue, and a score full of cheese. The space sequences really are an immersive, exciting experience. Included on the disc is a commentary track with the director and producer, an insightful making-of featurette, some behind-the-scenes videos, and the trailer that started the whole thing. It's not the most robust Blu-ray in the world, but what's there is certainly appreciated.
Like any good B-movie, Iron Sky can be summed up with a single sentence: Nazis on the Moon. As long as Vuorensola's film is focusing on that premise, it works and I'm happy. The cheesy archetypes, the absurd mechanical spaceships, the Volkswagen Beetle that Hitler drives around his swastika moon base...it's all ridiculous. But at some point in the development process, the screenwriters thought that all of that should share equal screen time with stale political parody rooted in a vice presidential candidate from the 2008 election. It's not a fatal choice, but it's certainly a crippling one.
Guilty of soggy satire.
Review content copyright © 2012 Michael Rubino; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: E1 Entertainment
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English, German)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English, German)
Running Time: 93 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Rated R