E1 Entertainment // 2012 // 119 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // March 23rd, 2014
The Reich Strikes Back.
World War II is the tipping point for the twentieth century, the place we can trace back most of modern society. Without the war and its aftermath we'd likely be without the Cold War, which gave us the moon landing, nuclear armaments galore (not to mention the desire to create a network that could withstand such attack, aka the Internet), and modern communication satellites. Given its importance, there have long been those who would seek to ask how it might have been otherwise, with 1962 already giving us Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle, an alternate history novel where Hitler won. It may have been the first, but it was certainly not the last to imagine World War II or its aftermath differently (and a shout-out goes The Milkweed Triptych for the best recent example). Iron Sky joined this noble lineage in 2012, offering a campy take on Nazisploitation action/comedy, and director Timo Vuorensola's Iron Sky (Blu-ray) Director's Cut surprisingly improves on a near-perfect B movie.
In the near future, the United States lands a craft on the moon. There, we discover that the Nazis set up a secret moon base in 1945. The moon-Nazis discover that Earth now possesses computing power beyond their grasp and so go back to Earth to take it over.
The original cut of Iron Sky was a no-holds-barred B-movie crowd-pleaser. Though the initial idea came to a handful of writers (four are credited), the script was developed on a crowd-sourcing platform, taking the best ideas from participants to craft a self-consciously "bad" movie that fans of the genre couldn't help but love. The film worked largely because its premise was solid and the plot moved relentlessly forward at a speed so fast the cracks didn't show. Add to that deft touches like casting Udo Kier and effectively envisioning Nazi science that's stuck in the past, and you've got a recipe for a cult film.
The upshot is that I was terribly skeptical about Iron Sky (Blu-ray) Director's Cut. A B movie is a delicate thing, and this one succeeds as much through enthusiasm as skill and planning. The idea of adding 20 extra minutes to an appropriately lean narrative seemed like a bad idea. I'm pretty happy to report that I was wrong. According to Vuorensola, the theatrical version was trimmed due to time limitations on finishing up effects, and most of the 20 minutes included here were already in the can. To hear the director tell it, they were left off because they couldn't be finished in time to make a festival deadline. Now they've been added back in, and more significantly, the visual effects have been touched up. That necessitated adding new music and rearranging the score.
All this means the Director's Cut feels like a different movie. Much of the material that's been added comes from earlier sections where our characters are still on the moon. The added moments are a pretty good mix of extra character development and moments that establish the scope of the Nazi moon base. The effect is that the whole movie has a more "epic" feel to it. Rather than being a scrappy B-movie that's barely getting by, the improved visual effects make Iron Sky feel a bit more legitimate. Of course all the goofy fun is still there, but it's more like the heart of the film has been enlarged a bit.
In addition to the upgraded visuals, the film gets a pretty good Blu-ray release. The set includes a Blu-ray and DVD disc in a beautiful little steelbook case that reproduces some of the visual art on the back. Iron Sky (Blu-ray) Director's Cut gets a 2.35:1/1080p AVC-encoded transfer that's great. Detail is strong throughout, with the cool blues and grays perfectly saturated. Black levels are especially deep and consistent. I didn't detect any serious compression or authoring problems either. The film's DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track is equally impressive. Dialogue is clean and clear from the front, and the epic score sounds impressive and immersive.
Extras start with a 80-minute making-of featurette that covers just about all you could wish to know about the making of the film, effectively doubling the length of behind-the-scenes featurettes included on the original cut. We then get a set of promotion materials, including a photo gallery, the theatrical trailer, and three teasers for the film. A thirty-two-page booklet is also included that features concept art for the film.
Some people will undoubtedly prefer the original cut of Iron Sky. It certainly possesses a ramshackle that this longer cut leaves behind. Luckily, they're both available, and there's a good chance that fans will want both versions of the film to enjoy. That raises my main concern about the release of the Director's Cut; it would be nice to have all of Iron Sky in one place. One more disc that included the theatrical cut (along with its exclusive extras, like the commentary) would have made this a perfect release. Of course fans are likely to already own the original cut, but adding it here would have helped attract even more people to the strangeness of this film.
As a Nazis-on-the-moon action/adventure/sci-fi film, Iron Sky isn't to everyone's taste. The jokes can be hokey, the acting so-so, and the premise bordering on the offensive for some. The film pretty neatly sidesteps the whole Holocaust problem by displacing the racial purity problems onto a black man, but it's still a little odd to be dealing with Nazis in near-future America.
Iron Sky is a fun, campy take on the action-adventure film. It's got just enough comedy and politics to keep things interesting, and this Director's Cut add some much-appreciated character development and improved special effects. Though some viewers might appreciate the homespun vibe of the first cut, many will be impressed by the upgraded look on display here. The fact that Iron Sky (Blu-ray) Director's Cut comes in an impressive steelbook case with an informative documentary on the film only sweetens the pot. If more sounds like a good idea, this is the release to get.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: E1 Entertainment
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 119 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* DVD Copy
* Official Site
* Facebook Page