SXSW 2012: IRON SKY Review

     March 12, 2012


There are no half-measures when it comes to moon Nazis.  The very phrase “moon Nazi” invites laughter.  There’s no room for serious consideration, and even biting satire can be a stretch.  It’s a goofy premise ripe for B-movie fun, and Iron Sky has no problem playing the fool and being silly right up until it begins to believe that people came to a movie about moon Nazis for CGI space battles and anything resembling dramatic contemplation.  Director Timo Vuorensola forgets that when you make a movie involving moon Nazis, you must always stay true to the moon Nazis and the ridiculousness they embody.

In 1945, Germany had secretly developed an advanced space program, and sent colonists to live on the dark side of the moon.  Flash forward to the year 2018, and the Nazis have been preparing an invasion of Earth, but their members no longer understand their culture’s dark history.  Busty Earthologist Renate Richter (Julia Dietze) believes her people are about peace, love, and happiness, and that The Great Dictator is ten minutes long (it’s the part where the Dictator is playing with the globe).  Her unwanted paramour Klaus Adler (Götz Otto) couldn’t care less about peace and wants to launch an invasion of Earth so he can become the new Fuhrer.  In to their world stumbles black model/astronaut James Washington (Christopher Kirby) and he clues them in to how much the Earth has advanced.  Back on our planet, the unnamed-but-Sarah-Palin-parody U.S. President (Stephanie Paul) is running for re-election, and her busty campaign manager Vivian Wagner (Peta Sergeant) sees the potential to use the Nazi threat as a way to a second-term.

It’s a stuffed plot, especially for a B-movie, but the film does an admirable job of balancing different kinds of humor and storylines.  Rather than make tired Sarah Palin jabs, the movie uses the caricature as the standard politics-obsessed President, but one who’s scummy and stupid enough to use Nazis as a campaign tool and still manage to fuck it up.  But she’s a minor story compared to the shenanigans Renate, James, and Klaus are up to.  Iron Sky finds fun ways to go beyond the silliness of the “moon Nazi” hook and throw in some racial humor, social critiques, and some clever parodies.


The parodies provide a glimpse of what could have made Iron Sky more than enjoyable movie junk food.  Nazis has been repurposed as both the catch-all real-world villain of the 20th century and as comic fodder.  As their atrocities and horrors fade further into the past, it’s easy to mock Nazis, and perhaps we should in order to deprive them of their power*.  Iron Sky is almost on to something as it starts throwing in references to other films that have parodied the Nazis, and with a little more control and imagination, Iron Sky could have been like a Shaun of the Dead but for Nazi movies.

However, the movie remains enjoyable enough with its own brand of silliness.  Part of the humor is throwing lots of zany humor at the audience and switching between playing it straight and playing an Albert Einstein look-alike as an evil Nazi scientist.  Up until the end, Iron Sky is light enough to swing between different brands of humor without seeming desperate.  While desperation never sets in, the humor fades away, and the movie morphs into a wannabe Dr. Strangelove but with space battles.  Vuorensola deserves credit for using his limited budget to get the most out of his green-screen effects, but eventually the setting and the plot overpower the goofiness that had made Iron Sky so enjoyable.

Iron Sky is worthy of applause for using moon Nazis as a launching point rather than just recycling the joke for 90 minutes.  The moon Nazis get the ball rolling on the silliness to come, and the film remains light and airy enough to drift between different comic styles.  Except for a couple clever parodies, the humor is usually good enough to get some laughs, but never great enough to be particularly memorable.  But ending with a bland space battle and a trite message does a disservice to everyone, both Earthmen and moon Nazis alike.

Rating: B-

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