Do you remember the first time you saw the trailer for “Snakes on a Plane”? How did you feel? Did you feel that sense of excitement and anticipation like you did before the trailer for a new “Star Wars” film, or your equivalent thereof. (I’m a total “Star Wars” tragic, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.) Or did you think, What a stupid idea for a movie!? I’m guessing the latter. Am I right? After all, “Snakes on a Plane” was essentially just that: snakes on a freaking plane. Enough said. But it became a cult hit. Either you loved it or you hated it, and those who loved it did so properly.
However you felt for “Snakes on a Plane”, I imagine you felt the same way when you first saw the trailer for our subject today, the Finnish film “Iron Sky”. For those not in the know, let me fill you in. The idea behind the film is that in 1945, when defeat for the Nazis was imminent, they secretly launched rockets into space, and made for the dark side of the moon, where they lay in waiting, quietly mining helium-3, preparing for their triumphant return to seize the world by force, and finish what Hitler began. Sound silly? Well, it is. Very silly, and very clichéd. The idea apparently came to the film’s writer Jarma Puskala in a dream, and he took it to director Timo Vuorensola, whose agreement to do it was conditional on the casting of Udo Kier, who may be familiar to some film fans for his brief role in the first “Blade” movie. It’s not the silliest movie ever (that’s the “Deuce Bigalow” movies) and it certainly isn’t the worst movie ever made. (Read: “Freddy Got Fingered”.) On the contrary, I actually found it to be surprisingly good, in a very overdone, cheesy, “Snakes on a Plane” kind of way. Either you’ll love it, or you’ll hate it, and personally, I loved it!
It goes without saying that “Iron Sky” is a movie not to be taken seriously. Space Nazis? I scoffed too when I first heard about it. But maybe that was their intention. To send us all in with low expectations. It is a cast of largely unknown actors, released with minimal fanfare, on crowd funding. Sound a bit clunky? That’s okay. The clunkiness actually works. The action begins as James Washington becomes the first black man to land on the moon as part of a scheming, unnamed US president’s (an instantly recognisable satire of Sarah Palin) campaign for re-election. Washington is quickly captured by the space Nazis, who find among his possessions a smart phone, which they recognize as the solution to all their power problems, and the key to getting their super -weapon, an enormous hulking rust bucket of a spaceship called the Götterdämmerung to fly.
Fortunately, the infamous unreliability of smart phone batteries sees their diabolical plan stalled, and so the Fürher-to-be, played by Götz Otto (whom Bond fans may recognise as the hit man Herr Stamper from “Tomorrow Never Dies”), begins an expedition to earth to obtain more smart phones. This quickly lapses into his own grab for power from the existing Fürher Kortzfleisch, played by Udo Kier.
It is all very funny up until this point. Sadly, the film does let itself down somewhat once they reach earth. Burning questions are begged in quick sequence, such as why do these Nazis on a mission to meet the president go marching about in public with their swastikas clearly visible, despite the fact that they know Nazism was defeated? Why is everyone so easily convinced that these Nazis come in peace, and for the benefit of all mankind? And perhaps the most of all, just who exactly is Vivian Wagner (Played by Australian Peta Sergeant) supposed to be? She plays the heinous bitch of a character well, but it is never clearly explained to the audience just who she is beyond a tough as nails business woman who has an imminent meeting with the president. This imminent meeting is made to sound like quite the big deal, but later she and the president are seen talking like old friends. Furthermore, why, in her first scene in the film, do her lackeys address her as “sir” then quickly correct themselves and say “ma’am” instead? Is she a transsexual, or simply a woman so brutally ruthless and unwomanly that one could be forgiven for thinking she is male? The answer is never made entirely clear. It is not a movie-killing oversight, but one which will most definitely leave a few heads being scratched. Fortunately, if you can get past questions like these and simply enjoy the film for the piece if escapist entertainment that it is, you’re still in for an enjoyable viewing experience.
The production design is perhaps the film’s most resounding triumph. The Nazis’ moon base is every techno-Nazi stereotype you can imagine. Dark and clunky, and reliant largely on steam power, clockwork, and giant chain mechanics, all of which look fantastic alongside the Nazi uniforms and fashions that remain faithful to those of the 1940s, with a few interesting developments. Particularly the Lego-esque helmets of Nazi pilots, whose dialogue shared when browsing a modern day dirty magazine is one of the most memorable moments of the film. To contrast this, we of earth have some interesting if somewhat clunky designs of our own. Without giving too much away, this is most definitely not one of those typical sci-fi films where all seems lost until the good old USA comes and saves the day yet again. Don’t you worry about that! Although you can bet it’s only a matter of time before Hollywood does a remake in which America is the big hero as usual…
As for action, well, it is there, albeit not quite in the quantities suggested in the poster or the trailer. The action present is good fun, complete with flying saucers, space zeppelins, and one hilarious electrocution, particularly alongside the score: a modernised version of Wagner’s “Flight of the Valkyries”, and some deliberately cheesy action movie dialogue. It is very much a film for sci-fi lovers. Observant viewers will note a space helmet worn by the film’s heroine Renate Richter (Julia Dietze) is marked “SS-1138”, a clear reference to George Lucas, as well as much of the cinematography being very reminiscent of certain scenes from the “Star Wars” films.
Love it or hate it, “Iron Sky” will leave an impression as a very out-of-the-ordinary film. Despite is manifold shortcomings, it remains a highly original and enjoyable movie, and one which deserves to be successful. Whether it attains the cult hit status for which it is rightfully destined, is entirely up to you the viewer. I leave it to you.
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