This post may contain spoilers. Read at your own discretion.
Now that I have your attention…
“Iron Sky” is an interesting piece of cinematic work, not because of its plot — though, to be fair, how attention-grabbing is the idea of Space Nazis?! — but, because of the process of its creation. The 2012 brainchild of Australian, Finnish, and German collaboration started off as a light-hearted something maintained regularly through internet correspondence. As the finer edges of the story were sharpened, Finnish director Timo Vuorensola went about to search for funds in order to adapt it to film. A total of 7.5 million euros was needed to carry the project to completion, and roughly 85% of it was secured through traditional film investment channels. That’s when Vuorensola turned to the internet with an unusual idea.
Those united in support of the would-be film’s plot had already formed an online community, and by this time, it had an enormous following. A remaining 900,000 euros were needed to complete the funding. In the end, it was met through investment opportunities, film pre-orders, and selling merchandise — all before the actual film was made.
Wait. Did I say “unusual”? I meant, “insane”.
As a result, “Project: Iron Sky” went down in crowd-funding history as the first film to attain a global reach. Many more projects would aspire to follow its footsteps. Unfortunately, its heroism would end there.
Set in 2018, the film opens in space; an American space shuttle lands on the dark side of the moon. One of the two astronauts aboard is James Washington, a male model (played by Ted Danson, I mean, Christopher Kirby) deliberately sent as part of a race-related publicity stunt to pad up the re-election campaign of the President of the United States of America (played by Sarah Palin, I mean, Stephanie Paul). Shortly after Washington sets foot on the lunar terrain, the mission goes awry, and he is captured by two soldiers, who are later revealed to be one of many exiled Nazis occupying part of Earth’s natural satellite since being disgraced after the Second World War.
Meanwhile, a teacher and Earthologist Renate Richter (played by Lady Gaga, I mean, Julia Dietze) takes academic command of a classroom of school-aged children. Moments after a German lesson introduction, she purposefully switches to English, and continues peppering them with questions pertaining to a very distorted history. The young students, disciplined and obedient in upbringing, are completely oblivious to any other version, and soak up every bit.
School continues in a large swastika-shaped moon base, which Washington is hauled inside. He meets the Führer Wolfgang Kortzfleisch (played by Udo Kier), Nazi commander Klaus Adler (played by Götz Otto), and Doktor Richter (played by Albert Einstein, I mean, Tilo Prückner). The three, upon eyeing him, do not conceal their supremacist sentiments. But Doktor Richter, however, finds himself especially fascinated by the item carried by their new captive, which appears to be his smartphone. Washington introduces the device as a “computer”, a claim that meets ridicule, due to its size. After all, they still harbour the belief that anything named as such would take up an entire room. Doubts are diminished when the Doktor tests the gadget on his secret military pièce de résistance: a spaceship called Götterdämmerung, designed and constructed for the eventual return to and reinstitution of the Nazi regime on Earth.
Washington’s “computer” enables Götterdämmerung to work, but due to the limited battery life, stalls halfway. This incident convinces them of its power, and Adler volunteers to go to Earth to retrieve more phones like Washington’s. He brings Washington back, as a guide, and finds special interest in Washington’s claim that he has contact with the President of the United States. Shortly before the return journey, Doktor Richter, in an effort to grant Washington the gift of “cleanliness”, turns his dark skin white. Washington is understandably upset at this cosmetic change.
Upon landing on Earth, Adler discovers Renate — who is also his fiancée — stowed away aboard the spaceship. Romantically linked in the interest of producing a “superior race”, the two share a passionate greeting. When the group reach city proper, a failed attempt to assimilate with the locals leads Adler to kidnap Vivian Wagner (played by Peta Sergeant). Wagner, the Personal Aide of the President herself, turns out to be the very key that leads them to the White House. She does so, unwittingly, parading Adler’s and Renate’s uniforms about the President’s office as a last-ditch proposal for a campaign concept. Renate chimes in with a speech that idealises a type of New World Order.
The President does not detect the link between the presentation and that of history, so she gleefully — and stupidly — agrees to this direction. Renate is happy to be in good graces with Earth folk, but their being in the White House is part and parcel of the far more nefarious intentions of the man she thinks she loves.
Sure enough, Renate’s and Adler’s relationship disintegrates during this excursion. Washington’s return to Earth also compounds into a series of unfortunate cirumstances. His forced aryanisation puts him at odds with the life to which he has been accustomed, prior to going to space. Months later, Renate finds him wandering the streets, disheveled and homeless. They engage in a heated argument about the events that transpired from 1945, and a close encounter with particularly violent skinheads in the streets causes Renate to acknowledge her views as incorrect, and discover a growing affection for Washington.
By now, the world has gotten wind of an impending invasion, and the United Nations spends much of its time furiously discussing defense methods. When a particular Helium-3 is mentioned, their collective voices escalate, and so does the transparency of their self-interest. Time ticks steadily, and Adler trucks on with his megalomaniacal plan to deploy the Götterdämmerung. Washington and Renate are determined to stop Adler, and the latter struggles with her long-held bigotry, as her prolonged exposure to the realities of Earth debunk it piece by piece.
A large part of the enjoyment in seeing a project reach fruition is how well it does, and I’d like to think all those involved found comfort in any confidence or security they have drawn from the work. Not many would agree with its success, though. While the film has potential, a significant part of “Iron Sky” reads like a bad porno (pardon the idiom). To be completely fair to the cast and crew, the rights of the film managed to evade the grubby hands of Hollywood producers. But, perhaps what was precisely needed were seasoned senses to better tie together an amazing but plot-heavy package.
Art-direction-wise, it is fantastic, and likely one of its saving graces. Finnish concept artist Jussi Lehtiniemi and supervising art director Astrid Poeschke deserve to have years of creative opportunities ahead of them. The visual effects, on the other hand, are offset with awkward acting and choppy writing.
The writers of “Iron Sky” are not short of a funny bone. Its black comedy is another brilliant plus, and the mediocre script still manages to reflect intelligent equal-opportunity political satire. There is no use in being offended with the humour. Frank but good-natured jabs are made at romance, racial stereotypes, popular culture, various people throughout history, current public figures, types of political governance, current events, and the United States. (Oh, the America jokes…) References to the hopefully always fictitious USS George W. Bush vessel, and a stray Crocodile Dundee quote had much of the globally aware audience doubled over in laughter.
“Iron Sky” is worth the time taken to watch it, but don’t expect an Academy Award potential. If anything, have a sense of humour, and revel in the good idea that it still is. Let’s hope the prequel and sequel are vast improvements.