Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Movie – Iron Sky (2012)

Iron Sky is a very tongue in cheek kind of movie.  So much so, in fact, that a sizable number of people took it way too seriously and got offended by it.  When you’ve got a partially fan funded Finnish film, starring Germans and Americans, shot in English, and filmed mostly in Australia, you know right there it’s going to be at least a little different from the norm.  And if that isn’t enough of a clue, then the basic premise should have screamed “we’re having fun here”.  It’s about Moon Nazis who attack Earth.  I was in the right mood when I saw this.  I had a grin on my face for much of the film.

The movie opens in 2018, an election year for the U.S. President (Stephanie Paul).  Yes, 2018 won’t be a Presidential election year, but the filmmakers are Finnish.  How many Americans know when the Finnish elections will be?  And perhaps it was intentional just to provide another clue this isn’t supposed to be taken seriously.  Paul plays the President as if she were the love child of George W. Bush and Sarah Palin.  That alienated a whole block of right wing viewers right there.  She’s behind in the polls in her re-election campaign and her campaign manager has convinced her she needs to attract more of the minority vote.  The result?  The “send a Black to the Moon” mission.

Male model, and black man, James Washington (Christopher Kirby) is sent along on a mission to the dark side of the Moon.  He and the other astronaut discover human constructs.  The other man is soon killed and Washington is taken captive.  It turns out that in the waning days of WWII the Nazis launched some of their forces to the Moon to create a “Fourth Reich” whose goal would be to eventually come back and take the Earth.  The problem is that their computer technology just isn’t sufficient to drive the enormous Gotterdammerung ship they have built for the attack.  Guess what they find on Washington?  His cell phone.  It has far more computing power than anything the Nazis have developed.

The Nazis see Washington as the advance scout in what will be an attack from Earth on their base, despite Washington’s insistence that nobody even knows they are there.  The Nazis are also greatly confused and concerned that it is a black man and not an Aryan that was able to reach the Moon.  They have their resident mad scientist Dr. Richter (Tilo Pruckner) “cure” him by making him white and then they have the doctor examine the cell phone.  Its battery goes dead so a mission to Earth is undertaken in order to obtain more of these marvelous cell phones.  The Moon Fuhrer (Udo Kier – could you have a movie about Moon Nazis and not have Udo Kier in it?) orders his right hand man Klaus Adler (Gotz Otto) to take Washington to Earth and return with these devices.  There are a few complications, of course.

The first is that Dr. Richter’s daughter, and Adler’s girlfriend, Renate (Julia Dietze) stows away on the mission.  She’s tired of being passed over for being a woman.  She is an altruistic Nazis.  She strongly believes in what she thinks they stand for.  Her favorite movie is the “10 minute short film” The Great Dictator made by Charlie Chaplin that “celebrates Hitler.”  She’s been lied to her entire life, but doesn’t know it yet.  The second complication is that Washington almost immediately escapes.  He has no clue that he’s been made white, though, so when he tries to warn people that there are Moon Nazis that are going to attack Earth he’s not recognized and is treated like every other crazy person.

Adler and Renate end up meeting the President’s campaign manager, who brings them to the President.  Once she talks to the enthusiastic Renate the President decides that the National Socialist Party (which she has no clue are the Nazis) have just the kind of message her campaign needs: strength, unity, purity.  As it turns out, she’s right.  The new campaign is wildly popular.  Renate becomes her new campaign manager.  In the meantime the Moon Fuhrer has also come to Earth to find out what has been taking Adler so long.  Adler uses the opportunity to stage a coup and become the new Fuhrer.  Renate, in the meantime, has been having a change of heart.  She’s started to learn what being a Nazi really means, and it’s not the whitewashed version she was taught.  She finds Washington and the two decide that they’ve got to stop the Nazis.  Meanwhile the President has warned the U.N. about them and the entire Earth has also decided they’ve got to do something.  Might that something be launching super secret spaceships that they’ve all lied to their allies about not having?

There are a ton of references in this film.  The first is the concept itself.  The filmmakers claim it came to them in a dream, but it’s suspiciously like the plot of the classic 1947 Robert Heinlein novel Rocket Ship Galileo.  And later in the film it shows the Nazis hauling chunks of Moon rocks to hurl at the Earth’s gravity well just like in Heinlein’s Hugo-award winning novel The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.  Of course, if James Cameron can keep "borrowing" from Heinlein than these filmmakers should be able to as well.

When Washington first gets to the dark side of the Moon a bit of Pink Floyd music from the album of the same name can be heard.  Right after Washington has been made Aryan he is in a wheelchair and he tries to suppress a Nazi salute like in Dr. Strangelove.  I mentioned that the U.S. President has a lot of mannerisms of both George W. Bush and Sarah Palin.  There’s a scene where someone just goes off on their subordinates as a spoof of the online meme of Hitler doing it in the 2004 film Downfall.  Renate wears a suit with the number 1138 on it as a nod to George Lucas.  When the Nazis order the attack on the Earth to begin it is at the exact same time, and uses the same rationale, as the first attack on Poland in WWII.  And I’m sure there are many other references or little jokes I missed.

I’ve already mentioned how this movie managed to offend a lot of people.  In addition to rightwingers, the concept of making a black man white bothered some, Germans were bothered by Nazis once again being shown to represent them, and the filmmakers had some very pointed things to say about how untrustworthy ALL politicians and governments are, whether they are Nazis, Americans, Chinese, Russian, or even their own country of Finland.  The ending of this film, which is very darkly humorous, certainly drives this home.

There is also a scene after the credits that might have simply been a joke or might have been setting up a sequel.  A satellite is shown to be in orbit around Mars.  Who might have put it there?  Well, it is the “red” planet, after all.  The filmmakers have announced that they are hoping to start filming a sequel in 2015.  And this time it will be entirely funded by public sources.  About 10% of Iron Sky was, after the filmmakers got the word out about it.

So, as you can tell by the paragraphs above this is not Star Wars, Star Trek, or any of the other big “space battle” kinds of films that some people were expecting when they sat down to watch this.  It’s a low budget film that takes a skewed look at a very skewed concept and then has a lot of fun with it.  Thin skinned people should probably avoid this.  For everyone else, if it sounds like fun then I recommend you give it a try.

Chip’s Rating: 3 out of 5 stars


  1. Haha. I forgot about this until you reminded me. This was a laugh. Completely stupid, but very enjoyable. One thing that made me chuckle, that you missed, was the kamikaze Japanese spaceship.

    Also, I had not noticed that 2018 wasn't an election year (I am English). A new president can be appointed, however, if the winning President of 2016 gets shot or dies or quits due to a Watergate style controversy.

    1. "One thing that made me chuckle, that you missed, was the kamikaze Japanese spaceship."

      Yes, this movie was an equal opportunity offender. :-)

      "A new president can be appointed, however, if the winning President of 2016 gets shot or dies or quits due to a Watergate style controversy."

      Correct. The replacement does not get a four year term, though. That person just serves out the remainder of the original person's term, so the Presidential election, which is every four years, stays on the same schedule. In your example it would be in 2020. The last time it happened was when Nixon resigned in 1974. His replacement, Gerald Ford, served for two years then lost the next election in 1976.

      I know your Prime Minister can call an election any time he or she feels they have enough support for their party to return to office, right? Isn't there a maximum amount of time that can pass before a new election is required, though? How many years is that?

    2. Being a history student my knowledge of American Presidents is very good, oddly enough much better than my knowledge of British Prime Ministers. For example FDR is the only American President to serve more than eight years.

      In the United Kingdom a general election has to be held every five years, you are correct a prime Minister can call an election when he or she wishes. In England a party needs to gain an overall majority in order to govern the country, they can do a deal with another party (coalition) to gain this majority (I.E at the last election) else it will result in a Hung Parliament and the election is re contested (I.E- 1974) which was the UK's last hung parliament.

      I think that's how it works in a paragraph, I'm not the most politically aware person in the world, but I keep tabs.

    3. Thanks for the info.

      And you're correct about FDR. There was actually nothing preventing Presidents before him from serving more than two 4 year terms. George Washington set the precedent, though, saying that he was not going to be "another King George". He left after serving two terms and all Presidents that followed voluntarily served at most two terms. One President - Theodore Roosevelt - took over the term of the President before him, won re-election, then stepped aside, but then in the next election he ran again, saying that the tradition was no more than two CONSECUTIVE terms, and he hadn't served a full first term anyway. As it turns out, he wasn't elected anyway.

      And since FDR our Constitution HAS been changed to limit a President to no more than a total of 10 years (two full terms, plus completing no more than two years of the term before those.) That situation has not yet happened, although Ford would have been eligible, had he been able to get re-elected.

  2. I had a great time watching this one. Just think about the premise: Nazis on the Moon! It is absolutely insane. But because they are perfectly serious about it and never fall back to the typical spoof mistake to laugh at their own jokes it actually works. An then, just as we are ready to write this off as a silly comedy there is actually a far more serious and bittersweet message underneath. This is not really about silly nazis on the Moon but about human stupidity and selfdestructiveness in general. In this sense this is a perfectly Finish film.
    They make a nice pun at themselves in the UN meeting where it turns out that everybody have been making secret space warships. When asked if ANYBODY obeyed the charter and did not arm space the Finish representative is the only one to raise his arm marking the Finish as total suckers,

    I think to appreciate this film requires that the viewer is able to laugh at themselves. If you cannot see the ridiculous in your own ways this film is just not that funny. I had the feeling watching this film that it would miss the target for many people.

    1. When I heard about the concept I knew I had to see this movie. I loved writing the words "Moon Fuhrer" in the review.

      I think you're right on both counts that it turns to the untrustworthiness of governments and that you have to be able to laugh at yourself to laugh at this movie.

      I believe this and Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale are the only two Finnish films I have seen, so I am far from being able to pick up on patterns in their movies. If you haven't seen this other film I highly recommend it. I have a review posted here, if you are curious.

  3. "There was actually nothing preventing Presidents before him from serving more than two 4 year terms"

    Did not know this, I knew Washington didn't want to create a "new King George", I just assumed that the max two term presidency was drafted when the first constitution was created