Iron Sky: Movie Review
Iron Sky is a 2012 alternate history black comedy about a world where the Nazis fled to the moon in 1945. In 2018 they invade Earth. It was directed by Timo Vuorensola.
Iron Sky: Logline
In 2018 a US astronaut is captured on the moon by Nazis who have been living there since 1945. He is forced to help them with their plans to conquer the Earth, and as the invasion begins he tries to prevent their super-weapon from destroying the world.
Iron Sky: Plot Summary
Warning: My reviews include spoilers. Major spoilers are blacked out like this [blackout]secret[/blackout]. To view them, just select/highlight them.
It’s 2018. An American space mission lands on the Moon. The astronaut, James Washington, discovers a moon-base but the Nazis who live there capture him. A Nazi scientist examines Washington’s iPhone and realises how far behind the lunar Nazis have fallen in computing power.
The moon-Nazi Führer, orders his second-in-command Klaus Adler, and Earth specialist Renate Richter to take a flying saucer to Earth and collect more computers, to power a super-weapon the Nazis have been building for decades.
Landing in New York, the Nazis introduce themselves to the President and begin a successful campaign of Nazi-style propaganda to get the president re-elected. They enjoy themselves on Earth so much that they forget their mission.
But We’re the Bad Guys?
The moon-Nazi Führer follows Adler to New York to find out why it is taking so long to retrieve the computers, but dies. Adler announces he is now the Führer, steals an iPad and returns to the moon. Renate, brought up on Nazi propaganda to believe that they intend a peaceful invasion of Earth, finally realises that Adler’s intentions are malign, and joins Washington in attempting to prevent the attack.
Adler launches the invasion of Earth using a fleet of space-Zeppelins and flying saucers, and a giant spaceship called Götterdämmerung, controlled by the stolen iPad. The nations of the world respond with a fleet of secretly constructed military spacecraft and battle commences.
Under cover of the space battle, [blackout]Renate and Washington take a flying saucer to the Götterdämmerung and try to disable it. After a fight, Washington disconnects the iPad controlling the Götterdämmerung, and Renate kills Adler.[/blackout]
The [blackout]battle is over, but the Earth nations discover the Nazis mined huge amounts of priceless helium-3. Fighting over the spoils of war quickly degenerates. On the moon, Renate and Washington take charge of the few survivors of the battle as a nuclear war starts on Earth.[/blackout]
Iron Sky: Analysis
Iron Sky has a great high concept:
Nazis from Space!!!!
What could be more fun? What could possibly go wrong with such a great concept? Well…
Iron Sky wants to be Doctor Strangelove – a cult black-comedy with a political punch. Unfortunately, black-comedy is a very difficult thing to pull off. Instead, Iron Sky comes across as trying for a camp, B-Movie, “so bad it’s good” vibe.
The failures are almost all down to the plot structure, or lack of one. Iron Sky has a Playing Defence plot (See Four archetypal plots) but it lacks focus, sharpness and even logic. The antagonist’s quest, for an iPad to power the Nazi super-weapon, sets a tone of silliness that undermines any attempt at biting or black humour.
The movie also has no real protagonist. Washington is probably supposed to be the protagonist, but he doesn’t drive the story and practically disappears for large parts of the movie. Renate is the only other sympathetic character but isn’t a strong protagonist either.
The central section, where Adler becomes successful in US politics by using Nazi slogans, could have gone somewhere, but just disappeared again in order for the basically unrelated invasion finale. The invasion itself and the concluding space battle work well as CGI-fests, but they have very little emotional punch.
Comedy Space Nazis
The biggest problem though is that Iron Sky just isn’t that funny. Most of the best jokes are in the trailer (“Vere are ve from?” “Ze dark side of ze moon!”) and the rest barely register a ‘huh?’. The satire of US politics could have worked, but it’s difficult to satirise a figure as ridiculous as Sarah Palin.
The acting is pretty mediocre as well. Not that it’s bad, it’s just no one stands out for the good guys as charismatic, or for the bad guys as particularly evil. There’s no central performance to grab the audience and carry them along.
This isn’t the actor’s fault though – there are too many weak characters in the movie – for example, the writers could easily have combined the two interchangeable Nazi leaders, Adler and the Führer.
Non-traditional Film Making
One thing I have to salute the makers of Iron Sky for is their use of crowdsourcing. They raised a considerable portion of Iron Sky’s budget through crowdfunding and thousands of volunteers helped with design, research and marketing.
Though I have some problems with the screenplay of Iron Sky, it has some really nice art direction, and CGI that wouldn’t look out of place in a much bigger budget movie. Iron Sky doesn’t look like a movie that got made on a $7.5 million budget, and that’s pretty amazing.
Iron Sky: My Verdict
A brave try, but it could have been so much better.
Want to watch Iron Sky?
Here’s the trailer:
A Kill in the Morning
If you liked Iron Sky (and particularly if you liked the idea of Iron Sky but found the movie itself weak) you’ll enjoy my novel A Kill in the Morning. You can read the opening of A Kill in the Morning for free by clicking here.
Iron Sky: The Coming Race
Shortly after the release of Iron Sky, the producers announced a sequel. This time they would entirely crowdfund it, as they didn’t want to ‘compromise their vision’ by taking money from movie production companies.
Doubling down on the insanity of the first movie, Iron Sky: The Coming Race has a dinosaur-riding Adolph Hitler leading an army of are reptilians from inside a hollow earth.
Yes, it’s as bonkers as it sounds.
Seemingly endlessly delayed, Iron Sky: The Coming Race finally arrived in 2019. It has similar strengths and weaknesses to the first movie, despite having three times the budget. If you liked the first movie, you’ll likely enjoy the sequel.
Iron Sky: The End Game
The plan was to set the final film in the trilogy, Iron Sky: The End Game, on Mars. Currently, there seems little likelihood of it ever appearing, as the production company went bankrupt.
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