It’s what everyone secretly suspected; there are Nazis on the moon and they’re about to come back and wage war with Earth. It’s a silly idea on a par with ‘Snakes On A Plane’, but despite all the goodwill from audiences dying to see a stormtroopin’ space invasion, an uneven tone stops ‘Iron Sky’ short of cult status.
It gets off to a cracking start. Two astronauts land on the moon, only to discover that an immense Swastika-shaped HQ exists just over the next ridge. Motorbikes roar along the autobahns, and a man who does not wish to be known as Adolf Hitler (Udo Kier) is planning a stormtrooper return. Sexy Aryan Renate falls for black astronaut Washington, while back on Earth the US President realises that a first-term war could be a vote winner.
And it’s here that things fall apart, because this Finnish/German/Australian internet-savvy co-production opts for clumsy satire. The President is a parody of Sarah Palin, who has already been consigned to the dustbin of history, and the war room histrionics are sub-Strangelove. A subplot involving marketing gurus goes nowhere, and most of the jokes fall flat. Where are the razor-sharp one-liners?
Luckily an immense, chaotic space battle involving clockwork zeppelins and US starfighters enlivens things considerably, and although the green-screen activity is pretty ropey (on a par with ‘Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow’ a few years back) it’s a lot of fun. What the film misses is a chance to be genuinely edgy and witty. All the ingredients are there, but there’s a failure of nerve in the script. ‘Starship Troopers’ hit the target back in 1997 when it suggested that US policy already paralleled Nazism, so the point hardly needs reiterating. The Nazis here are simply not bad enough, and US politics is satirising itself these days.
Having said that, the production design is a knockout and there are some lovely ideas here, including the Germans being raised to believe that the US is ready for a Nazi takeover, based on repeated viewings of Chaplin’s ‘The Great Dictator’ cut to a ten minute version that appears to be a positive endorsement of Fascist ideology.
Unfortunately most of the satire blunts the thrills, as if the director and writers couldn’t decide which genre they were working in. Kier plays his Fuhrer role straight, which works better, but everyone else seems to be in a different movie. Points for effort should go to this young production team, though, and a sequel could easily sort out the deficiencies. Just don’t expect ‘District 9′ or ‘Monsters’, both of which got the tone right.
Incredibly, this isn’t the only Nazi flying saucer movie; ‘The 25th Reich’ features giant mechanical fascist space spiders and makes ‘Iron Sky’ look like ‘Downfall’.