Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 11, 2014)
When the filmmakers pitched 2012’s Iron Sky, I suspect they uttered a mere four words: “Nazis from the Moon!” That’s the tale we get from this high-concept comedy/action flick.
Set in 2018, an American manned mission to the Moon finds a secret Nazi base. We learn that in 1945, Germans sent a crew up to the Moon to hide in the Dark Side and eventually send soldiers to the Earth to conquer the planet.
The Nazis capture Astronaut James Washington (Christopher Kirby) and use the technology in his cell phone to advance their plans. Nazi leaders Klaus Adler (Götz Otto) and Renate Richter (Julia Dietze) take Washington back to the Earth to gain access to more phones and eventually launch the invasion.
When I go into a film like Iron Sky, I don’t expect much. However, I do want it to live up – or down, if you will – to the absurdity of its concept. “Nazis from the Moon” is a pretty basic conceit, and one that would seem to be hard to mess up – all we want is some fun, campy action and we’re happy.
Alas, Sky can’t even get that right. It fancies itself as a smarter movie than it actually is. It wants to deliver a biting political satire and score with its observational humor.
Unfortunately, these elements flop. I figured I was in trouble when I first saw the film’s President (Stephanie Paul), as the movie turns her into an obvious Sarah Palin clone – visually, at least, as for reasons unknown, she speaks with a Southern accent. It’s already a lame gimmick to make “Palin” the President, but if you choose to embrace that notion, why not go all the way and make fun of her actual accent?
Sky inspires a whole lot of “why” questions as it goes, for it makes a series of perplexing choices. Why does an astronaut take a cell phone on a mission? Why does this same astronaut talk like a refugee from a 1970s Blaxploitation flick?
And why is there a presidential election in 2018? Perhaps that choice intends to make Sky seem more like a fantasy, but it’s unexplained and illogical – and a distraction, as the viewer will constantly wait for the movie to provide a rationale that never comes.
Sky tries to straddle action and comedy but fails. The movie moves at a slow, clumsy pace, as it abruptly halts to deliver awkward exposition. The characters consistently seem bland and forgettable, and the dialogue matches; there’s no wit or cleverness on display.
Even when the Nazi invasion finally occurs, it almost feels like an afterthought. I understand that Sky is a fairly low budget film so it couldn’t go nuts with its battle scenes, but I think it could’ve achieved more excitement than it delivers. The invasion is simple and barely a factor in the movie.
Look, all we want from a film like this is a wacky twist on War of the Worlds. Gimme some silly action/fun and I’m happy. Unfortunately, Iron Sky lacks even the basics necessary to make it a winning comedy-adventure.
The comments above address the theatrical version of Iron Sky; I reiterated them here to offer perspective on the original edition before I went on to discuss this Blu-ray’s Director’s Cut. Whereas the theatrical version ran 92 minutes, this one expands all the way to 110 minutes.
What does the Director’s Cut add? Excellent question – and one I can’t answer. I saw Iron Sky about a year and a half ago, and I don’t remember it well enough to notice the changes.
I can say this, however: the alterations don’t make this a more entertaining movie, but they turn it into a better movie. This feels counterintuitive; if a 92-minute movie plods, then a 110-minute flick should come across as even slower and draggier.
In this case, the added footage fleshes out the story and results in a better paced, more logical narrative. Whereas the theatrical version tended to feel jerky and clumsy, the Director’s Cut moves more smoothly and comes together as better realized.
That said, it’s still not especially entertaining. Most of the flaws I found in the original remain here, especially related to the “fun factor”. Whereas a movie about “moon Nazis” should deliver a wacky, goofball adventure, Sky lacks much excitement or comedy. The satire remains flat, the adventure fails to thrill, and the characters stay lackluster.
That issue does remind me of one apparent change, though: how Washington identifies himself. Here he takes pains to call himself a model, which indicates that the president sent him to the moon solely as a photo op. I might be wrong, but I think the theatrical cut portrayed him more specifically as an astronaut. This makes his dopiness more logical. We still don’t know why there’s a US presidential election in 2018, though, and other confusing elements remain.
In its extended Director’s Cut, Iron Sky remains a problematic movie, but I think it’s a less flawed movie than its shorter edition. That doesn’t count as a recommendation, but at least the DC gives us a more satisfying take on the tale.