It’s apparently so easy to make a World War 2 film from the Allies’ perspective. Throw in some everyman heroes, a few nasty stereotypical Nazis, some scenes with American flags flapping in the breeze to the strains of a French horn along with an array of gunfights and you’re onto a winner. From the German viewpoint however, there have been some classic films such as Das Boot (1981), Stalingrad (1993) and Downfall (2004), which have really broken down a few clichés and given us something to think about. Iron Sky goes one step further, presenting a very satirical take on not only the aforementioned National Socialist Party, but also modern politics.
Two American astronauts, one a black model named James Washington (Christopher Kirby) who has been personally selected by the President of the United States (Stephanie Paul) as a PR stunt, land on the dark side of the Moon in 2018, only to encounter a large group of Nazis who fled there and built a base in 1945. Washington is captured while his fellow astronaut is killed – he is examined by Nazi scientist Doktor Richter (Tilo Prückner), who discovers his smartphone and tries to integrate it into their space battleship, Götterdämmerung. Unfortunately, the battery promptly dies, just as Richter is displaying its power to his superiors who include the current Führer, Wolfgang Kortzfleisch (Udo Kier). Nazi commander Klaus Adler (Götz Otto) has decided to marry Richter’s daughter Renate (Dietze) and takes her to Earth in a spacecraft with Washington who has been Aryanized (his skin has been chemically turned white) by Richter.
Meanwhile on Earth, the President, who bears an uncanny resemblance to infamous ‘Hockey Mom’ Sarah Palin, needs a miracle to be re-elected. Once the three travellers arrive from the Moon, they immediately go to the White House and are presented by the President’s aide Vivian Wagner (Sergeant) as the answer to her prayers and transform her campaign Nazi-style, although Adler has secret designs on destroying the United States and overthrowing the current Führer. Three months later, Kortzfleisch appears to have figured out Adler’s plan. He sends a fleet of ships into the Earth’s orbit and confronts Adler, but his adversary kills him and takes his flying saucer. Renate finds Washington who is by now homeless and they work out what Adler’s intentions truly are and decide they must act. The United Nations meet to discuss the Nazi threat from above, but the President is thrilled to be having the war that will boost her ratings. A nuclear conflict begins to rage in Earth’s orbit, but can Renate and Washington get back to the Moon in time to thwart Alder from within?
Iron Sky has arguably one of the most random yet imaginative plots in recent years. Setting a battle with Nazis on the Moon instead of war-torn 1940s France is certainly a bold step (insert your Star Trek joke here). For such an odd premise, the only direction it can possibly go is for a zany comedy and that is exactly what we get. The Nazis themselves receive a barrage of mockery in this most satirical of films. They are perceived as being buffoons who are a long way behind their former neighbours on Earth, most notably when it comes to technology and developing their knowledge beyond the original doctrine of Adolf Hitler. The screenwriters couldn’t be any clearer as to conveying the Nazis’ blatant ignorance – this is shown no more so in a scene of schoolchildren watching a ten-minute clip of Charlie Chaplain’s The Great Dictator which they perceive to be glorifying Nazism, when the whole film would reveal completely the opposite. There are also references to Downfall in a mock-up of the famous bunker scene and Dr. Strangelove, with both a ‘war room’ and Washington’s fake ‘uncontrollable’ Nazi salute.
Yet for all it’s intended satirical swiping, you feel that many of the targets such as Sarah Palin and US foreign policy are very old ground that has been lampooned countless times on Saturday Night Live, amongst many others. There are one or two gags that hit the mark, but mostly there’s a sense that most of the budget has been spent on the CGI which is rather basic by modern standards, but that’s perhaps part of its charm. The acting is fine if a little hammy. Julia Dietze is really the only one who shines throughout, mainly because of her looks rather than any witty lines she has been given. Christopher Kirby plays the manic Chris Rock/Eddie Murphy card in his performance and largely pulls it off, except there’s no real originality to be had here. Otto, Kier and Prückner plays their hammy Nazi roles to the letter but between them contrive to irritate at times. Stephanie Paul and Peta Sergeant inhabit their characters well, but even their performances are merely impersonations of well-known figures.
Iron Sky scores highly where inital imagination is concerned, but too often crosses the line between potentially cutting satire and silly, over-the-top, obvious gags. For all the misgivings of the screenplay, there’s still some charm left which just about merits a watch.