Iron Sky: Space Nazis and Cynical Camp
Nazis who’ve been living on the moon since the end of World War II, led by Udo Kier, decide to invade Earth. Iron Sky really seems like the kind of movie that should have screened at Fantasia, but is in fact hitting local screens for the first time this weekend.
Christopher Kirby is Washington, a black astronaut deployed to the moon as a cynical PR exercise by the US government. He gets captured by the Nazis, among them aspiring führer Klaus (Götz Otto) and his girlfriend Renate (Julia Dietze), a brainwashed innocent who teaches children about the peaceful aspirations of the Reich. Through a complicated series of events, the three end up returning to Earth ahead of the Nazi invasion. (Kier’s role, as befits his elder-statesman persona, is really an expanded cameo as the head of the Reich and Klaus’s rival).
Finnish director Timo Vuorensola (who, IMDB helpfully informs me, is also the lead singer of a “black metal industrial noise” band) casts a cynically satirical eye on the proceedings, complete with a US president (nameless but very obviously meant to be Sarah Palin) who sees the Nazi invasion as the perfect catalyst for her re-election.
The film is a pop-cultural winkfest, with homages to Dr. Strangelove and to the famously meme-generating scene from Downfall, among others. This approach is occasionally clever (Renate screens a 10-minute short version of Chaplin’s The Great Dictator to her class, presenting it as an unironic tribute to the führer, and is crestfallen when she finds out it’s actually a feature-length satire), but as the President Palin gag illustrates, pop culture references get dated fast.
Maybe it’s because I just finished reading a book about Hitler’s ascension (Erik Larson’s brilliant but sobering In the Garden of Beasts), but I found the whole “Nazi camp humour” angle to be less wacky than it was clearly supposed to be. That said, there were chuckles in the theatre every time a swastika or a “Heil Hitler” popped up onscreen, so if that’s the kind of thing that tickles your funny bone, this movie is for you.
For my money, the best thing about the movie is the steampunk special effects of the Nazis’ technology — room-sized computers and UFOs full of spinning mechanical gears. The film is nothing if not ambitious, and fully realized in its satirical themes, but its combination of cynicism and camp make for a strangely off-putting tone. ■
Iron Sky opens Aug. 24.