IRON SKY (DIRECTOR’S CUT STEELBOOK) – Blu-ray review

Nazis.

Like zombies, they just keep coming back. Sometimes AS zombies. But in “Iron Sky” the last remnants of the Third Reich are star trekkers. Having escaped to the dark side of the moon following their WWII defeat, they’re now entrenched in a Pentagon-style compound that’s shaped like a swastika. They’re mining Helium 3 and rearing a new generation of Aryans who have no idea what it means to live on Earth. The plan? To keep building spacecrafts, computers, and weapons and indoctrinating youth so they can conquer Earth when the time is right.

Johanna Sinisalo and Jarmo Puskala are credited with the original story and concept behind the screenplay, but American sci-fi novelist Robert A. Heinlein got there way before them. In 1947 he published Rocket Ship Galileo, about Nazis who flee to the moon to establish a colony after their WWII defeat.

Apart from the far-fetched concept—I mean, for technology to advance on a lunar colony, wouldn’t there have to be raw materials, factories, and more than a single Einstein-looking fellow behind it all?—“Iron Sky” (2012) bears no resemblance to Heinlein’s book.

The biggest resemblance is an American President (Stephanie Paul) who is unmistakably made to look like Sarah Palin, and if you don’t get the connection there are plenty of Alaska trinkets and doo-dads in the presidential office to convince you. Like a stuffed polar bear. And when you notice that the American nuclear-armed spacecraft is named the USS George W. Bush, you get the picture that the screenwriters and director Timo Vuorensola were aiming for a futuristic, Nazi-filled, sci-fi version of “Dr. Strangelove,” with Nazis and fascism the main target of their satire, but hawkish Republicans and world leaders also caught in their crosshairs.

The trouble is, “Iron Sky” doesn’t have the same consistent tongue-in-cheek black humor of Kubrick’s classic Cold War comedy, caught instead somewhere in the space between comedy and drama and uncertain whether to go the Full Stanley or just grab whatever cheap laughs present themselves.

Instead of the Doomsday Machine we get the Nazi’s Götterdämmerung (an allusion to Wagner’s The Ring, which itself alluded to a Norse legend about the burning and rebirth of the world). So “Iron Sky” is not without its clever aspects. It’s just that somewhere along the way, the Finnish, German, and Australian filmmakers make a hard left into “Spaceballs” territory, but without having another film to parody. The result is another limbo where you suspect something is supposed to be funny, but what you’re watching just doesn’t warp fast or far enough into laugh speed.

It’s also more confusing than it needs to be. Heading this bunch is the Führer Wolfgang Kortzfleisch (Udo Kier), and his lead scientist is an Einstein lookalike named Doktor Richter (Tilo Prückner), who has taken the Aryan sense of superiority and run with it in the lab, creating an “albinism serum.” His daughter, Renate (Julia Dietze), is an Earth specialist who has been chosen to mate with the Nazi second in command, a humorless fellow named Klaus Adler (Götz Otto), who’s intent on wrestling power from the old man and conquering Earth on his own timetable.

The plot is set in motion when the American president sends a spaceship to the moon to film a PR piece that she hopes will help her get reelected. Her theme? “Black on the Moon. Yes she can.” And she chooses a black male model (Christopher Kirby) to accompany a legitimate astronaut.

From there it gets crazy and involves people traveling to and from the moon and the United Nations arguing over energy and suspicious over the U.S.’ motives for going to the moon. There’s a Kubrick-style ending, but like most of the film it kind of feels like the filmmakers were arguing among themselves and couldn’t decide how far to go.

For a low-budget film, the acting is so-so but the sets and special effects are really pretty convincing. I just expected more laughs than “Iron Sky” delivers, but if you go into it thinking “Dr. Strangelove” and very, very subtle humor, you’ll enjoy it a more than I did.

“Iron Sky” is rated R for language and some violence, and the director’s cut has a runtime of 110 minutes—17 minutes longer than the original release.

Video:
“Iron Sky” is presented in 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and I saw no problems with the AVC/MPEG-4 transfer to a Blu-ray disc. Though the whole film has a slightly dark, industrial look to it, the level of detail is quite good and the colors and skin-tones are true looking . . . even when the Doktor starts experimenting with his serum.

Audio:
The audio is also very good, with an English DTS-HD MA 5.1 mixed so that dialogue doesn’t suffer at the hands of the numerous sound effects. “Iron Sky” is a loud movie, but it never intrudes on the speakers. The only subtitles are in English or German, as required by the narrative.

Extras:
This steelbook includes a DVD copy of the film and a 30-page full color booklet of concept art and production design photographs—the best of which is a rejected concept for the Captain’s Chair aboard the USS George W. Bush that looks like a cross between a chopper and an exercise machine.

Aside from the theatrical trailer and teasers and a photo gallery, the main bonus feature is a new 90-minute making-of documentary that covers more ground than the audio commentary that was provided on the initial 2012 Blu-ray release. It’s really pretty amazing the look that they were able to get on a budget of just $7.5 million euros, and to see and hear how they managed.

Bottom line:
“Iron Sky” has all the makings of a cult film. But I can’t tell you what cult you’d have to join to enjoy it. If you’re into space films the production design of this one is commendable, but I just felt that the film got caught somewhere between shooting for the moon and being earthbound.

Reply