I'm torn about how to review Iron Sky. Is it really fair to criticize a movie about Nazis from the dark side of the moon invading the earth for being too goofy? Hell, is it really fair to criticize that movie for anything at all?
Before I get to that question though, let me back up and point out that, while we have gleefully been covering the development of this film since 2007, it's often a lot more fun to talk about concepts like moon Nazis then to actually watch said concepts stretched out to feature length. And so, the Finish duo behind the cult Star Trek parody, Star Wreck, deserve kudos for delivering a reasonably fun movie that at least strives for more than repeating the same joke over and over for an hour and a half.
Some may be content to leave it there -- it really is a perfectly serviceable moon Nazi movie. Go to a midnight showing with some friends and some beers and you probably won't feel like you've wasted your night. But what's frustrating about Iron Sky is that it occasionally approaches greatness, and then promptly falls back into well-worn Sci-Fi comedy clichés. Until now, I hadn't thought about the fact that sci-fi comedy clichés even exist, but I promise you, they do!
The film cuts right to the chase, opening with an American landing on the moon that's cut brutally short by the moon Nazis. This scene plays out with a near-perfect blend of comedy and menace, and in this scene at least, director Timo Vourensola has the visual pizzazz to back it up. Almost immediately, the plot gets too convoluted to really even try to relate, suffice to say, the Nazis eventually invade the earth.
However, after the assured opening, the movie oscillates wildly from parody to dated political satire to reasonably clever political satire to straight up sci-fi action and back to parody. Nothing is ever quite as confrontational or audacious as you'd really hope, given the material, but there are some inspired bits, such as when the Nazis find great success within the U.S. political system. In fact, there were several jokes that made me laugh long past the punchline, but alas, they were few and far between.
The execution of the movie is wildly uneven too. A fair amount of the CGI and Sci-Fi action is impressive and even convincing, but then a scene will pop up where the costumes and set look like leftovers from a SNL skit. And even if the CGI looks good for the film's budget level, there's far too much explosive action. No one goes to see a space Nazi movie for the kick-ass intergalactic battles. We've got the entire American studio system pumping billions of dollars into the Sci-fi action industry - A movie with Space Nazis should bring even more fresh ideas to the table, not low-budget retreads of scenes from Independence Day.
But probably the biggest problem with the film is that a large amount of the humor is dated, most likely due to its long production timeline (we've been covering its development on this site for nearly five years). This is almost strictly Bush-era satire and it's honestly staggering how irrelevant and stale it all feels today. When I first saw that the President of the United States in the film was a thinly-disguised version of Sarah Palin, I shrugged it off as a throwaway joke. But sadly, she ends up playing a pretty major role in the film. And a plot point about the Nazis needing an iPad to power their death machine is just embarrassing.
Really though, Iron Sky is not an unqualified failure. It's got Udo Kier, a moon-base shaped like a swastika, and a sexy, endearing performance by Julia Dietze, so it's certainly not all bad. But Shaun of the Dead it ain't, and at the end of the day, it probably is more fun to talk about the film than actually watch it. The space Nazi movie in your head is probably better than the one on screen.