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Posts Tagged ‘Christopher Kirby’

It is, as they say, a small world, with only a finite amount of precious publicity to go around – and so it’s only to be expected that film producers will use any means at their disposal to claw as much of it as they can. Often this means that publicity for a film concerns, not necessarily the story of the film or the identities of the stars featured in it, but simply the mechanics of the production itself if it has any degree of novelty about it. So the pioneering retro CGI-fest Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow was promoted in terms of its special effects content, while the road-trip-and-bedsit origins of Monsters were also heavily mentioned in its publicity.

The same sort of thing is true of Timo Vuorensola’s Iron Sky, which drew a lot of attention earlier this year, partly for being almost a crowdsourced movie and also for its idiosyncratic release schedule (whether the film-makers and distributors were conniving to suit their own ends or genuinely fell out about this remains a little unclear), but also for its… er… unique storyline. Yes, this is the Nazi flying saucer invasion movie.

Set in 2018, Iron Sky opens with a new US mission landing on the dark side of the moon – is this simply a publicity stunt to prop up the US President’s election campaign (the film-makers don’t appear to have worked out an election is not planned for that year), or a covert attempt to secure new energy supplies? The film suggests it is both, at various points.

Unfortunately, the dark side of the moon is not as peaceful a place as you might have thought, and the lunar lander is destroyed and the surviving astronaut is captured – by space-suited Nazi soldiers! The captured man, Washington (Christopher Kirby), is taken to the Nazi stronghold, a colony established in 1945 by refugees fleeing the fall of Hitler’s Germany. For over seventy years the Nazis have been rebuilding their war machine, and now they are almost ready to retake the Earth – as soon as they can work out a way to control the main systems of their greatest weapon.

Happily, it turns out that just such miraculous technology exists, in the form of the microcircuitry of Washington’s cellphone, and in search of more ambitious Nazi leader Adler (Gotz Otto, possibly best known to Anglophones for a so-so turn as a Bond villain in Tomorrow Never Dies) decides to embark on a covert return to Earth, accompanied by his innocent young fiancee (the winsome Julia Dietze) and a biochemically bleached Washington. If he can get his hands on the technology he needs, the Nazi dream may yet be realised…

Well, the first thing to be said about Iron Sky is that for a film with a budget of only about £6m, especially an effects-heavy SF film, it does look pretty good. Not great, by any means – the CGI has that pristine, heftless, Uncanny Valley quality so often to be found in mid-range genre movies – but the designs are good and there are some jolly action sequences along the way. The opening sequence, with the familiar, awful figures of Nazi stormtroopers suddenly attacking the lander, has an impressively nightmarish quality.

However, by this point we have also enjoyed the film’s first big gag, in which the lunar vehicle deploys campaign posters for the President, who of course bears a wholly uncoincidental resemblance to Sarah Palin. All right, this is funny – but it’s also incredibly broad and not remotely credible.

This is the course that Iron Sky pursues throughout its length – impressively orchestrated special effects and design alternate with crunchingly unsubtle comedy and scattergun satire. At times it looks like a mash-up of two completely different movies, almost as if a serious-minded ‘proper’ SF film’s effects sequences have been nicked by a knockabout comedy, which has then had its own live-action segments spliced into it.

It’s not even as if the comedy is what you’d actually describe as funny, either. Leading man Kirby’s turn is a masterclass in unfunny OTT gurning and twitching – but it’s a bit unfair to single him out, as nearly everyone appears to have adopted the same approach of shooting for the moon in terms of how big they can make their performance. The only one exempt from this is Julia Dietze, who is genuinely sweet and moving as – of all things – an innocent, dedicated Nazi. Even she gets saddled with a scene where most of her clothes fall off for no reason particularly demanded by the plot. The general level of unsubtlety extends to the script, as well: much of the satire is aimed at Sarah Palin, George W Bush, and American neo-con attitudes – this would at least have been moderately topical when the film began production in 2006, but in 2012 it just seems bizarrely quaint and instantly dates the film.

This is not to say that Iron Sky is entirely lacking in genuine ideas, some of them engagingly provocative. There’s a nicely subversive sequence in which the President orders her campaign manager (another roaringly OTT performance, this time from Peta Sergeant) to find a new direction for her campaign, only for the manager to recruit the two Nazis from the moon. The Nazi creed of strength of will, love of country and family, and resolution for a better future is, of course, almost indistinguishable from the standard campaign trail rhetoric familiar from most modern politicians, and dares to remind us that the Nazis were, initially, elected to power wholly democratically.

Is this enough to justify doing a knockabout comedy film about one of the most repellent ideologies in history? Comedy is, as they say, tragedy plus time, and it has been a long time since the Second World War – but, given the immensity of the tragedy involved, has it really been long enough? It’s not even as if the makers can claim ignorance of exactly what it is they’re making jokes about: there are gags about racial purity and specifically the surgical Aryanisation of other ethnic groups.

I’m really not sure. It would have been better if Iron Sky was a lot funnier – or, possibly, not funny at all. Even in the film-as-made there are startling intrusions of what certainly feel like seriously-meant moments: carnage amongst the women and children of the Nazi colony as the nations of Earth counter-attack, and a genuinely eerie closing shot which is tonally completely at odds with most of what precedes it.

There is a lot to like about Iron Sky in terms of its visuals and its sheer swagger and confidence, and I’m aware that some people will have no problem with the whole comedy-about-space-Nazis issue. But, to be truthful, it never really looks or feels like a genuine big-screen movie, just something some people have put together – with a great deal of talent, admittedly –  to amuse themselves. Some things in Iron Sky are very good indeed, but so much of the rest of it is deeply questionable that it’s not enough to redeem the movie. Interesting and intermittently fun, but ultimately rather insubstantial.

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