Iron Sky (2012, Finland/Germany/Austria)
Director: Timo Vuorensola Starring: Julia Dietze, Udo Kier, Peta Sergeant, Gotz Otto, Christopher Kirby
Crowd sourcing. Two words that send a shiver down my spine whenever I hear them. All you have to do is look at something like The Expendables to see the potential disaster in asking the general public for ideas and then trying to appease them, something which should serve as a warning to all who get the itch to source their ideas in this way. Then of course there is the poster child of the crowd sourcing concept, the risible Snakes On A Plane, which really hammers the point home that maybe, just maybe, filmmakers should come up with their own ideas or at least implement them with a singular vision, rather than trying to appease would be fans. Of course it was only a matter of time until something came along that blew all of my crowd sourcing expectations out of the water. Iron Sky is it.
In case you don’t know, Iron Sky explores the premise that rather than being wiped out in 1945, an enclave of Nazis escaped to the dark side of the moon where they established a secret moonbase where they have been biding their time until they can mount an invasion of Earth and establish their Fourth Reich. Yes, you read that right. Moon Nazis. The arrival of an American moon landing team provides the catalyst the Moon Nazis need to mount their plans for world domination but not before they’ve softened us up with some political propaganda courtesy of the Sarah Palin-esque United States President.
As it turns out, what is essentially masquerading as some mad, sub B-movie exploitation flick is actually a cutting satire of modern political attitudes, nationalism and human nature neatly wrapped in a hilarious and irreverent sci-fi comedy. Yes, the premise of the film is wonderfully ludicrous but it provides the perfect opportunity to look at the nature of conflict and the duplcitous nature of politics in a way that’s as fun as it is insightful. This is the sort of stuff South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker have built their reputation on, clever, perceptive satire masquerading as juvenile nonsense that manages to be both hilarious and painfully relevant at the same time. There are even shades of (not to mention direct references to) Kubrick’s legendary Cold War satire Dr. Strangelove woven into the mix as the world’s leaders assemble to decide how to deal with the Moon Nazi menace.
The cast are solid, especially the stunning Julia Dietze as Renate Richter, a Nazi “Earthologist” who has bought into the Nazi propaganda, Aryan purity myth without any of the malice of the really villainous Nazis who has her eyes opened to the error of her ways by the diversity of Earthlings and the treachery of her fellow Nazis. Udo Kier’s small but vital role as the Moon Fuhrer is also teremendous as is Peta Sergeant’s turn as Vivian Wagner, the stop-at-nothing campaign manager hellbent on getting the Sarah Palin-alike President re-elected, no matter what the cost.
One of the absolute highlights of the film is the design of the Moon Nazi’s technology. Everything has been worked up from a 1945 level and as preposterous as it may be their valve state, mechanical space craft are superbly realised, all rattling gears and rusting pistons and Gothic majesty. Granted, it’s pretty much all executed in CGI form but given the budget that’s forgivable and the quality of the effects is excellent. Looking at the production notes booklet that comes with the DVD there’s a suggestion that perhaps some or all of these designs have been the result of crowd sourcing and so perhaps this is the key to the process – that rather than lazily using other people’s ideas to pad out a flimsy concept (as in the case of Snakes On A Plane) you work more collaboratively to support your vision of the work. It certainly seems to have paid off in this instance, the film feeling like a cohesive, unified piece and not a random patchwork of mismatched ideas.
Whether or not this is conclusive evidence of the positive power of Crowd Sourcing remains to be seen. I’m still a little bit unwilling to accept it as a sensible process to adopt in making a film. Perhaps in the case of a limited budget project where you can gain the benefit of a broader skill base it has potential, but the idea that artists should be making art according to the whims of their audiences rather than expressing the things and images that they want or need to express is one that sits uneasily with me and raises questions as to the purpose of creating art in the first place. Crowd Sourcing seems too… commercial, too market driven for my liking, like some horrific corporate focus group or test audience driven project to give your film broad commercial appeal but when it comes to Iron Sky even I have to admit it seems to have done the job rather well.