By Drew Turney
If you’ve seen Peter Jackson’s schlock comedy horror ”Brain Dead” (also know as ”Dead Alive”, 1992), you’ll notice that the expedition in the early scenes about the capture of the Sumatran Rat Monkey takes place on Skull Island.
To those familiar with creature movie lore, the name Skull Island was familiar as the home of the greatest movie monster ever, King Kong. It was Jackson’s first professional homage to the film he fell in love with as a kid, years before he got to give us his vision of the official Skull Island in 2005’s ”King Kong”.
You might think the most interesting thing about ”Iron Sky” is the new paradigm of Internet-assisted crowdfunding – the model that gave the Finnish and Australian producers the finance.
In fact, it’s the slow but certain takeover of the movie business by the professional film fan, movie geeks who live, breathe and sleep films and kick the doors of Hollywood in by force to spread their message of movie-love. Iron Sky was made by people who quite obviously revel in the quagmire of movie references, memes and digital pop culture that informs upon, regurgitates and endlessly recycles itself.
When presidential campaign manager Vivian Wagner (Australia’s Peta Sergeant) is preparing to abuse long–suffering staff for poster designs she has to present to the President the following morning, she reaches up for her glasses with a shaking hand and tells everyone who isn’t a department head to leave the room before screaming abuse.
Haven’t you seen it somewhere before? Of course, it’s a scene from Oliver Hirschbiegel’s ”Downfall” (2004), given endlessly vibrant new life as the basis for the dozens of Hitler parodies all over the web where The Fuhrer rails about everything from Apple rejecting his iPad app to Cannes film festival tickets.
Director Timo Vuorensola has lived it, loved it and wants to share his love of it with you, and ”Iron Sky” is a love letter to parody, grindhouse, genre mash-ups and every other cultural meme that’s insinuated itself onto movies screens over the last decade.
A short teaser for ”Iron Sky” turned up online almost four years ago (it’s been in production all this time because of the funding model) and had movie geeks frothing with excitement at the pitch. At the end of World War II many Nazis fled Earth and set up a base on the far side of the moon, and in the year 2018 they’re set to re-invade and win what they lost all those years ago. It was such a cool idea the plot hardly mattered.
Of course, as a host of other ideas-in-search-of-films have shown (Lesbian Vampire Killers, anyone?), it takes more than a cool idea to entertain for 90 minutes. And while Iron Sky does wobble here and there, it’s a very entertaining film, doing what it sets out to do with barely a misstep.
When the US President (she’s never strictly identified as the gun-toting Republican Sarah Palin, but it’s obvious) sends a mission to the moon to help her re-election chances, the astronauts come across the shocking site of a huge Helium 3 mining base run by the Fourth Reich as they prepare to invade Earth again.
The clueless, African American crew member Washington (Christopher Kirby) is taken prisoner, where an Einstein-esque scientist starts injecting him with a chemical to turn him white, correcting his skin abnormality. At the same time, nasty Fuhrer-in-waiting Adler (Gotz Otto) intends to fast track himself to the leadership, dispatching current Fuhrer (playing to type, Udo Kier has portrayed countless Nazis and vampires) with pretty teacher Renate (Julia Dietze) at his side and taking over the Earth himself.
Meanwhile on Earth, take-no-prisoners presidential campaign manager Wagner will use any means necessary to shepherd her client to a second term, including recruiting Nazis to the cause.
The dialogue gets flabby at times, and Kirby as James Washington in particular is a little over-eager, but there are a lot of sustained laughs.
Quite aside from the setting being space, you’ll actually be reminded of Duncan Jones’ ”Moon” from a few years back, another film that showed how possible it is to use CGI to elicit surprisingly large scope and effects on a very low budget. The outer space sequences are kinetic and fill the screen as good as any big budget sci-fi actioner.
With funding from Screen Queensland and shot in part on our shores (you might recognise Peta Sergeant from more than one Australian TV series) there are plenty of Aussie in jokes. When the other nations of the world unveil the battle craft they’ve all agreed not to build (after the US has revealed the USS George W Bush), the Australian craft is the ‘Dundee 01’.
There’s no shortage of digs at current geopolitics, and as time goes subsequent viewing will help you appreciate how rich and subtle the satire is for such an outright comedy.
The people – in this case everyone from donors to the director – have spoken, and ”Iron Sky” is the future of filmmaking in more ways than one.