23
Feb
13

Space Nazis from the Moon

Space Nazis from the Moon come to attack Earth in Zeppelin like spaceships.

Iron Sky (2012) has a brilliant B-movie high-concept and its trailers—with punchlines like “We come in peace!” and “The Earth is sick, we are the doctors!”—promise something either really funny or really offensive. Imagine my surprise that the resulting film was neither. Rather, it’s a bore. I wanted to like it, yet I found myself repeatedly looking at the clock and marveling at how long the film seemed and how uninterested I was.

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This movie should be funny. The premise is perfect for satire or black comedy, but the tone is all over the place and inconsistent from scene to scene and moment to moment. The actors are mostly okay but they exhibit neither comic timing nor that play-it-so-straight-it’s-funny quality that makes movies like Airplane! or The Naked Gun fly.

That the film wants to be a Dr. Strangelovian black comedy is written all over it, right down to its U.N. fight sequence (that screams of the frequently described but never released pie-fight in the War Room at the end of Strangelove) and its nuclear Armageddon finish whilst a pleasant tune plays. Despite these aims, as satire Iron Sky’s got no teeth, and as comedy it’s got few laughs. It’s a mishmash of strangely inert scenes punctuated by potentially humorous but underexploited comic sequences that mostly fall flat. An example is a scene when an opened airlock causes some of character Renate Richter’s clothes to come off. This could have been made into a sendup of the way exploitation films always seem to find some preposterous way to get a buxom woman disrobed—as Monty Python’s “Scott of the Sahara” sketch did to hilarious effect—but here it just happens and there’s nothing humorous about it. This bit is the film’s problem in a nutshell: it’s as if its makers think the funny idea is enough without actually working out the comic business that would actually get a laugh.

Furthermore, some of the setups make it evident that the film wants to be outrageous but it hasn’t the smarts or guts to do so. It pokes tentatively at the edges of brazen and shocking without ever seizing the opportunity to really go over the top.  A mad scientist turns a black astronaut’s skin white and the Nazis then assume by making him “Aryan” they’ve made him one of them. This should be either offensive as Hell or at least satirically biting, but here it just…is. A Mel Brooks could have spun comic gold with such a scenario but director Timo Vuorensola can only manage lead.

The best moments are those about the out-of-touch citizens of the Nazi Moon citadel whose understanding of the Earth is both behind the times and based on octogenarian propaganda. They are puzzled at a cell phone as a “computer” and can’t comprehend of non Aryan skin color. There’s a clever conceit in which the Nazis think  Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator” is a great short film about how Hitler loved the world, as their copy is only one scene long. It’s a funny enough idea, but it’s not developed or milked. There was a wonderful opportunity to illustrate how anything out of context can be misused and misinterpreted, but the film doesn’t do that. Too bad. But even as a throwaway gag it backfires. The film actually includes a brief clip of Chaplin-cum-Hitler dancing with a globe of the world, but those 30 seconds of actual comic genius stand in stark contrast to the would-be humor surrounding it and leaves you longing for Iron Sky to Muster even one such iconic moment. It’s a task it can’t rise to.

The premise of space Nazis from the Moon should have yielded either something really good or so good it’s bad. Instead, it’s just mostly bad. Iron Sky lands with an Iron Thud.

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