It should be a crime to waste a great idea. The concept behind this keenly-awaited low-budget sci-fi exploitation actioner – in 1945, a band of Nazi officers fled Germany to build a base on the moon, where they’ve been hiding ever since – should have made for OTT bad-taste thrills. In the hands of a director who truly understands both science fiction and satire – Paul Verhoeven, say, or even Roland Emmerich – it could have been truly special. But overseen by a bunch of Finnish fanboys whose first feature was the unwatchable and unfunny DIY Star Trek pastiche Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning, it becomes a crude slapstick romp wholly lacking in charm, wit or excitement.
When the new US President (Stephanie Paul), a right-wing fanatic unsubtly modelled on Sarah Palin, sends an untrained African-American male model to the dark side of the moon to boost her re-election prospects, the hapless astronaut is astonished to stumble across a swastika-shaped mining colony populated by Nazi survivors. These ‘Mondnazis’, led by new Fuhrer Wolfgang Kortzfleisch (an underused Udo Kier) and blue-eyed boy Klaus Adler (Gotz Otto) are busy putting the finishing touches to a 60-year project: to launch the massive Battleship Götterdämmerung, and retake planet Earth.
Iron Sky has its moments. The CGI effects are effective, with a strong visual sense and some terrific background design: the updating of classic Albert Speer-style architecture to outer space is often winningly inventive and the sight of space Nazis on moon motorbikes powering along a lunar autobahn is especially memorable.
But the problem is the script, which feels at best like an irritatingly self-aware B-movie pastiche, at worst like a particularly crude sixth-form farce. As both Verhoeven and Emmerich would understand, the kind of satire at work here – essentially, comparing American might to that of the Third Reich – is best when it’s underplayed. Instead Iron Sky chooses to trade in crass, trouser-dropping, pie-in-the-face slapstick, even roping in poor Charlie Chaplin (through a series of affectionate nods to The Great Dictator) and Stanley Kubrick (with endless Dr Strangelove references) to bolster their case. The result is rarely funny, and eventually just tiresome.
Iron Sky improves slightly in the final act, as matters move towards their inevitably explosive conclusion: there’s little room for slapstick in a space battle. But even here, director Timo Vuorensola’s shortcomings are unavoidable: what should have been a rousing, action-packed climax falls flat thanks to sloppy characterisation and an absence of tension. The lingering sense is one of missed opportunities: any movie featuring Nazis from the moon should be an easy win. ‘Iron Sky’ just proves that even the dumbest idea needs a smart mind behind it.