Directed by Timo Vuorensola, 2012's Iron Sky is definitely one of the bigger and more successful ‘crowd funded' pictures to have come out over the last few years. While it's true that only a portion of the film's finances came from its campaign and that there was more to it than just the generosity of would-be fans, it's interesting to see something like this come to fruition. Also interesting is the very premise for the movie: the Nazi's didn't go away permanently after the Second World War, they just relocated to the moon.
And that's where the movie starts. See, the current President Of The United States (Stephanie Paul doing a great Sara Palin) is coming up for re-election and a big part of the push behind her campaign is to put a black man on the moon. She's even got posters printed up that read ‘Black on the moon? Yes she can!' To make this happen, she hires a male model named James Washington (Christopher Kirby) to land on the moon with a real astronaut. They figure this will be a great publicity boost, but as the two space travelers come across the dark side of the moon, the astronaut is shot dead by a Nazi soldier. Washington is taken captive and is amazed to find that Wolfgang Kortzfleisch (Udo Kier) has kept the Third Reich alive and well all this time. In fact, they've even got computers and space ships and all sorts of weird WWII era inspired gadgetry going on too.
Washington tries to escape and along the way meets a sexy school teacher named Renate Richter (Julia Dietze) who is at least partially sympathetic to his predicament, much to the dismay of her boyfriend, Klaus Adler (Gotz Otto), who is by all accounts the direct successor to Kortzfleisch's position once he passes. Renate's father, a mad scientist named Dokter Richter (Tilo Prückner), experiments on James, turning his skin whiter and trying to convince him that their way is the right way. When he accompanies Renate and Klaus, who is going rogue in hopes of usurping control, to Earth, the two Nazi's wind up taking over the President's public relations campaign but there's a whole lot more to all of this than first meets the eye…
Shot with tongue firmly in cheek, Iron Sky isn't quite the laugh riot you might expect it to be but it is a genuinely funny movie that mixes elements of science fiction with history and some wicked satire. Set to a great soundtrack from Laibach and making strong use of some impressive and ambitious visual style, the movie has definitely got the right look and sound to work, and for the most part, it does. The performances are enjoyable throughout. Udo Kier is perfect as the head Nazi in charge and Julia Dietze is adorable as the naïve teacher. Gotz Otto is as much of an ubermesnch as you'd hope he would be in his role and Tilo Prückner is a fun doctor. As stated, Stephanie Paul's take on Palin is generally very effective if never subtle and much of the political satire stems from her character (this is not a film that's kind to current American political ambitions). Unfortunately Kirby's performance, central to the film's success, take a little while to really start to fit. He goes from zero to hero pretty quickly and once he gets there it's fine but early on in the movie, he just seems too stupid for his own good. Thankfully the movie and the performance get past this easily enough once the plot really starts moving.
Ultimately, however, this is slick, stylish fun. It moves at a good pace and it makes some valid points about international relations and the ways in which countries look out for themselves, sometimes with little regard to consequence or retaliation. The humor and the performances are generally solid and the creativity on display not just in the design work and effects work but in the storytelling and conceptualization of all of this is consistently impressive.
Note: (minor spoilers ahead) The version of the movie contained on this disc is the Director's Cut and it clocks in at an hour and fifty minutes in length. In addition to some fairly simple and relatively minor scene extensions and some different effects work. Some of the extensions are amusing, particularly the one in the scene where Washington goes up to the black basketball players and a bit involving Washington and Renate in the police station. More importantly, there are a few additional scenes included here that actually serve to flesh things out a bit more and make for a better movie. The main additional scenes are a scene in the classroom where Renate and her students discuss Germany and their superiority, a scene where Adler, Renate and Washington see a Nazi soldier hit by a car after landing on Earth, a very cool scene where Kortzfleisch plans his attack on Earth followed be a sequence showing his soldiers boarding their ships and leaving the base, and some extra bits involving Washington and Doctor Richter after the end credits roll.
Iron Sky arrives on Blu-ray presented in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer in its 2.35.1 widescreen aspect ratio. This is a ridiculously stylized production that is heavy on blacks and greys when dealing with the scenes that take place on the moon (which is well over half the movie), so we don't get a ton of color pop here, but given that this is how the movie is supposed to look, you can't fault the transfer for that. Much of the green screen work is a bit on the flat side but again, this seems to be intentional on the part of the production team. Detail is pretty good, however, especially in close up shots. When the action moves to Earth things are considerably more colorful and realistic looking and the transfer handles these moments nicely as well. There aren't any major issues with compression artifacts though you might spot some minor crush in a few of the darker scenes. There's no noise reduction or edge enhancement here and as this was shot digitally, there are obviously no problems with print damage. The unusually artificial looking world of Iron Sky looks quite good on Blu-ray.
The main audio mix on the disc is an German/English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track with optional subtitles in English only. There's also a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound version included as well, but the lossless track is understandably the way to go. There's quite a bit of really intense surround activity here, from the opening scene on the moon to the final space battle that closes things the rear channels are used often and used well. Levels are nicely balanced throughout and there are no problems to note with any trace of hiss or distortion. Bass response is strong, you'll get some nice low end rumble in a few of the more action intensive scenes but it never sounds muddy nor does it bury what it shouldn't bury. Directional effects are well placed and frequent and all in all, the audio mix sounds pretty great.
As far as the extras go, the commentary track with Samuli Torssonen and Director Timo Vuorensola and the eighteen minute featurette from the first Blu-ray release of Iron Sky have not been carried over to this director's cut reissue but in its place we get a pretty lengthy and extensive seventy-eight minute documentary that takes us behind the scenes of the movie at various stages during its production. It's an interesting piece that features interviews with most of the cast and the principal crew members as well. We get to see how the movie was funded, a lot of the green screen work being shot and some of the graphics being handled and we get a good feel for what it was like to work on this particular production.
Outside of that we get a trailer for the feature, a few teasers, a still gallery, animated menus and chapter selection. A few previews for unrelated eOne properties play before the main menus load. This release is a combo pack release so a DVD version is included and both discs fits nicely inside some fancy steelbook packaging. There's also a neat full color booklet of production artwork included inside the packaging too.
Iron Sky is a really fun movie. It's got a great sense of humor about it and it's fairly clever not only in how it skewers the current American political landscape but in how it takes on German patriotism and the effectiveness of the United Nations as well. The performances are very strong with all of the principal leads doing very fine work, and the effects are often quote impressive too. Unfortunately this newer and longer director's cut doesn't carry over all of the extras from the previous theatrical cut Blu-ray release but it does tack on a lengthy and informative feature length documentary and the packaging is also pretty sweet. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.