The great Italian playwright and satirist Dario Fo, won the Nobel Peace Prize for Literature in 1997. Fo was given the honour for being a person “who emulates the jesters of the Middle Ages in the scourging authority and upholding the dignity of the downtrodden”. Fo’s work, especially ‘The Accidental Death of an Anarchist’, is satire at its best, and works on the principle that the at the heart of any political driven comedy is an underlying truth.
‘Iron Sky’ tries to present itself as a comedy with some elements of satire, but it’s a complete misfire dragged down by a strange blend of Grindhouse cinema that takes itself too seriously.
Set in 2018, during a mission to the moon astronauts discover that the German Nazi Party have established a base on the moon where they have been living since the end of World War II. The Nazis have plans to return to the Earth and take power by invading the planet with an armada of spaceships.
The special effects work in ‘Iron Sky’ is great considering the film was made on an estimated budget of just of seven million Euros (estimated US $9 million). The spaceship designs of the bad guys fits in perfectly with the Nazi aesthetic and that flows over onto the set and costume designs of the space environment.
‘Iron Sky’ makes it pretty clear early on that it’s a film that shouldn’t be taken too seriously but the gags around the Nazis just don’t sit right. For what the Nazi party stood for, it deserves to be deflated, but it’s difficult to connect with the humour when thinking that these people committed one the greatest human atrocities in history – the holocaust. The film easily forgives and uses the Nazi brand as a tag for bad guys and nothing more.
The film tries to make the connection between the Nazis and the current state of American politics via a US President character that embodies the Sarah Palin brand of politics, but it’s done in bad taste and this is where the satire fails. With slogans like “Black to the moon” slapped on a mission to send an African-American man to the moon and a character calling former US President Franklin Roosevelt a “spastic” is where the filmmakers show how out of touch the film is. It’s this kind of humour under the guise of satire that is worrying, and while it’s easy to demonise the political system of the US, it could be done with more intelligence and wit, instead of a script that is full of expletives.
‘Iron Sky’ tries to fool the audience with the “so bad it’s good mentality’ when it reality it’s – “so bad it’s…just terrible”. The film is littered with strange Grindhouse/exploitation film elements like when a blonde female character is almost sucked out an airlock into space and she is stripped down to her underwear or the hammy performances from the entire cast. Don’t mistake clapping in screenings of ‘Iron Sky’ for people collectively slapping their foreheads. The finale disappoints the most with a final plea at shoving a political message down the audience’s throat in an attempt to be taken seriously.
The best thing to come out of ‘Iron Sky’ is the debate it might generate over the comedic value of Nazis, and if so, the world must be ready for a musical about September 11 or a buddy concentration camp comedy (both terrible ideas). Maybe we’re just a little old fashioned but satire is a powerful tool that should not be misused for cheap laughs.
‘Iron Sky’ is released:
10 May 2012 Australia
23 May 2012 UK
The Popcorn Junkie