Iron Sky (US - BD RA)
Gabe keeps one eye skyward in search of the incoming Moon Nazi blitzkrieg...
In the last moments of World War II, a secret Nazi space program evaded destruction by fleeing to the Dark Side of the Moon. In the intervening 70 years, the Nazis constructed a gigantic space fortress with a massive armada of flying saucers. Their plan: travel back to Earth and re-colonize the planet. Now, mankind's greatest enemy is no longer history as the Reich strikes back! When American astronaut James Washington (Christopher Kirby) puts down his Lunar Lander a bit too close to the secret Nazi base, the Moon Führer (Udo Kier) decides the Fourth Reich must act and sends two Nazi officers, the ruthless Klaus Adler (Götz Otto) and idealistic Renate Richter (Julia Dietze), to Earth to prepare the invasion. In the end, when the Moon Nazi UFO armada darkens the skies, ready to strike at the unprepared Earth, every man, woman, and nation alike must unite to save humanity! (From Entertainment One’s official synopsis)
The internet age has bred a new phenomenon – the ‘trailer movie.’ The fine folks behind the faux-trailers in Grindhouse share some of the blame, but the bulk of the burden is placed on those of us that make YouTube sensations out of the trailers for (mostly foreign) movies like Machine Girl and Norwegian Ninja. In trailer form, these mostly terrible movies distill all the coolest stuff into awesome tidbits, free of the context of narrative structure. The problem is that the people making these trailers assume they need to make the movie that goes along with them. They don’t. More often than not, the film versions of these movies end up long, boring, nonsensical messes. Finnish co-writer/director Timo Vuorensola’s Finnish/German/Australian co-production Iron Sky (yes, those three countries came together to make this movie) began its life as a promotional trailer (which isn’t quite as rare as you’d think) and became a bit of an internet phenom in its own right when other trailers exploited its ridiculous, high concept premise, placing it precisely in the ‘trailer movie’ wheelhouse (in this special case, however, the trailer was made in part to develop a fan investment structure). I saw the trailer and found it very amusing, but seriously doubted it could sustain a feature length presentation.
Vuorensola and producer Samuli Torssonen’s previous work apparently include a series of Star Wars, Star Trek, and Babylon 5 spoofs entitled Star Wreck. Having seen Iron Sky, this makes so much sense. Technically speaking, Vuorensola is actually pretty talented, exhibiting more understanding of film language than some higher paid Hollywood all-stars. His action, though often skewed for a laugh, makes visual sense he maintains a distinguished style, and he swipes the best bits from other filmmakers without drawing attention to himself. At the very least, he makes a good-looking movie. I suppose part of the charm of a film like this is watching the filmmakers trying to compete with blockbuster, effects-heavy films on basically zero budget. Sometimes, it makes you laugh, sometimes you’re genuinely impressed, and other times you’re kind of depressed, because you can see what they were going for, but they totally missed the target. The effects work here is really quite good, even impressive. The green screen edges (of which there are many) are a little obvious, the digital animation is a bit choppy, and the heavy digital presentation sometimes smells a bit Sky Captainy for my taste, but the effects are never thinly layered or at a loss for graphic embellishments. The biggest effects set-piece, the ‘blitzkrieg’ on New York City sequence, matches the zeal of Hyung-rae Shim’s adorably ambitious Dragon War’s similar third act show-stopper, if not its stamina.
Even more than I feared a trailer movie, I feared a political satire from dopes that don’t actually understand politics, people like the makers of Not Another (insert genre) Movie or worse, Uwe Boll. Sometimes, it’s amusing to see our country from an international point of view, but spoof really only works from the point of view of people who know what they’re talking about. The sheer quantity of Americana here is kind of bizarre and, at times, charming, but mostly not funny, due largely to the predictability of the jokes. This is just a symptom of a bigger problem – the comedy is extremely broad. I can imagine it scoring with other viewers though, as Iron Sky reminds me a lot of a Mel Brooks movie – probably the best Mel Brooks movie in 30 years. The best thing I can say about the script is that it’s never short of ambitious and far removed from the B-spoof movies I was afraid it would ape. The dialogue is pretty ripe, but more character-based comedy, the brand most bad screenwriters botch spectacularly, works out very well. Good jokes include: the Moon Nazis include Chaplin’s Dictator in their indoctrination lessons, but only in the form of a 10-minute short film, Moon Nazi requiring genetic licenses before breeding to maintain Aryan blood, Moon Nazis trying to power their archaic technology with a smartphone (the thrust of the plot), North Korea being openly mocked at a UN assembly for trying to take credit for the Moon Nazi attack, and the MIR Space Station revealed as being war-ready.
Shot on the budget-friendly, HD-ready RED digital cameras, Iron Sky looks as good as Iron Sky can look in 2.35:1, 1080p video. This is a smooth and crisp transfer that exhibits every major advantage of the digital HD format. Vuorensola and cinematographer Mika Orasmaa don’t have a lot of experience between them, but they manage to get more out of the RED system than even some major blockbuster filmmakers, including soft gradations between layers of sharp high contrast. There are thickly-cut slabs of fine texture, complex background and costume patterns, and delightfully slick colour blends. The colour-timing is divided by location. The moon base is cold and steely with occasional rich, red highlights and uncannily similar skin tones. Earth by day is more colourful, but also tends to be desaturated aside from specific hue highlights, which pop without any noticeably bleeding or blooming effects. Earth by night is closer to neon, at least in terms of highlight hues, and has a less severe ‘base coat’ with a slight green tint. The persistent black levels are a bit grayer than likely preferred, but at least consistently so throughout the film. Compression artefacts are minimal, including occasional chunks of digital noise at unexpected intervals and background banding effects, but there’s basically nothing to complain about in terms of edge enhancement. Some slow motion shots feature jittering effects, but I assume these are not the disc’s problem, rather a problem with creative choices on the part of the filmmakers.
Presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mixed language track (mostly English, no dubbing), Iron Sky makes a pretty loud and busy aural statement. There’s very little space wasted on silence and just as little wasted on purely centered material. Even quieter dialogue sequences feature a medley of Laibach’s electronic score floating throughout the stereo channels, along with rear channel ambience (especially aboard the moon base, where everything echoes through the iron walls) and directionally specified vocal performances (people are always speaking from off-screen). The channels are given more directly aggressive workouts via machine gun shootouts, grinding Moon-Nazi gears, spaceship/space zeppelin takeoffs and landings, and space battles that give stuff like Revenge of the Sith and Transformers: Dark of the Moon a good run for their money. Laibach’s music is mostly faux-symphonic (sometimes sampling from classical favourites), but does have some impressively loud and directionally-enhanced bursts of the band’s more typically electronic and choral-based work.
The extras begin with an audio commentary with director Timo Vuorensola and FX producer Samuli Torssonen. This is a full-bodied, exuberant, and speedy track that only really suffers from a bit too much sarcasm. Vuorensola, who, sarcasm aside, is pretty funny, leads the track a bit with surprising seriousness when necessary while Torssonen sticks a bit closer to the technical facts, specifically anything pertaining to the film’s special effects. The information imparted here seems to suggest that the commentators are more co-directors that take an even responsibility for making the film. The track loses some steam throughout, but, in the end, I may have had more fun learning the processes of making such a large-scale, strange little film on a modest budget over a period of several years than I did watching the film itself.
Next up is a making-of featurette (17:20, HD) featuring interviews with Vuorensola, Torssonen, original idea man/community manager Jarmo Puskala, producers Tero Kaukomaa, Oliver Damian, and Mark and Cathy Overtt, cinematographer Mika Orasmaa, production designer Ulrika Von Vegesack, and actors Julia Dietze, Udo Kier, Christopher Kirby and Gotz Otto, along with footage from the Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning and behind the scenes. The fan-based financing process and hands-on approach is quite charming. This is followed by a series of 18 brief pieces of raw behind-the-scenes footage (18:10, HD). These have no real context and mostly pertain to stunts and the setting up of special effects sequences. Volume levels are mostly too low to really discern what is being said. The extras are completed with an HD trailer and some of the teasers used to sell the film.
I had every reason to suspect the worst from Iron Sky, but it turns out to be a largely entertaining and infectiously enthusiastic romp that mostly delivers on its goofy premise. Any reader suspecting they may enjoy the experience based on the film’s trailers will probably not regret the experience. Best of all, it doesn’t wear out its welcome, like so many similarly trailer-based, high concept comedies. I’d compare it to Ryuhei Kitamura’s similarly silly Godzilla: Final Wars, minus that film’s more ardent energy. This Blu-ray release features a crisp and clean direct digital transfer, a big, busy DTS-HD MA soundtrack, and plenty of amusing, informative, extra material.
* Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray image quality.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 2nd October 2012
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English/German, Dolby Digital 5.1 English/German
Extras: Director and FX Producer Commentary, Making-Of Featurette, Behind the Scenes Footage, Teasers, Trailer
Easter Egg: No
Director: Timo Vuorensola
Cast: Udo Kier, Peta Sergeant, Julia Dietze, Christopher Kirby and Gotz Otto
Genre: Action, Comedy and Sci-Fi
Length: 93 minutes
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