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Sunday, 16 December 2012

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Iron Sky

Directed by: Timo Vuorensola

Produced by: Tero Kaukomaa
Oliver Damian
Cathy Overett
Sam Horton
James Wenban
Mark Overett
Samuli Torssonen

Screenplay by: Michael Kalesniko
Timo Vuorensola

Story by: Johanna Sinisalo
Jarmo Puskala (concept)

Starring: Julia Dietze
Christopher Kirby
Gotz Otto
Peta Sergeant
Stephanie Paul
Udo Kier

Music by: Laibach

Cinematography by: Mika Orasmaa

Editing by: Suresh Ayyar

Studio(s): Energia Productions
New Holland Pictures

Distributed by: Walt Disney Studios
Motion Pictures Finland (Finland)
Polyband (Germany)
Entertainment One (United States)
Revolver Entertainment (United Kingdom)

Release date(s): February 11, 2012 (Berlinale)
April 4, 2012 (Finland)
April 5, 2012 (Germany)
April 18, 2012 (Sweden)
April 19, 2012 (Denmark)
May 23, 2012 (United Kingdom)

Running time: 89 minutes

Country(s): Finland

Language(s): English

Production budget: €7.5million

Box office revenue (as of publication): $8, 135, 031

I said I was back, didn't I? That little comment was my way of confirming with you guys once again my running joke about being back. I always seem to be coming back don't I, which is kind of stupid considering I haven't went anywhere but just away from the laptop and been a lazy mothercanucker. Anywho, as you know from the previous two reviews (if you read them anyway), I'm catching up on a few films from November, publishing a review of the month, then getting to work on the month of December. I've got a head start in that regard, having (through Virgin Media) got two free tickets to see The Impossible, Juan Antonio Bayona's new disaster drama starring Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor. So, for all the latest (albeit slightly belated) in films, stick to this blog, and keep your eyes posted.

Today's film is a rather unique picture in the annals of film, before we even get down to looking at the finished product itself. Beginning production in 2006, Iron Sky is one of a number of recent productions which have experimented with the idea of participatory cinema, in which, similar (though not the same) to crowdsourcing, the viewing public are a part of the creative process. The creators of the film actively encouraged people to pitch their ideas, sticking to the topic of "In 1945, the Nazis went to the moon. In 20--, they came back!" So, after gaining some additional financial backers at the 2008 and 2010 Cannes Film Festival, a lead actress in Julia Dietze, composers in the Slovenian avant-garde musical group Laibach, and cult film legend Udo Kier, Iron Sky was finally released here earlier on this year. Notwithstanding the ludicrous one day cinema release by Revolver (overwhelming anger and fan demand later forced them into giving it a limited-release in UK cinemas), which saw the filmmaker's publicly condemn their UK distributors, the DVD release for the film over here has been pretty good. This is where I personally think Revolver excel, as they are able to get stores to put their DVD's in shops at an affordable but not too-low of a price. They might not be great at cinema distribution, but the fact that I was able to procure a copy of Iron Sky (marketed, perhaps ironically, as "The Worldwide Box Office Phenomenon") in my local Tesco tells you something. So, brief plot synopsis, an American landing mission returns, in 2018, to the Moon, and one of them, James Washington (Christopher Kirby), a black male model chosen to the US President in her re-election 'Black To The Moon!' campaign, discovers on the far side of the moon that Nazis have been hidden there since 1945. To get rid of the exposition (and a lot of the gags), the Nazis' plan is to eventually initiate Blitzkrieg on the Planet Earth. Right, get the point, catch the drift? Right, boom, let's boogie!

So, if you kept your eyes peeled (not posted) on my little preamble there, I did mention that there are gags in Iron Sky. The script isn't chopped liver (more of which later), but it certainly has a solid level of set-gags to keep me going. I laughed rather heartily at certain gags in the film, which work on a number of different levels, in that some are political, some are blackly comic, some are absurd, about little things about how the Nazis' technology has remained stagnant and are dumbfounded by the 'SuperComputer' that is a mobile phone. Also, it's a wonderfully well-designed film that has an artistic direction and aesthetic quality that's unique to the film. Clearly, in the sets and the special effects there is an homage to how hokey some of the 1950s B-movies/1970s exploitation-films looked, and it plays up to that, but nevertheless, for a low-budget movie, it looks good and the detail in the art design is terrific. As you may perhaps expect, this is no acting masterclass, but Julia Dietze is a solid female protagonist who keeps you engaged and despite her relative level of naivety, is endearing. Also, Christopher Kirby is very funny as James Washington, in that has the hard job of having to try and portray the whole absurdity of the situation without going over-the-top. His part in this film is similar to that of the black protagonists in George A. Romero's first two Dead films, in that his presence and rationality help commentate on race-war politics. In another department, Iron Sky actually has a score that I like. Laibach have created a hybrid sound for the film that abides to B-movie way of using instruments not normally associated with the classical Hollywood styles, but add their own twist to the scheme of things. Their avant-garde style sees the influence of musique concrete and martial industrial come in, and as such we get something both familiar and different to the musical scores we expect. Furthermore, Under The Iron Sky is up with one of the best theme songs written for a film in quite some time. I've only one category for music in my year-end awards, so if I introduce one for theme songs this year, this one has a good chance of winning. Finally, director Timo Vuorensola, keeps a good degree of control over the proceedings. This is one movie that could have went off the rails and been an absolute stinker, given all the elements at play, but Vuorensola makes sure that they all come together appropriately.

Now, as you can guess, I rather liked Iron Sky. Mark Kermode makes an interesting point in his review of the film, in that many reviewers have negatively received this (it sits at 37% on Rotten Tomatoes off of 35 reviews), but that in comparison to other trash/exploitation/concept movies, it works quite well. I don't claim to be an expert on those films (although thanks to affordable prices in Head, I'm putting myself through a crash course in them), but Iron Sky is nowhere near down somewhere like New York Ripper, which I am reliably informed is not even anywhere near the bottom of the barrel itself! That said, Iron Sky does have some of it's flaws. Regardless of how funny some of it is, the transparency in the structural issues of the script are clearly obvious. It follows the three-act structure, but in such a way that's easy for one to be able to predict the machinations of the film from near enough ten-fifteen minutes in. Also, while it's a pretty funny movie, there are sections which have many gags, but then parts, sometimes long parts of the film which lag and are dull by comparison to the rest of the picture. I'm not as negative as most reviewers have been towards the film, but I think that the script was definitely in need of one of two runs through the rewriting grinder.

It has a dodgy script that does lag in parts, and really could have done with a serious rewrite, but otherwise I think that Iron Sky is a very good film. There's some very funny, and I must say, original gags, which are quite hard to do today. The acting, while no masterclass, is good from Dietze and Kirby, it's a terrifically well-designed film, both from a production and special-effects standpoint. Laibach have done one of the best musical scores of the year (including the great Under The Iron Sky), and director Timo Vuorensola does a good job, considering all the elements and how off the rails the film could have went, on keeping control over the proceedings and delivering a not especially great but certainly unique comedy that deserves to be seen.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 7.1/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Sweet! (lazing about for a few days is a most pleasant feeling...)

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