Thursday, 29 November 2012

Iron Sky: It's Nazis, from the dark side of the moon and... that's all I got.

Iron Sky is another one of those "What could possibly go wrong?" ideas. I heard about it before I even found myself in exile, and thought, golly, I hope those wacky Finns get the money to make that, because that would be awesome. 

The idea IS awesome, but Iron Sky  is yet another miserable reminder of the gulf that lies between idea and execution. In principle, an SF comedy about Nazi revenants coming back to  conquer the earth from secret bases on the far side of the moon - comedy gold. From certain angles, nazis are never not funny. In a world running short of safe targets for open mockery and disdain, at least with the nazis you don't have to worry that anyone's going to run out and demand that you show more respect. Even if fat white people get organised, we'll always have the nazis to fall back on. Sure, you've got to be careful - as Basil Fawlty would say - not to mention the war, but leaving aside thirteen years of genocidal lunacy, what's not to laugh at? Laughing at nazis vents our hate for every other uptight authority figure in an over-tailored uniform.

Plus, as any war gamer will tell you, the nazis got all the coolest toys. If their leadership hadn't been batshit insane and an almost comical working out of the paradox that enough organisation gives you nothing but chaos, their engineering might have had everyone in modern Europe all doing exactly what Berlin told us to do…. So the thought of what kind of cool crap they might have rolled out with 60 plus years to tinker on the back of the moon? Even if all the jokes fell flat, there was always that to look forward to.

Sadly, the jokes do fall flat. One really big joke can only take you so far, but what's even worse than relying on one big joke is trying to rely on two big jokes and losing focus on either. The other big joke is that the US Government is moronic and venal. On the one hand? Just the US Government? Really? You think? And on the other hand? A joke depends at least a little on being a surprise; something you didn't already know. Iron Sky's nazis are actually pretty well thought out; the upper crust are the same kinds of nasty people you find at the top of every political system, and the other ranks are sort of sweetly deluded about the essential decency of their system. They all play it straight, which means that it works a lot better dramatically and as comedy than the raucous shrieking one-note caricatures infesting the US administration. The one good US moment is when a spin doctor channels the infamous meltdown from Downfall. Other than that, it's always kind of a relief when the focus shifts back to the moon.

The cool toys; well, there's a war-game gag to look at almost anything and muse, "There's a game in that…." (Infamously, John once unthinkingly said this after putting down a book about soccer….). There sure is a game in Iron Sky, to the extent that the computer game is coming real soon now. The Nazi armada is wonderfully detailed and suitably old school, and it's sadly plain that most of the thought went into the look of the movie instead of into the detail of the story. What does this remind me of? Oh yes, Jackboots on Whitehall,  another great idea which would have been so much better if it had stayed a great idea rather than starting the death march to mediocrity which always wears away the beauty of a great idea before it can ever get to the ball. Whenever the evil geniuses in the late great The Middleman were monologuing their genius, they made a point of emphasising how their scheme had been sheer elegance in its simplicity, the subtext being that once they tried to put the scheme into reality, a million tiny things made defeat inevitable. Iron Sky is another one of those things which would have been so much more fun if it had never happened.

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