Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Iron Sky

(Australia, Germany, Finland, 2012)

In 1947 Robert A. Heinlein published Rocket Ship Galileo. It was his second novel, and the first of his classic juveniles. It was also probably the weakest of his novels. The story concerned three teenaged boys and the Nobel Prize-winning uncle of one of them, who build a revolutionary new rocket and take it to the moon. (If the story sounds a little familiar, read my own novel, Red Thunder, which was written as a tribute to those old juveniles.) When they get there, what should they discover but a secret Nazi base! Looks like old Werner Von Braun was a lot further along than anyone realized.

The only reason I rented this is that it concerns a secret Nazi base on the moon. I expected it to be nothing but trash … and was I ever wrong. I really enjoyed it.

But first, a word about the process whereby this film came to be. Even in an age of interminable credits at the end of movies, this one stood out. There were at least twenty production companies and national film institutes listed, and I didn’t even count the number of producers. I listed it as a Finnish, German, and Australian production (an odd combination, I think), but there could have been more.

Then there was a long, long list of individuals. The reason for this is “crowdfunding.” Ten percent of the budget came from Internet contributions. It seems there was some sort of fan base for this movie, going all the way back to 2006. Was it a video game? I don’t know. But there was something out there in the cloud. Donors were encouraged to suggest plot ideas, something I am normally very dubious about. I was not able to find out what the final budget was, but it was somewhere between a low-budget indie and a giant Hollywood extravaganza.

The result is amazingly good. We start off with a lunar landing. As soon as the LEM touches down, two campaign banners unfurl, promoting the reelection of the President of the United States. There are two astronauts, a white man in a white suit, and a black man in a gray suit. The black man was a fashion model and was chosen for political reasons, and because he looks good on camera.

Very quickly they are peering into a huge valley crawling with activity, dominated by a giant structure in the shape of a swastika. Then some Nazis appear and kill the white man. They are wearing what looks to be WWI gas masks and leather trench coats. I can’t tell what’s under the coats, but it doesn’t look like enough protection from the vacuum. I’m starting to feel dubious if this is the level of scientific accuracy of the film.

But soon we are inside the huge building. It, and everything else, would look right at home in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, or Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. It is marvelous production design, everything mechanical, bulky, massive, using tubes instead of transistors, which the Nazis don’t seem to have discovered. And then the movie hooked me, when Der Führer putters up in a Volkswagen beetle. Okay! This is a comedy, and a satire. Who cares about science? Not me, if there are laughs in it.

And there are plenty of laughs. The president of the United States is obviously Sarah Palin. Her office is littered with the stuffed corpses and heads of every game animal there is.

The Nazis come up with a way to turn the black man into a white man.

When the gigantic iron space zeppelins start their war on Earth, it turns out that the US and most other space powers have armed their big ships, in contravention of a treaty. Sarah, at a meeting of all the nations, excoriates them for doing this. “Who has not armed their ships?” she asks them. The man from Finland timidly raises his hand. I guffawed.

Then someone points out that the US broke the treaty, too. “Well, sure,” she says. “That’s what we do.”

Much more funny stuff, which I will not spoil. The SFX are amazingly good, almost on a level with the best you will see from the highest-tech American productions. It stars no one you have ever heard of, but I thought the acting was pretty damn good. I recommend it.