Iron Sky: The Coming Race (2019)
One thing I have learned is that when everything falls into place - a perfect night, a perfect drive, a perfect anything - is never to try to duplicate it. Iron Sky was far from perfect, but it provided what was promised and more: Nazis, hiding on the far side of the moon after escaping Earth in the last days of World War II, take an opportunity to invade. The 2012 movie, set in 2018, was a fun take on current world politics, old-fashioned conspiracy theories and a revival of interest in b-movies.
It also was revolutionary in that, to get it over the hump, the movie was partially funded by contributors to a campaign on Indie-Go-Go. The campaign was successful and the movie made money - enough that a sequel was quickly announced. This time producer Tero Kaukomaa and director Timo Vuorensola decided, since the experiment worked, to do it again. We got interesting trailers, with the President escaping Washington, D.C. as the nuclear bombs go off due to the conflict on Earth set off at the end of the first film. She flies down to Antarctica, accesses the way into the Hollow Earth and meets a reptilian Adolf Hitler astride a Tyrannosaurus rex. Further trailers featured Jesus and Vladimir Putin. The new film, Iron Sky: The Coming Race, was announced. Filming was to begin in 2014, then 2015. By 2016 some had been done, but a second campaign was needed to finish the film, which was scheduled to come out in 2018 - and, finally, after another round of delays and lawsuits, showed up in 2019.
It was the most expensive film ever made in Finland. It was also an enormous flop. I had been looking forward to seeing it in the United States but, if it ever hit a theater, it was nowhere near where I live. However, the film was picked up by Netflix, finally bringing it to those of us who, despite some of the bad reviews, have been still looking forward to seeing what happens next.
It is now 2047, and the last remaining humans are living in the former Nazi moonbase, which is falling apart around their ears. Obi Washington (Lara Rossi), the daughter of model/astronaut James Washington and Renate Richter (Julia Dietze), is doing her best to keep the place together and the inhabitants safe. The problem is exacerbated by the arrival of Russian refugees in a hastily assembled ship and led by the colorful engineer Sasha (Vladimir Burlakov) as well as a homegrown religion, led by a man named Donald (Tom Green), that worships Steve Jobs.
Onboard Sasha's ship is another unwelcome visitor - former Mondführer Wolfgang Kortzfleisch (Udo Kier), who reveals himself to Obi as being a member of an alien race called the Vril. The Vril landed on Earth during the Cretaceous, and took refuge underground with as much of the flora and fauna as they could take when the Chicxulub asteroid showed up. Luckily for them the Earth was hollow, allowing them to hide themselves and their ship. Before this, however, Kortzfleisch used Vril medical technology to give budding primates a boost - something that the Vril would live to regret, as after millions of years humans became the dominant species. Kortzfleisch's brother, Adolf Hitler (also Udo Kier), played the long game to ride the world of what he considered pests. Unfortunately, the President (Stephanie Paul), made the entire planet uninhabitable. Kortzfleisch promises an endless supply of energy, as well as salvation, if Obi goes to the center of the Earth and retrieves the Holy Grail, which is the source of the Vril's power.
Sasha and bodybuilding security guard Malcom (Kit Dale) agree to accompany Obi, while Donald and some of his followers tag along. They soon find, to their dismay, how much human society was infiltrated and influenced by the Vril, while Obi soon wakes up to her responsibility to the remainder of the human race.
I had no illusions of this sequel equaling or even surpassing the original Iron Sky. A lot of its entertainment value comes from the place and time in which it is set, creating a divergent universe. What was surprising with the original is that it was pulled off convincingly, looking a lot better (and being more entertaining than) a lot of its contemporaries. Much of the feeling from the first movie, including a good portion of the set design of the moonbase, still remains. It isn't a jarring change of tone. Timo Vuorensola is working with some great, if not necessarily well-known talent, with Lara Rossi, Kit Dale and Vladimir Burlakov working well as a team. Udo Kier is great in both roles, and even Tom Green, forced to be subdued as the leader of the Jobists, is good here as well.
Still, one of my concerns with the original film was that some parts seemed to have been written as longer, more epic scenes, but were severely chopped down by budget. This is even more evident here. The scenes on the moon are great, with the dilapidated base, Sasha's barely functioning ship and the pieced-together transport ship Obi hopes to use to get the remaining refugees to Mars. The problem is, once the main plot of retrieving the Grail from the Vril city in the center of the Earth gets going, it seems like Vuorensola was forced to rush through it. I know part of the funding was to complete a sequence where our heroes are chased, in chariots drawn by Triceratops, by Margaret Thatcher, Pope Urban II and Osama Bin Laden (and, yes, it is pretty much as good as it sounds), and it does look pretty good considering that, though it may be the most expensive Finnish movie ever made, the budget is still a fraction of most Hollywood films. Still, the scene seems like one of a series of highlights - the gathering of the world leaders, the Jobists finding out it's best never to meet your heroes and the retrieving of the grail - rather than true story telling.
I rarely say this - in fact, many of my complaints are usually the opposite - but Iron Sky: The Coming Race needs at least another half hour to 40 minutes to tell its story properly. Things are back to a normal pace once we are back to the moon, even though we go into what is essentially another chase, but it is paced in a way where Rossi's true acting chops come through and contains some wonderful jokes that have nothing to do with politics. I think the bad reviews of the movie exaggerate quite a bit, and are driven somewhat by the troubled production and hatred of Tom Green, the fact that the movie is largely missing its middle third is going to be disconcerting to many people.
Despite this huge gap it is still quite entertaining, not relying as much on politics as the previous film to push its humor, but relying more on the conspiracy aspect as well as building an actual universe. I know Vuorensola would like to make an additional film to tie it together (and the mid-credit sequence sets it up in wonderful, if predictable, form). Some of the humor is absurd, some quite dry, but Iron Sky: The Coming Race is quite fun as both a crazy science fiction film and a comedy. At any length, if you have ever had to deal with current Apple cultists, the Jobsist religion is a well-done bit of satire.
I do not think this movie will ever gain the cult status of the original. That's a shame, because, instead of eventually giving us a sequel, I would love for Vuorensola to go back and fix the things that are wrong with this one, and give us more of the movie that may have been intended. With the film companies behind this collapsing and investors losing tons of money, it is doubtful that either of these may come to be unless someone else decides to show us what happens when the colonists finally reach Mars. Then again, unless that someone has enough money at the start to properly tell the story, it may be better left to the imagination.
Iron Sky: The Coming Race (2019)
Time: 90 minutes
Starring: Lara Rossi, Vladimir Burlakov, Udo Kier, Kit Dale, Tom Green, Julie Dietze
Director: Timo Vuorensola