Notes From the Curator's Office:
Iron Sky poster: Nazis return from the moon
(7/10) Anybody who regularly follows "From the Curator's
Office" knows I'm a fan of Steampunk (See Steampunk
Fun) and interested in the movement toward alternative
ways of making films (See Home Movies).
Recently I've stumbled across a motion picture project that seems
to encompass both. Iron Sky is a Finnish/German production
slated to debut in 2011 that features an invasion of Earth from
Nazis who have spend the last 73 years hiding on the far side
of the moon. Sound a little improbable? Let me give you the movie's
official back story:
Towards the end of World War II the staff of
SS officer Hans Kammler made a significant breakthrough in anti-gravity.
From a secret base built in the Antarctic, the
first Nazi spaceships were launched in late '45 to found the military
base Schwarze Sonne (Black Sun) on the dark side of the Moon.
This base was to build a powerful invasion fleet and return to
take over the Earth once the time was right.
Now it's 2018, the Nazi invasion is on its way
and the world is goose-stepping towards its doom.
The film is a being made by Energia Productions,
Blind Spot Pictures and co-produced by 27 Films. Who are these
guys? After all Finland hardly seems a hotbed of cinematic activity.
Well, perhaps the most visible member of the group is Timo Vuorensola.
Vuorensola is a Finnish director who has worked on commercials
and music videos. About a decade ago he and group of friends started
making fan films in a series entitled Star Wreck. Now,
as many of your are aware a fan film can be a primitive as a couple
kids with toy light sabers who borrow their Dad's video camera
for an hour and upload the results to you tube. Or in can be a
sophisticated as Star Trek: Phase II an operation that
rivals, and in certain aspects - like special effects - surpasses
the quality of the original series.
The Star Wreck films run the gamet. The first,
made in 1999 is crudely animated and looks more like a 1970's
video game than a movie. However, over time the group has produced
seven films and the last, Star Wreck: In The Pirkinning,
was technically as slick as many professional productions, though
the story - A Star Trek-like empire at war with a Babylon Five
universe with lots of inside jokes- was still only something fans
of these shows could really appreciate.
troops line up for the invasion of Earth in 2018
Iron Sky, however, is a totally original
story. Not that the idea of Nazis in space hasn't popped up in
science fiction before. Robert Heinlein
had a Nazi base on the moon in his 1947 book Rocket Ship Galileo.
The original Star Trek TV series had an episode where an Earth
scientist tries to introduce the economic efficiency of the Third
Reich on a new planet without creating the Nazi atrocities, but
fails miserably creating a situation the only Captain Kirk can
straighten out. Even Star Wars has thinly veiled space Nazis in
the form of the Empire's storm troopers.
Of course, the Nazis are the villains that everybody
loves to hate. No other group garnered such an abhorrent, but
well-deserved reputation and had so little in the way of redeeming
characteristics. Films from Raiders of the Lost Ark to
The Odessa File have cast this crowd as the bad guys. How
is Iron Sky different?
What Iron Sky draws from in creating its
story is set of fascinating legends, mythology and conspiracy
theories that have grown up over the last half century, or so
about the Nazis, secret weapons and UFOs.
We have several pages about German secret weapons
programs here at the Museum including one that covers the idea
that the Nazis built flying saucers (See Flying
Saucers and the Third Reich). It seems likely that the
Germans during World War II actually did do some experimentation
with disc-shaped aircraft. After all, so did the Americans. The
legend runs even deeper than that, however. Rudolf Lusar, a former
German army technician, wrote a book in the 1950 entitled German
Secret Weapons of World War II. Most of the book delt with
acknowledged advances like the V-1 and V-2 missiles, but one chapter
on "wonder weapons" suggested that the Nazis had actually tested
a flying saucer shaped aircraft that could fly faster than the
speed of sound. A feat that was not matched by the Americans until
Nazi supporter Ernst Zündel's book UFOs: Nazi
Secret Weapons? added to this myth by suggesting Hitler might
have escaped at the end of the war via U-boat to a secret base
in Antarctica where German flying saucers operated. Zündel even
tried to get money to outfit an expedition to the South Pole to
find the entrance to the secret underground base (located in a
hollow Earth), though his fund raising attempts looked more like
a scam than a serious investigation.
Some people even speculate that the Nazi's, before
the end of the war, discovered how to create anti-gravity fields
and an endless source of power based on quantum vacuum zero point
energy. Nick Cook, the aviation editor at Jane's Defense Weekly
took this possibility seriously in his book The Hunt for Zero
Point. (The Hans Kammler mentioned in the Iron Sky
back story was a real person and figures prominently in Cook's
Sky script mines the conspirecy theories surrounding
German UFO's from World War II. (Copyright
Lee Krystek, 2008)
I'm rather skeptical of all of this, but the story
of Nazi's building flying saucers, establishing secret bases in
the Antarctic, and discovering anti-gravity I think is a fertile
ground for a fictional adventure book or movie. I have to admit
I even put together an outline for a book based on the idea of
a secret Nazi empire developing powerful flying saucer weapons
in preparation for a new assault on the United States, though
I placed my Nazi stronghold in an underground location, rather
than the far side of the moon like Iron Sky does.
Even though I put the book on the shelf in favor
of finishing my juvenile novel Cardboard
Submarine, I still have a soft spot for the idea of Nazis
returning in flying saucers to threaten the free world anew. So
I greatly look forward to see what Vuorensola and his henchmen
will come up with.
Way of Making a Movie
What is interesting about Iron Sky isn't
just the subject matter. Vuorensola and his compatriots have really
gone about making this movie in a way totally unlike what you
would get with a Hollywood production. When you visit the Iron
Sky website (www.ironsky.net)
there are ways you can actually participate in the production.
The first is to register in a section called "They Demand Iron
Sky." This is a Google Map where you can sign up to request any
potential distributers of the film to release it in your local
theater. You can also give the film more substantive support by
buying "War Bonds." The war bond package isn't actually any kind
of real bond (as the website clearly states lest they get sued)
but a collection of promotional materials including a DVD of the
trailer, documentaries about the production, etc. you pay 50,00€
for (about $62 USD). If you want to support the production to
an even greater degree you can actually invest in the picture
(minimum of 1,000 € - about $1,200 USD) with the possibility of
actually getting your money back with a profit, if the film is
For those of us not rich enough to invest in the
picture, there are still ways of supporting it. Energia Productions
has created www.wreckamovie.com.
This site is designed to allow collaboration on a film by people
around the world. You join the site (wreckamovie supports multiple
productions, but Iron Sky is where most of the action is
currently) and the movie's producers put out certain tasks they
need accomplished. This can be as simple as finding some pictures
of interesting explosions that the graphic artists can use as
inspirations for what the detonations in the film might look like
or suggesting a good place for a fan party in some city the production
crew is visiting.
Some of the tasks are much more substantial, however,
and if you are a professional graphic artist, or animator you
might be able to get to actually get on the payroll (though Vuorensola
admits the money is not all that good, he points out you do get
the pleasure of working with the Energia crew).
If you don't even make a commitment to wreckamovie,
however, you can still help out by talking up the production to
your friends and family. Energia has released some the concept
art and teasers under a wiki license so that people can remix
them and put their own spin on them. There are already a number
of fan built teasers on YouTube. Heck I've even made my contribution
here by forging some wallpaper background for computers.
Now admittedly to many people the idea of Nazis
attacking from space sounds almost silly, but before you pass
judgment on it take a look at the first trailer above (Energia
has also released a second trailer, but I really don't think it
is as effective at getting the ideas across as the first) The
graphics, music (which sounds like something from a classic James
Bond film) and atmosphere are impressive. Go ahead and run it.
I'll wait right here.
Pretty good, huh? For those with a technical interest
in the film, with the exception of the guy with motorcycle, the
Nazi in the space suit who unfurls the Nazi flag on the moon,
and a few small figures in the background, the entire sequence
is CGI (Computer Generated Images). Oh, and what's that guy in
the space suit saying when he gives the Nazi salute? It translates
to "One small step for a man, one giant leap for the Fatherland."
Vuorensola (center) meets with the Iron Sky
Well, to my eyes it looks like a picture Id' really
like to see. Of course, I've seen a hundred movies where the trailer
or teaser looked fantastic and the actual film was a dud. The
reason for this is that they get some guy who is wonderful at
making trailers and he has the entire two hours of film to draw
from in putting together something that lasts about two minutes.
He's usually not the guy that actually directed or edited the
real film but if he's good he can make the movie appear to be
something appealing even if it is a stinker.
In this case, however, the guy who made the teaser
is the same guy directing the film : Vuorensola. Vuorensola admits
the none of the first teaser will probably make it into the movie.
What he wanted to convey to the audience, however, was the feel
of the picture. So I think there is some reason to hope that what
we got in the teaser is what we will get in the final film.
Looking at the activity around this film on the
Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com) I'm not the only one looking
forward to this picture coming out. Some of the posters, however,
are disturbed by the fact that Energia has billed this as a comedy.
Most of the people I spoke to who are interested in the film are
looking for an action adventure like The Rocketeer (1991) or
Sky Captain the World of Tomorrow(2004). (For those of
you not familiar with Sky Captain, it was a little under rated
film by Kerry Conran set in an alternate history of about the
1930s. It was one of the first films produced entirely on a blue
screen stage with CGI creating the highly stylized art deco sets.
It reproduced a comic book world in much the same fashion as films
like 300 (2006) and Sin City (2005) did it several
Director Vuorensola, however, has said that the
movie will not be a comedy in the tradition of something like
a Mel Brooks film. And unlike Star Wreck: In The Pirkinning
there will be some actual character development. What's more,
to create the script they have been able to obtain the services
of an award winning science fiction writer: Johanna Sinisalo.
Hopefully writer and director will avoid the trap of giving us
just CGI eye-candy instead of an engaging story with likeable
characters. This kind of mistake of sacrificing one for the other,
has too often shown up in too many Hollywood pictures in the last
Also heavily involved in Iron Sky is Samuli
Torssonen. Torssonen was the driving force behind the last Star
Wreck film and was personally responsible for much of the CGI.
On Iron Sky he's working as the Visual Effects Producer
and hopefully his considerable skills at CGI direction will be
combined seamlessly with Sinisalo's script. His bio on the Iron
Sky website states "his passion is creating incredible visual
effects and huge space battles, but he wants to see them in a
story which people will not easily forget." Hopefully Iron
Sky will be the right catalyst for that.
This summer (2010) I understand Iron Sky
will start actual filming. The announced cast includes German
actor Götz Otto as the "moon Führer." The beautiful blonde German
actress Julia Dietze will be playing Renate Richter, a female
Nazi agent sent to Earth to see if it is indeed ripe for conquest.
With a release slated for sometime in 2011 we shouldn't
have to wait too long to see what Vuorensola and his comrades
have come up with. Will it be a blockbuster hit, a dull exercise
in CGI or a cult classic? It's my observation that audiences often
seem somewhat cool to steampunk material, so a blockbuster seems
a little too much to hope for. However, if Vuorensola and friends
can break even monetarily on a cult classic that will be beloved
by its fans - they will have achieved something they can be proud
Copyright Lee Krystek
2010. All Rights Reserved.