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15. Iron Sky (2012), dir. Timo Vuorensola

Seen on May 23rd at the Hyde Park Picture House with ms_siobhan, planet_andy, bigdaz, maviscruet and most of the rest of the Leeds goth community.

As I'm sure most people reading this know, Iron Sky is a kind of collaborative, crowd-sourced international production, which was initially slated to be shown in UK cinemas on one single day only, before being released on DVD. Whether this was down to a genuine reticence on the part of the distributors, or just a publicity stunt, I don't know, but it did help to generate quite a viral 'buzz' about the film beforehand, and I can't honestly be sure whether I would have gone to see it if it had just had an ordinary release period. Anyway, it certainly added a lot to the fun to be there in a completely sold-out cinema, enjoying what we knew (or thought) would be a one-off event, and to come out afterwards to find myself part of a crowd of over a hundred people standing around on the pavement outside discussing the film.

The story itself is just outright silly, but in a very knowing, tongue-in-cheek way. In brief, some Nazis escaped to the moon in 1945, and have been there ever since preparing to return to Earth and take it over. A black Earth astronaut sent to the moon as part of President Sarah Palin (fear!)'s re-election campaign in 2018 encounters them, and inevitable culture shock followed by invasion plans ensue. For a while, two of the Nazis work incognito as part of President Palin's campaign team on the Earth, before the story moves back into space for full-scale conflict, complete with enormous Nazi steampunk war machines.

For the most part, it's just aiming to be a geeky satire, with a lot of parodies and in-jokes. There are references to Dr. Strangelove, Downfall, Star Wars, Independence Day and Wagner's Ring Cycle, and jokes about things like how the Earth astronaut's mobile phone contains computing power the Nazi scientists can only dream of... but instantly runs out of battery when they try to actually use it to run their gigantic battle machine. But I did feel that sometimes it carried the weight of the fact that it was dealing with the Nazis - even 21st-century Moon Nazis - a little too heavily to fit alongside the satirical jokes. There were some none-too-subtle 'messages' in there (racism, greed, warmongering and megalomania are bad, mmmkay?), which were perhaps a little overdone. I don't think anyone who went to see this film really needed a moral lesson about Nazism, or indeed 21st-century American politics.

Still, the jokes were good, Udo Kier was fab as an ageing Führer (not Hitler, even though everyone insisted on throwing 'Heil Hitler' salutes every time he went anyway), Götz Otto was great as his ambitious jackbooted young rival, the score by Laibach was excellent and the special effects were much better than I'd expected for a low budget independent film. But I think the real star of the film was Julia Dietze as the Moon Nazis' school-teacher, who has grown up believing that Nazism is a force for good which will bring peace to Earth, and of course has to re-assess her world view as she comes into contact with its people.

If you didn't see this in the cinema, I'm afraid you missed a treat which you'll never quite get the chance to re-capture. But it's still worth seeing on DVD.

16. Prometheus (2012), dir. Ridley Scott

See on Friday night with two Lib Dem chums who aren't on LJ.

This was my second ever experience of a (modern-style) 3D film, and since the previous one was an animation (The Pirates), it was obviously a little different. I really liked it, though, and felt that there were quite a few scenes - such as the flowing water in the early sequence on (probable) primeval Earth, or the space-map projection in the Makers' / Engineers' space-ship - which would have been quite a lot poorer without it. Indeed, of course, as pretty much everyone who has seen it has said, the visuals are generally very impressive - from the human space-ship to the landscape of the alien moon, and including fine details like the brief glimpse of a corporate 'W' stamp on the end of David's finger, or the fact that the holographic image of the Earth which he cradles in his hands in the Makers' / Engineers' space-ship is angled to show us humanity's place of origin in the continent of Africa. As for the rest of that ship, I'm personally kind of over H.R. Giger, but I get why his designs needed to be used for the sake of matching up with Alien.

I'm afraid I found the actual film pretty incoherent, though. cavalorn has made a brave attempt to salvage a meaningful narrative out of it, but I'm not convinced by all of it - and particularly the idea that the deaths of the Engineers on their moon-base was somehow a direct consequence of humanity getting out of hand back on Earth, on which quite a lot of his reading then hangs. And even if there are some coherent, or even mythically profound, ideas in there, I'm afraid I spent too much of the film thinking things like "But no-one would set up a dangerous exploratory space mission like that!", "But you can't carbon-date a being from an unknown planet with Earth equipment on a moon which you've already told us has one hundred times Earth's CO2 levels!" and "Oh, for heaven's sake, what a load of ham-fisted soap-operatic nonsense!" I also failed to care terribly much about most of the characters, or even to keep reliable track of which ones were still alive or dead towards the end.

In fairness, Liz Shaw the archaeologist was a better character than I was expecting. I liked the strength of her will throughout, and on the whole appreciated the scene in which she literally fought the entirety of the rest of the crew, and a medical miracle machine calibrated to serve only men, in order to get an alien parasite removed from her womb. (Though cavalorn is right to note that this motif is muddied by the fact that she calls the procedure a Caesarean section, and that the 'off-spring' survives and later saves her life). But out-stripping any of the other characters by a long way was David the android, whose otherness and unreadable motivations were genuinely fascinating.

I wished fervently that I had seen Lawrence of Arabia properly, as opposed to in fits and starts during random channel-hopping excursions, because I think there is probably some much stronger material going on around the parallels between David and Peter O'Toole's depiction of T.E. Lawrence than most of the rest of Prometheus has to offer. I do know that the main key to Lawrence's story is his struggle for a sense of identity between the British (of whom he is one by birth) and the Arabs (with whom he seems to feel more of a connection), which means that he doesn't fit in entirely with either side, and ends up rather disillusioned all round at the end of the film. This clearly mirrors David's position of divided loyalty between the Earth team and the Makers / Engineers, while I suppose the parasitic aliens play the role of both sides' common enemy, the Turks. But I found it difficult to be sure which side are supposed to be David's 'British' and which his 'Arabs', and would need to know Lawrence of Arabia better to judge this - or indeed to see whether it isn't that simple. Certainly, it seems possible to me that David has far more in the way of his own motivations than any of the human characters suspect, and may very well be carrying out the will of the Makers / Engineers, rather than any of the humans, the whole way through. I suppose this will be revealed in whatever prequels or sequels eventually get made - but I wouldn't trust him any further than I could throw him if I were Liz Shaw at the end of the film.

Oh, and obviously the title of the film is a Classical reference, but it isn't enormously profound in itself so far as I can see - just one of a number of references to creators and their creations which all help to support the main themes of the film. If you'd like fuller commentary on the Classical and archaeological aspects of the film, I recommend Juliette Harrison on the subject.

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( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 10th, 2012 10:14 pm (UTC)
More on the Prometheus and Lawrence links in this:

which was released a few weeks before the movie.

I think that there was an interesting movie somewhere in there, but by and large it was a lot of ideas thrown at the audience without a coherent line stringing them all together. Not that I need things spelled out to me (the ending was perfectly satisfactory to me), but if you're going to have Androids reading people's dreams, different people with different relationships with their parents, the clash between science and faith, etc. then do _something_ with those ideas, rather than just mentioning them in passing. Frankly, I'd have been happier with a movie that didn't both with any of that stuff and just had alien beasties killing people against gorgeous backdrops.
Jun. 11th, 2012 08:56 am (UTC)
Ah, thanks for that video. I looked through some of the stuff on the 'Weyland Industries' website yesterday in the hope of finding more insights, including David's video, but it didn't occur to me to bother with the TED talk. I don't think it takes me any further in understanding the parallels with Lawrence of Arabia, though. Maybe they are just kind incoherent after all, like the rest of the film.

You're right that just an unpretentious space horror would probably have been more enjoyable - and certainly, of the two films I've reviewed above, I preferred Iron Sky precisely because it didn't try to be anything other than silly.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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